Notre Dame and Independent Team Previews
NOTRE DAME COULD BE HUGE STORY, OR HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT VS. 2014 SCHEDULE
The stage is set for BIG NEWS from the Notre Dame Fighting Irish this season. They have the kind of schedule that could launch them into the national championship picture if they score one or two marquee wins…but one that could inflict a losing record on them if new talent doesn’t step up and get the job done.
If you’ve peaked ahead at the 2014 slate, you already know that Notre Dame (the most important of the four major Independents we’ll be covering today) visits defending National Champion Florida State in mid-October. That’s assumed to be a loss, as early Vegas numbers already project the Seminoles to be favored by at least three touchdowns. FSU isn’t the only dangerous opponent though.
RECENT POWERS ON NOTRE DAME’S SCHEDULE
October 4: Stanford
October 18: at Florida State
November 8: at Arizona State
November 29: at USC
All four of those teams are currently in the top 16 of Athlon’s Preseason rankings. That summer annual has Notre Dame at #13 by the way. Not just four toughies in terms of caliber…but three ROAD games! And, it’s not a cakewalk if you dig further…
OTHER HIGHLY REGARDED OPPONENTS
September 6: Michigan
October 11: North Carolina
November 22: Louisville
Those three teams are in the top 32 in Athlon’s early rankings…which means SEVEN opponents in the top 35! And, you can see how the challenges cluster…with Stanford, NC, and FSU coming in three successive weeks…then ASU, Louisville, and USC coming up as three games in four Saturdays.
Oh…the gifts aren’t exactly gifts! The season opener against Rice brings the defending CUSA champions to South Bend. The end of September features a game against Syracuse at the Meadowlands, Navy has become a nice rivalry because the Middies get sky high for the game (first day of November this year), and Northwestern is a sleeper sitting in the heart of that tough November slate.
Only Purdue is a sure thing!
You can see what we mean about volatility. Success against that schedule would earn tremendous respect. Inconsistency against that schedule could mean a 4-8 record and no bowl!
With all THAT in mind, let’s run through our standard preview boxes for the major Independents…
2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rankings: 67 on offense, 31 on defense
Returning Starters: 4 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
Notebook: Everett Golson returns at quarterback after missing a season. That helps a little on the experience front given the low number of returning starters. But, we’d have to say that Athlon’s ranking of Notre Dame at #13 seems INSANE given those numbers. The offense was a huge disappointment last year, and is now rebuilding. The defensive ranking was helped by facing a lot of bad offenses. JIM HURLEY will be watching this team closely out of the gate. If Golson doesn’t hit the ground running, the Irish will be fade material on several occasions.
2013 Record: 8-5
2013 Rankings: 14 on offense, 47 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense
Head Coach: Taysom Hill
Notebook: The Cougars had a lot in common with Notre Dame last year, in that they flipped between impressive wins and disappointing losses. Quarterback Hill is a runner more than a passer, which means BYU will be well-positioned to dominate defenses who can’t stop the run…but will be in trouble vs. those who can. A trip to revenge-minded Texas on September 6 could prove very interesting. A lot of soft spots on the schedule will allow the Cougars to coast into bowl eligibility even if they lose to their toughest opponents.
2013 Record: 9-4
2013 Rankings: 61 on offense, 57 on defense
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
Notebook: That’s actually a lot of returning starters for a military program, so Navy is definitely a team to watch this season. We’re really looking forward to the season opener vs. Ohio State that will be played on the Baltimore Ravens’ home field. That’s the only “name” opponent until Notre Dame on November 1. Combine talent with one of the softest schedules Navy’s ever played…and this team could be in the rankings by midseason if they can just post a competitive loss against the Buckeyes.
2013 Record: 3-9
2013 Rankings: 79 on offense, 71 on defense
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 7 on defense
Head Coach: Jeff Monken
Notebook: Things are still bleak for the Black Knights. New head coach Monken will try to get things moving in the right direction…but nobody else has been able to do that in years! He does have a lot of experience back at least. Be aware that the stat rankings make Army look too good. They played a soft schedule last year and were generally outclassed badly. Hawaii’s only win in 2013 was over Army for example. Perhaps putting Yale and Fordham on the schedule will help pad the won-lost record.
Army may not be on your college football radar this season…but you’ll be watching A LOT of Notre Dame, and probably BYU…with a couple of big Navy games in the mix too. Win while you watch all through the college football season by signing up with Jim Hurley’s Network! Early bird packages can be purchased here at the website or by calling the office at 1-800-323-4453. Daily baseball resumes after the All-Star Break.
Speaking of that, we’ll put together first half reviews for both the National and American Leagues over the next two days here in the NOTEBOOK. Here’s the upcoming schedule…
Monday: NL Review at the All-Star Break
Tuesday: AL Review at the All-Star Break
Wednesday: College Football…ACC Atlantic Division Preview
Thursday: College Football…ACC Coastal Division Preview
Friday: MLB Series Preview…choosing between LAD/St. Louis and Baltimore/Oakland
Saturday: College Football…Big 10 “East” Preview
Sunday: College Football…Big 10 “West” Preview
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