Loners. Outsiders. Outliers. Some schools choose to go the independent route (see: Notre Dame or BYU), some are forced there (see: Idaho, New Mexico State). Back in the 70’s, 80’s, and early 90’s, some of the best football teams were independents. Then Penn State joined the Big Ten, Florida State joined the ACC, and independent football was changed forever. Recent years it was filled with Notre Dame, service academies without two names, and crap. BYU became independent last year and Idaho and New Mexico State join this year (and only for this year). The thought is that one day, there will be no independent schools and every school will be in a conference. Until Notre Dame loses NBC or this proposed Division 4 comes to fruition, don’t bet on that happening.
1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2 overall). Golden Domer fans went absolutely batshit-crazy last year as they were able to scratch and claw their way to the national championship. Too bad they ran into Evil Saban and his crew of football robots. I cannot see them being as good (or as lucky this year….ask Stanford or Pitt fans about that). However, thanks to the deal the Irish have with the BCS, their 10 wins will be enough to get them back to a BCS bowl game. Michigan and Stanford look to be the road losses this year but don’t be surprised if the Irish, once again, find themselves undefeated late in the season.
2. Navy Midshipmen (8-4 overall). Ah, service academy football. And who doesn’t love the Army-Navy game to finish off the regular season? Well, as long as at least one of the teams is bowling, then yes it’s great. The Middies will be coming in probably at around 7-4 with a bowl bid locked up and will look equally as good (however not any more dominant) as last season. Consistency is the name of the game in Annapolis.
3. BYU Cougars (8-4 overall). Now here’s a team that, despite being a fairly well known football school, is almost never shown in this part of the world. Like never. Even with the college sports pack I will probably only be able to catch 3 or 4 games. You’d think they were a division II school or something. Anyway, it’s too bad since they have possibly the best defensive player in the land not named Jadeveon Clowney in Kyle Van Noy. And they have a damn good team…uh, I mean, a darn good team. Wouldn’t want to swear and be banned from campus.
4. Army Black Knights (3-9 overall). There are some people who watch college football who would be hard-pressed to remember the last time Army beat Navy. It was over a decade ago just so you know. Then again, let’s put it in perspective…the last time an Army team was in the national championship picture was over 60 years ago. So there you go.
5. New Mexico State Aggies (3-9 overall). Poor NMSU. The WAC folds and no one wants them. The Mountain West flips them the bird. At least next year they can move back to the Sun Belt. At least they will take them. Poor NMSU. Worst part is I can’t see them even being that competitive in the Sun Belt. They must be almost begging for Division 4 to start. Then again it could be worse. They could be…
6. Idaho Vandals (2-10 overall). Wow. Just wow. Now here is a poor team. If you think the Aggies will have it tough, you haven’t seen the Vandals. Ever since their bowl win a few years back (and it was a classic I have to admit…43-42 over Bowling Green), they’ve been nothing short of terrible. Saying all that, they have some Petrino blood coming to Moscow. Fun Bobby’s brother Paul will take the helm for the Vandals and hope that in a few years they can compete for bowl games. This year isn’t that year though. Not even close.
Obviously no conference championship for the Independents. However, if there was I’m sure Notre Dame would win pretty handily. BYU and Navy have been consistently good lately though so other than this past year, it’s not like the Irish have totally dominated this group. This group will drop to four next year with Idaho and New Mexico State joining the Sun Belt. Then it drops to three the following year as Navy joins the American. Other than transitional schools I can’t see the three remaining joining any conference for the next while but you never know, especially with all this Division Four talk going on.