NCAA Football 2017 Season
FBS Independents Preview
Very little went right for independent team Notre Dame Fighting Irish last season. They went from being a preseason top-10 team with College Football Playoff aspirations to finishing 4-8. It wasn’t the case for Army West Point. The Black Knights played in (and won) its first bowl game since 2010. But more importantly, last season will be known more for their long-awaited victory over Navy. Here is what to expect from the independents this season. The new season of fantasy college football kicks off Saturday August 26 at FanPicks.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Everything was reevaluated after a 4–8 season, including the coaching staff, which features six new names and three new coordinators, as well as a new strength and conditioning coach.
The offense looks potent, even with the loss of QB DeShone Kizer, and the addition of 34-year-old coordinator Chip Long should provide a supplement to a play menu that needed some diversification.
The key is up front on a defense that is short of proven playmakers from end to end. The back seven looks to be a relative strength. If defensive coordinator Mike Elko can help scheme past some of the line deficiencies, the Irish should return to the eight-to-nine-win range coach Brian Kelly achieved in his first six years at Notre Dame.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake’s first season was an adventure. In the first half of the season, BYU won two games with field goals on the final play. In addition to those two last-play wins, BYU lost four games by a total of eight points.
The Cougars should have more close games in 2017 as they tackle another ambitious, front-loaded schedule in the program’s seventh season of independence. BYU will meet LSU, Utah, Wisconsin, Boise State and Mississippi State by mid-October, so quarterback Tanner Mangum and his offense will have to be sharp from the start. The season likely will play out much like 2016, when the Cougars won their last five games to finish 9–4.
Army Black Knights
It was an emotional 2016 season for the Black Knights There was the tragic loss of corner Brandon Jackson, who was killed in an early season automobile accident. They also had euphoric win over Navy. It was Army’s first over their chief rival since 2001.
Even with key losses on defense, there is enough of a veteran playmaking presence for the unit to remain formidable. Combine that with a wealth of returning ball carriers and offensive linemen, and the Black Knights appear in position to put together back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1989-90.
After playing at least half of their home games at Gillette Stadium — 100 miles from campus — in their first five years in the FBS ranks, UMass will play five games in Amherst (and one at Fenway Park) in 2017. There’s more good news: The Minutemen, in their second season as an FBS independent, drop from four Power 5 opponents to two. Now the bad news: Nine of the 12 teams on the schedule played in bowl games last year. With this challenging slate, UMass will have to take considerable steps to better last year’s 2–10 campaign.