Complete preview of the Independent Teams for 2018.

The Liberty Flames will be making their debut in the FBS this year along the 5 other independents squads, Army, UMass, New Mexico State, Notre Dame and BYU. Check out how each teams will fair this year.

Army

While there is a trip to Norman in September, the Sooners are the only FBS team on Army’s schedule that won more than seven games last season. The slate also includes two FCS programs and one transitioning to the FBS. It should all add up to the academy playing in a bowl game for a third consecutive season — something that has never happened. “I think it’s easy for guys that haven’t experienced anything but winning seasons to maybe think it’s a lot easier than it is,” coach Jeff Monken says. “We have to keep our team from being complacent.”

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is aiming for its first back-to-back double-digit-winning seasons since Lou Holtz was head coach in 1992-93. Winners of 10 games in two of the last three years, the Fighting Irish remain a difficult read, due largely to the ugly 4–8 season in 2016. It begs the question: Was last year’s September-October run for a Playoff berth a more accurate depiction of Notre Dame moving forward, or does the collapse in November at Miami and Stanford say more about the up-and-down Brian Kelly regime?

UMass

With an experienced roster and winnable games on the schedule, bowl eligibility is a more reachable goal than it’s been since UMass became an FBS program in 2012. But to get in a bowl without a conference, they’ll have to hope that a conference fails to fill its slots.

BYU

BYU’s sudden drop to 4-9 has created quite a challenge for coach Kalani Sitake in his third season on the job. “There’s a huge urgency to get better,” Sitake says. That can happen if the Cougars start putting points on the scoreboard. BYU scored 17 or fewer points in eight defeats in 2017, continually frustrating Sitake. An improved offensive line and receiving corps, along with more continuity at quarterback, should help in this pivotal year for the independent program.

New Mexico State

The schedule is not daunting, with two games against fellow independent Liberty and matchups with familiar Sun Belt teams Louisiana, Texas State and Georgia Southern. If NMSU receives quality play at quarterback and the defense takes another step forward, the Aggies have a realistic opportunity to enjoy a second straight winning season — something that hasn’t happened since the late 1960s.

Liberty

Sustaining success throughout an entire season has been Liberty’s struggle under coach Turner Gill, and if the offense is unable to score enough points to negate the defense’s inability to stop the run, Liberty’s streak of 12 consecutive winning seasons will end.

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Posted in CFB

Notre Dame at Duke

Fourth-ranked Duke won’t have too long to think about its first home loss in ACC play this season as injury-plagued Notre Dame pays a visit Monday night for another league battle. The Blue Devils trailed by 10 at halftime and a rally fell short in the 65-63 home loss to second-ranked Virginia on Saturday, ending their streak of 80 or more points at 16 straight games.

“Our guys have not been in a game like that,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters after his team committed 16 turnovers. “The level of intensity and the high level of defense that they play, I thought knocked us back. And then in the second half, I thought we played really well. We fought. All this is a big learning experience.” The Blue Devils must recover fast after getting just six minutes from their bench players Saturday – partially due to illness and injury – as they try to take advantage of the depleted Fighting Irish, who have dropped five in a row. Notre Dame’s leading scorer and rebounder Bonzie Colson (foot) is not expected back until March and senior guard Matt Farrell (15.7 points, 5.3 assists) is likely out for Monday’s game with an ankle injury. Coach Mike Brey was still pleased with his team’s effort in the 80-75 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday: “I’m disappointed, but I’ve got no beef with my guys, man, as long as they keep emptying the tank like that.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT NOTRE DAME (13-8, 3-5 ACC): Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs has emerged as the go-to-player through all the injuries, averaging 19 points the last four games after scoring a career-high 27 against Virginia Tech. Gibbs is the top active scorer (15.4) overall and senior forward Martinas Geben adds 10 per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds overall while averaging a double-double (12.3 points, 10.6 boards) in ACC play. Junior guard Rex Pflueger (8.7 points) scored 15 against Virginia Tech on Saturday after totaling the same amount in his previous four contests combined.

ABOUT DUKE (18-3, 6-3): Marvin Bagley III has posted at least 30 points in four of his last eight contests and boasts 17 double-doubles to lead the Blue Devils in scoring (22.0) and rebounding (11.6) while shooting 61.4 percent from the floor overall. Duke’s next two top scorers – senior guard Grayson Allen (14.7) and freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. (14.4) – were just 5-for-19 from the field combined against Virginia. Freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. (14.3 points, 9.4 rebounds) owns four double-doubles in his last five games and is 28-for-41 from the field over the past four.

TIP-INS

1. Notre Dame sophomore F John Mooney has averaged 14 points and nine rebounds the last two games while draining five 3-pointers.

2. Duke freshman G Trevon Duval leads the ACC in assists (6.1), but is 5-for-19 from the field over the last three contests.

3. The Blue Devils won both matchups last season after dropping five of the previous six against Notre Dame.

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Posted in CBB

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 Cougars

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.

Massachusetts Minutemen

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.

Posted in CFB

Notre Dame Fighting Irish 2016-17 Preview

For the second straight season, Notre Dame Fighting Irish has lost two vital pieces of an Elite Eight team. But they will identify new leading men to replace Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. Coach Mike Brey will be at the helm of the team for his 17th season. Also gone are 2016 second-rounder Demetrius Jackson and free agent signee Zach Auguste. But a winning culture could carry the Irish back to the NCAA Tournament.(Play College Basketball)

Frontcourt

The Irish don’t have anyone to replace Auguste’s productivity up front. At least not on paper. But 6’5″, 225-pound Bonzie Colson could be the guy to stand tall, with his seven-foot wingspan. The Irish junior who averaged 6.7 rebounds in 25.3 minutes per game in 2015-16. The rest of the frontline is shadowed by uncertainty, although there are four players legitimately vying for meaningful minutes. Martinas Geben, a 6’10”, 255-pound junior, played sparingly behind Auguste. Yet the coaching staff insists that Geben provided some of the most consistent performances on the practice floor and that his time to shine has arrived.

Elijah Burns, a sturdy, athletic 6’9″, 235-pounder with post-up and face-the-basket skills, will see his first collegiate action after missing the 2015-16 season following ankle surgery. Freshman John Mooney, a 6’8″ banger, looks to be one of Brey’s tough, high-IQ glue pieces. Austin Torres, a 6’7″, 234-pound senior, helps the Irish tighten up on the defensive end. No player improved as much in 2015-16 as willowy 6’8″ V.J. Beachem, a shooter extraordinaire who made 44.4 percent from 3-point range on the year while averaging 16.6 points per game in the postseason. Matt Ryan, a 6’8″ sharp-shooting sophomore, may prove to be every bit the long-range sniper Beachem has become.

Backcourt

The Irish remain fortified in the backcourt, if not nearly as explosive and experienced. Senior Steve Vasturia is a stabilizing influence, a lockdown defender and a cerebral contributor to Notre Dame’s team concept. Junior Matt Farrell takes over at point guard after a postseason insertion into the starting lineup that helped propel the Irish to the Elite Eight. He’ll share point guard duties with freshman Temple “T.J.” Gibbs, who gives the Irish combo-guard skills and a ready-made college game. When the Irish are looking for a backcourt stopper to join Vasturia, Brey will turn to sophomore Rex Pflueger, whose buzzer-beating tip-in against Stephen F. Austin sent Notre Dame to the Sweet 16.

Newcomers

Athletic Elijah Burns, a 6’9″ redshirt freshman, will compete for playing time following Zach Auguste’s departure. Combo guard Temple “T.J.” Gibbs will be an immediate factor as a penetrator, distributor and shooter. John Mooney, a 6’8″ power forward, has drawn comparisons to two-time Irish captain and stretch-4 Rob Kurz. Nikola Djogo, a 6’7″ swingman, could be another in the long line of quality-shooting Mike Brey recruits.

Final Analysis

This season, the Irish will find out if the foundation is in place to be a consistent upper-echelon ACC team. They’ll need a collective effort inside to replace Auguste’s productivity. If two or three of the young big men emerge, they’ll have more depth and fouls to give, which is a rarity in Brey’s system. There are plenty of shooters to make Brey’s preferred four-around-one look work. The backcourt won’t have an explosive athlete in the Grant-Jackson mold, but it will be deeper and more versatile. This team has the components to reach the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the last eight seasons.

Posted in CBB

Saturday’s Featured Late Evening Games

NCAA September 17, 2016

Join our FanPicks NCAA September 17, 2016 Featured Late Evening Games right here.

#17 Texas A&M (2-0) vs Auburn (1-1)

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin sees a lot of similarities between his No. 17 Aggies and host Auburn heading into Saturday’s SEC opener. Both teams have recorded big offensive games, have shown improving defenses and have fan bases expecting more wins.

The Tigers have been solid against the run, allowing 108.5 yards on the ground after allowing 182.7 yards last year, and the Aggies have also improved their rushing-defense numbers, allowing 78.5 rushing yards after holding Prairie View A&M to 32. Texas A&M features some of the league’s top receivers while Auburn has built a balanced attack behind sophomore quarterback Sean White. The teams have split their four meetings since the Aggies joined SEC with the road team winning each time.

#12 Michigan State (1-0) vs #18 Notre Dame (1-1)

Notre Dame might have the toughest first-month schedule of any contender for the College Football Playoff, and it is still looking for a signature win. The 18th-ranked Fighting Irish opened the season with a double-overtime loss at Texas but declared DeShone Kizer starting quarterback for Week 2 and rolled past Nevada to even its record. The Spartans have had two weeks to prepare for Notre Dame due to an early bye in Week 2.

#3 Ohio State (2-0) vs #14 Oklahoma (1-1)

Ohio State was expected to go through a few growing pains this season, as the team returned only six starters. It’s the fewest in the BCS. Yet after two impressive wins, the expectations are sky high. The Buckeyes have won 18 straight road games. It’s a school record and the longest active streak in the nation.

USC (1-1) vs #7 Stanford (1-0)

Visions of Stanford star Christian McCaffrey looks to be still fresh in USC’s memory. McCaffrey had a school-record 461 all-purpose yards to help Stanford clinch last season’s Pac-12 title with a 41-22 victory over the Trojans in December.
The junior running back began this season’s Heisman Trophy quest strong, and looks to get back inside their opponents mind. Stanford defeated USC twice last season and has won six of the last eight meetings, but seven of the past 10 games have been decided by eight points or fewer. The Trojans will need an even better performance to keep pace with Stanford and McCaffrey, who has collected at least 200 all-purpose yards in seven consecutive games.

#11 Texas (2-0) vs California (1-1)

Texas looks to avenge last year’s narrow loss to California on Saturday as the 16th-ranked Longhorns head out on the road for the first time this season to face the high-powered Golden Bears. While Texas is seeking its first 3-0 start since 2012, Cal is hoping to bounce back after allowing 334 rushing yards in last Saturday’s 45-40 loss at San Diego State.
Coach Charlie Strong recorded his 50th career win last Saturday against UTEP.

This game figures to be a shootout reminiscent of last season’s 45-44 Cal victory, with Texas averaging 45.5 points and 466.5 yards through its first two games. The Longhorns were 1-4 on the road last season but have the weapons to keep pace with a Cal offense led by senior quarterback Davis Webb, who has thrown for 963 yards and nine touchdowns in games against Hawaii and San Diego State. Cal ranks 125th nationally defending the run while allowing 291 yards per game and could struggle to slow down Texas quarterback Shane Buechele and backup Tyrone Swoopes, who rushed for three scores in the season’s opener against Notre Dame.

Posted in CFB

NCAA Preview 2016

NCAA Independents

The NCAA football season is near.  Get ready to play CFB at FanPicks (click to play). With the impending kickoff in Sydney on August 26th, FanPicks will cover every NCAA conferences and their teams for the 2016 season. If you’ve missed the CUSA CFB preview, click here. Now let’s get to the NCAA Independents.

With UMass’ departure from the Mid American Conference, roll call among FBS Independent college football teams has inched up to four this year as the Minuteman join the ranks of Independents.

Army West Point Black KnightsArmy logo

Since winning 10 games in 1996, the Cadets have been to one bowl game and finished with a winning record just once (2010). The 13 years before then: 35-115. The 5 years since then: 14-46.

BYU Cougars BYU logo

Former BYU fullback Kalani Sitake is coming home for his first stint as a head coach and he’s bringing a familiar name with him — Heisman winner turned offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. They take over a program that has won at least eight games in each of the last five years and returns enough talent to keep that streak alive in 2016. The question is if Sitake can push the program any higher than predecessor Bronco Mendenhall against a perennially front-loaded schedule.

Massachusetts MinutemenUMass logo

Mark Whipple has made the largest improvement recruiting the last five years combined. One of those recruits, SO RB Marquis Young, was one of only 5 backs in the nation last year with at least 150 carries and a 6.0 YPR average. JUCO QB Andrew Ford, former 3-star recruit with Virginia Tech, who is expected to replace Blake Frohnapfel, will join Young in the backfield.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Notre Dame logo

Coach Brian Kelly has two capable quarterbacks to choose from in Deshone Kizer and Malik Zaire, but also has a difficult schedule to contend with. To make matters worse, they’ve suffered a sizable blow to its offense Wednesday when gifted tight end Alize Jones was declared out for the 2016 season. The sophomore, arguably their most touted recruit in the 2015 class, acknowledged on Twitter that it was due to academics.

CFB 2016 Other Previews

The American

ACC Atlantic

ACC Coastal

Big 12

Conference USA

Big Ten East

Big Ten West

Posted in CFB

March Madness Scores

Round of 32

Another exciting day of March Madness has come and gone, so we’re here to catch you up on all the action. Twelve games were played on Saturday, and as usual there was an abundance of excitement, drama, baskets, blocks and jams.

The tournament gets real fast once you hit the second round. Surprises like Yale, who made it through the first round with a heck of an effort now have to face top seeded powerhouses such as Duke for example.

They almost pulled it off too, as Yale dropped 39 points on Duke in the second off, trying to rally for the miraculous comeback. But allowing 48 opening half points was just too much to overcome against Coach K and his Blue Devil crew.

Some favorites like Duke won, while some couldn’t find the inspiration to pull through. Or maybe, the fighting spirit of the underdog is just too strong. That’s why the games are actually played out on the court, and not decided on paper.

The round of 32 continues tomorrow, meanwhile some teams already punched their tickets to the Sweet 16.

Here are all the results from yesterday’s action.

Scores 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

MarchMadness Scores 32

The big squads like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Virginia advanced, while Kentucky joined Michigan State looking from the outside in.

Intriguing games on the schedule tomorrow include Middle Tennessee facing Syracuse, and Stephen F. Austin versus Notre-Dame.

Stephen F. Austin could be a bad matchup for Notre Dame, as the Fighting Irish will need some of that fighting spirit I mentioned to slow down SFA leading scorer Giddy Potts. Widely considered the nations top three-point shooter. We’ve seen the Steph Curry affect in the NBA, and the swing on the game it causes in college ball is even more dramatic. If Potts gets hot, Notre-Dame will be another big school on the wrong end of a headline.

Posted in CBB

NFL Combine Day 2

Day 2 of the NFL Combine has come and gone, and as usual there was drama and excitement of all kinds. Even a couple of staff members got into it.

The athletes had their ups and downs, notably a major down for Ohio State QB Cardale Jones who pulled his hamstring and is done for the remainder of the combine. Christian Hackenberg was terribly inaccurate during his throwing session, but did run a respectable 4.78 40-yard dash. Positively, Jeff Goff had a fantastic day throwing, as did Carson Wentz. Wentz also ran an impressive 4.77 40-yard dash, when you consider he measured in at 6’5 237 lbs. The latter two are considered the classes top QBs and probably top 10 picks.

The Wide Receivers…

The wide outs ran their 40’s today, and we had some surprises. Mike Mayock says this is the slowest group of WR’s we’ve maybe ever seen, and they are all “quicker than fast”. Laquon Treadwell didn’t run, but is still considered the top player at his position.

Here is the Top 10…plus the next two since they are very notable names.

Top10WR40s

Braxton Miller was probably Day 2 of the combine’s biggest surprise. While folks are still high on him, the Buckeyes converted QB was expected to run somewhere in the 4.3 range. His 4.5 flat (best) was disappointing to say the least. There was claims he ran a 4.36 as a QB for Ohio State, so after training so long as a wide receiver he would be even faster. That wasn’t the case, but his physicality and quickness are what make him a good WR anyway. He can be an NFL team’s number 2 WR one day soon. I see many first-down conversions in the future for this converted competitor.

Notre Dame’s Will Fuller unsurprisingly was among the events top performers. Impressively, he finished at the top medal standings.

TCU’s Josh Doctson is in the discussion as a top 3 pick at his position. His 40 time will definitely lower his draft stock, and now is a mid-to-late first round pick at best.

Posted in CFB, NFL

Fanpicks.com College Football Bowl Game Preview

BATTLEFROG FIESTA BOWL
Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

Fanpicks.com is proud to bring you the Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl game preview featuring Ohio State against Notre Dame. Another close scoring game… Notre Dame will go down to Ohio State… who will be victorious 28-27. Play the best fantasy college football contests at Fanpicks.com.

Ohio State ranked No. 7 and No. 8 Notre Dame were each only a few plays away from clinching a spot in the College Football Playoff but instead will have to be content with a New Year’s Six Bowl when they square off in the BattleFrog Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz., on Jan. 1. The defending-champion Buckeyes were in the top four until a 17-14 home loss to Michigan State in the penultimate game of the regular season knocked them out of a spot in the Big Ten title game. The Fighting Irish spent a week in the top four as well but dropped after closing the campaign with a 38-36 setback at Stanford.

Notre Dame’s explosive offense averaged 34.8 points – 31st in the nation – despite making a change at quarterback and losing top rusher C.J. Prosise down the stretch. Prosise (ankle) could be back for the bowl game but will be going against an Ohio State defense that finished second in the nation while allowing opponents an average of 14 points. Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash is set to leave to take the head coaching job at Rutgers after the bowl game, but former NFL and college head coach Greg Schiano was brought in to ease the transition and will serve as the co-defensive coordinator moving forward.

The Fighting Irish and the Buckeyes both switched quarterbacks during the season, though Notre Dame’s change was injury related. Malik Zaire went down in the second game of the season at Virginia and sophomore DeShone Kizer stepped in to throw for 2,600 yards and 19 touchdowns while adding nine scores on the ground. Ohio State went back and forth between Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett before settling on Barrett, who will get the starting nod in the Fiesta Bowl.

NOTRE DAME Season Overview (10-2): The Fighting Irish suffered their two losses by a total of four points on the road at No. 1 Clemson and No. 6 Stanford. “Our scout teams have done a great job all year,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly told reporters. “We’re going to lean on them again one more time to provide us with the kind of look necessary to prepare our defense. But no, we know the challenge that Ohio State brings, and we’re going to have to do a great job of preparing our defense.” That defense allowed an average of 22.4 points in the regular season and was at its best against the pass, limiting opponents to 195.9 yards through the air.

OHIO STATE Season Overview (11-1, 7-1 Big Ten): Buckeyes running back Ezekiel Elliott ran for 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns but was critical of his usage after logging just 33 yards on 12 carries in the lone loss to Michigan State. Elliott bounced back with 214 yards and two scores the following week and figures to be a big part of the offense in the bowl game. Elliott is one of several Ohio State stars, including Jones and presumptive top-5 pick defensive lineman Joey Bosa, who could be headed for the NFL draft in the spring.

Posted in CFB