2012 NCAA Football Preview: Independents

August 30, 2012
By K. Becks

The final four teams in the FBS division will be previewed in this section. It’s been a pleasure bringing these previews to you, and I hope that you have enjoyed reading them. I sincerely thank everyone who has even glanced at one of my conference previews this year.

Here is the Independents preview.

Overview

One of the reasons that these four teams are so interesting to preview is that two of our service academies are Independents, and you are always in for a treat when you watch them play. Neither Navy nor Army scores a lot of points, and to some people the triple-option is boring, but it is a nod to college football’s roots and fun to see a defense flustered by the blocking schemes of those teams. The grittiness of those teams is admirable, and for the last decade, at least one of them has been pretty good each season.

Then there is Notre Dame, who is constantly being evaluated to see whether this is the year that the Fighting Irish finally return to national prominence. While that might not ever happen, it always creates a story, and college football fans love drama. Finally, there is BYU, the newcomer to the group, who seems to find a way to win a bunch of games even when they’re not very good, like last season.

All in all, there is a lot going on between the four teams who don’t play with a conference patch on their jerseys. The funny thing is, the background stories don’t seem to change all that much, but the interest from fans across the country never wavers.

Team(s) With the Best Shot at a National Championship Bid

None

Even Notre Dame fans will concede that their team doesn’t have a realistic shot at going undefeated this season, which is what would be necessary for an Independent to get a shot at the crystal ball. There will be some decent football played among the four teams this season, but none of them even enter the season ranked.

While it is unlikely Notre Dame or any other Independent will go to the national title game, the Fighting Irish does have a chance to prevent a couple of teams from getting there, most notably Southern California. That said, there will still be a lot of interest, particularly in Notre Dame, from casual fans throughout the season.

Watch Out! (Team That Could Surprise)

Notre Dame

No, Notre Dame won’t be playing in a BCS bowl this season. But the Fighting Irish do play a very tough schedule featuring Michigan State, Michigan, Stanford, Oklahoma and USC. While they will be the underdog in almost every one of those games, Notre Dame does have the personnel to beat at least one of these teams in this season.

The biggest issue for the Fighting Irish will surprisingly be the offense. Notre Dame improved its defense tremendously last year, and should be at least serviceable on that side of the ball again this season. The offense is the main concern, especially since a quarterback controversy has arisen due to Tommy Rees’ DUI arrest this summer. The Fighting Irish will need to score points to have a chance to beat any of the teams listed above, and will have trouble doing so without solid quarterback play.

If the quarterback issue gets smoothed over quickly enough, Notre Dame has a chance to cause problems for many of the nation’s top teams.

Hi, My Name Is… (Player To Watch)

Gee Gee Greene (Sr.), Navy slotback

Greene is the last recognizable name from a Navy backfield that once featured Alexander Teich and Ricky Dobbs. Without his buddies there to help him in Ken Niumatalolo’s triple-option offense, Greene will be the focal point in an offense that struggled at times last season. His leadership may be the most valuable asset he could bring to the table, as the Midshipmen played uncharacteristically sloppy football at times last season and will need to be disciplined if they want to return to a bowl game.

Don’t expect outrageous numbers from Greene, whose job will consist of much more than simply carrying the football. However, if Navy returns to the postseason, it is likely that Greene will have played a big part in the Midshipmen getting there.

Out-Of-Conference Game To Watch

Notre Dame vs. Southern California (November 24th)

The Fighting Irish may be the last thing standing between the men of Troy and perfection this season, so there will be a lot riding on this game if that is the case. Southern Cal has had trouble with Notre Dame in its quest for a national title before, so don’t sleep on the Fighting Irish in this one.

Notre Dame will need to play textbook defense in order to give its offense a chance to score enough points to win. Rattling Matt Barkley will be tough, but if the Fighting Irish can take away some of his receiving options for an extended period of time there is enough talent on the defensive line to get pressure on the quarterback. One can only imagine the shock if Notre Dame were to take down the Trojans this season.

In-Conference Game To Watch

Notre Dame vs. Navy (September 1st)

One of the things that make this game special is that it is being played in Dublin, Ireland. How much will that affect these teams? We will see, but something tells me that the Midshipmen will be less affected by the foreign atmosphere than their opponent.

There is a decent chance that it will be raining during this game, so expect a heavy ground attack from both squads. Navy has an advantage here, but will be physically outmatched. That hasn’t stopped them from beating Notre Dame in recent years, however, so expect this to be a much closer game than the 2011 version.

Conference Predictions

1. Notre Dame (8-4, beats BYU and Navy)

2. BYU (8-4)

3. Navy (8-4, beats Army)

4. Army (3-9)

Questions from the Readers

There are no questions from the readers for the Independent teams. If you have a general college football question that you want to see answered in the “Final Thoughts” preview, send me it on Around The Corn’s Facebook page, by tweeting me at @KBecks_ATC or emailing me at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. The “Final Thoughts” preview will be published tomorrow. Thanks everyone.

- K. Becks

One Response to 2012 NCAA Football Preview: Independents

  1. [...] I whiffed on Notre Dame last year, predicting the Fighting Irish to finish 8-4 and not giving them much [...]

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