I’m looking straight at you, UMass.
Right now we have the Fantastic Four in the Independents…OK maybe fantastic is WAY too strong a word here. We have four. For this season. Next season it will be six as New Mexico State is kicked to the curb by the Sun Belt to join the land of the free and the home of the relatively hopeless (if you aren’t named Notre Dame, BYU or, to a lesser extent, Army). Also joined this merry band of outsiders is Liberty. Somehow they got a spot in the FBS without being invited to a conference. Well, they have the money to compete; it’s really just a matter of how long it takes to become a contending G5 school.
So let’s get right into the predictions, followed by some team-by-team analysis (since there’s only four teams and I have to fill this space with something):
- Notre Dame will be much better than last season. Then again, I don’t really know how they could be worse. Brian Kelly better hope they are much better, for the sake of his own job. The eight wins I predict the Irish to get may not even be enough to save Kelly at the end of the day. I do have them losing against North Carolina, USC, Miami and Stanford. The UNC game may be winnable so perhaps they get to nine wins. I don’t foresee how they get to double digits meaning I can’t see them in the New Year’s Six. But, stranger things have happened in college football.
- BYU will be good. Quite good. I have them losing three games (LSU, Wisconsin, Mississippi State) but I could see all of them being close. The game against LSU in Houston will be the barometer of whether they have a legitimate shot at a New Year’s Six bowl game or if they have to wait for the table scraps. It really is high risk, high reward for this team because of their Independent status. At least Notre Dame has a quasi-agreement with the ACC. Maybe BYU should set something like that up with the Big XII or the Pac-12. Would help them with the postseason.
- Army will be good enough once again. I don’t think they will beat Navy (like last season’s epic victory) but they will get the six wins needed to go bowling for a second straight season. If they win all the games they should win and then get a win or two more in the rest (not a chance against Ohio State but they also have Tulane, Temple, Air Force, and Duke on the sked) then they will….be in exactly the same spot. So really, once they get to six wins they should rest everyone. Well, except for the Army-Navy game. That would be blasphemous.
- UMass will be, well, awful. I have them winning two games (Hawaii, Maine). They also have games against Coastal Carolina and Georgia Southern which may be winnable. But that’s it. So four wins is the absolute max for this team this season. To be honest, along with New Mexico State, they are a perfect candidate to follow the Idaho example and drop down to FCS. They probably won’t but it’s getting to the point of insanity since I can’t see a conference inviting them since the MAC basically did the equivalent of not picking up their option when UMass ended their agreement with them a couple years ago.
That’s it. Four teams. Done.
Next up we start the Group of Five fun-time predictions with (drum roll please) the American Conference. And we are finally into August (FINALLY!). Meaning college football really is around the corner. 25 days and counting!