2011 Preview - CFN Thoughts On The Indys
Army FB Jared Hassin
Army FB Jared Hassin
Posted Aug 9, 2011

Preview 2011 - The CFNers give their thoughts on the upcoming Independent season.

Preview 2011

Independent Thoughts

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- 2011 Army Preview | 2011 BYU Preview
- 2011 Navy Preview | 2011 Notre Dame Preview
- 2011 Independent Preview | 2011 Independent Unit Rankings
- 2011 Independent Schedules & Picks | 2011 Independent Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-Ind Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Independent Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 

By Pete Fiutak

- Brian Kelly has the Irish a year away from being truly special. The team is good enough to play in a BCS game this year - and lose - but 2012 the team should be legitimately top five good.

- Of course Michael Floyd was going to be back on the team. It's Notre Dame. The pencils tend to have erasers in South Bend.

- Watch out for BYU to be back at the high level Bronco Mendenhall had things before last season. Don't be stunned if the Cougars beat Ole Miss and Texas on the road to start the season. The team will have a serious attitude as an independent.

- Army will beat Navy. Finally.

- Notre Dame will beat Navy. Finally.

- If Manti Te'o doesn't win the Butkus, he'll be a finalist.

- Navy defensive end Jabaree Tuani could start for most BCS conference teams. He's a great fit for the Midshipman 3-4 defense.

- It's always amazing how Army and Navy can hang on to the ball like they do. Army ran the ball 728 times and only lost 11 fumbles, while Nay ran it 692 times and lost ten fumbles.

- Notre Dame ran the ball 414 times and gave it away eight times.

- Army plays just three BCS conference teams: Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Rutgers. 

- Notre Dame has to deal with three road games in four weeks both in the first half of the season and in November.

By Richard Cirminiello

If it can sort out its quarterback situation—and get WR Michael Floyd back in the fold without any problems —Notre Dame is a threat to play in a BCS bowl game. The defense has come a long way under Bob Diaco, and head coach Brian Kelly won't accept anything less than marked improvement from his 8-5 debut.

So, what will the Irish do with its quarterbacks? Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees are the obvious choices, but neither is as athletic as the staff would prefer. Kelly won't do it, but he'll be tempted more than once to give the ball to one of his mobile youngsters, Andrew Hendrix or Everett Golson.

This is a good time to be a backer of BYU, which dips its toe into the Independent pool. For so many reasons, from increased revenues to fewer scheduling restraints, the Cougars ought to be applauded for leaving a crumbling Mountain West. On the field, 18 starters return, including second-year franchise QB Jake Heaps.

As is often the case in Annapolis, the Mids should make a smooth transition at quarterback. While it's not as if Ricky Dobbs won't be missed, successor Kriss Proctor is a senior, with a great feel for the trademark triple-option.

By the time Army meets Navy on Dec. 10, it'll have been 3,662 days since the Black Knights defeated their bitter rival. Is this the year the losing streak mercifully ends? After turning the corner a year ago, the Cadets finally have a realistic shot of closing the gap and nabbing that long-awaited victory over the Midshipmen.

By Matt Zemek

Bowl game? Check. Bowl win? Check. Rich Ellerson is steadily making progress at Army. His teams aren't skyrocketing up the charts, but the Black Knights are taking discernible steps forward. A little more depth, a little more discipline with the ball, and a little more resolve all enabled the Brave Old Army Team to shut down and frustrate a talented Southern Methodist offense in last year's Armed Forces Bowl. Army scored a small-scale coup, but a coup that will inject a profound amount of confidence in the 2011 roster. What's left for Ellerson to achieve? Beating Air Force and Navy. What will he need to pull off at least one win against Commander-In-Chief's Trophy rivals? More depth and a credible passing game. We'll see if the West Pointers can diversify and deploy their resources to even greater effect this season.

Last year, something happened that – remarkably – hadn't happened in several seasons: Navy underachieved. Oh, the Midshipmen worked hard and competed with vigor, but they plainly faltered in several game-defining situations against Maryland and Air Force. Against Duke, their defense flatly failed to show up. Georgia Southern very nearly sprang an ambush in Annapolis. It was a year in which the laws of averages evened out. Navy didn't make every clutch play or perform routine tasks with methodical and clinical consistency. Whether it was mental fatigue, the weight of pressure, or the lack of supremely stimulating challenges (no nasty multi-game gauntlets on the slate… unless Notre Dame and Duke counts as a gauntlet), Navy just didn't have the pep in its step, the extra measure of verve, that had defined the program over the previous several seasons. The Navy magic, the winning edge that the college football community had grown accustomed to, was not in evidence last season… not really. Yet, the Midshipmen still beat Army, compiled nine wins, and marched to another bowl game. When a stale season is a 9-4 season, it's clear that the bar has been raised. If Ken Niumatalolo rallies and revives his 2011 team, a big year could be in order in Annapolis.

BYU will not lose to Utah State. It will not embarrass itself in the first half of the season. It won't get replay-booth help against San Diego State. This is a team that finished 2010 on a roll, for one thing. More importantly, the offense now knows what it's doing, something that could not have been said of the Cougars in early October of last season. Jake Heaps understands the finer points of quarterbacking at the collegiate level, and that fact alone should make BYU a measurably better ballclub in 2011; just how much is the real question swirling around Provo.

Let's bring this issue up only so it doesn't have to be dealt with any longer: Brian Kelly should not be on the unemployment line after the Declan Sullivan incident last year. It's Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick who should be out of work. Now, on to football…

Notre Dame's fortunes in 2011 hinge, as usual, on its defense. Naturally, the quarterbacking has to be better than it was last year, and there's no question that the end-zone interception against Tulsa cast a long shadow over the on-field portion of the Irish's nightmarish 2010 campaign. Nevertheless, the larger reality of Notre Dame football the past two years is that Michigan quarterbacks, Michigan State offenses, and Stanford juggernauts have made the Irish look very small on defense, for the most part. Those three schools are on the 2011 slate, making it hard to imagine how the Irish can do anything more than win nine games.

By Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee

- Notre Dame is simply has past its prime. The program simply isn't as prestigious as it once was. Players these days don't recognize Notre Dame as one of the most tradition-rich programs in college football history, they view the program as an annual underachiever.

- As is the routine, the Fighting Irish will again disappoint in 2011. No, Notre Dame isn't a national title contender. Despite a somewhat easy schedule, the Irish will still find four or five losses.

- BYU seems to be trying to make itself the "Notre Dame of the West," but didn't do itself any favors, opening up on the road at Ole Miss and Texas. Granted, Ole Miss is likely going to bring up the rear in the SEC West, but it's still an SEC school halfway across the country.Jake Heaps will turn some heads at quarterback, but something tells me the Cougars will be regretting their move to independence sooner rather than later.

- Navy will again win the "Independent Title." Will this be the year that Ken Niumatalolo gets the recognition he deserves? I doubt it, but it should be.

- 2011 Army Preview | 2011 BYU Preview
- 2011 Navy Preview | 2011 Notre Dame Preview
- 2011 Independent Preview | 2011 Independent Unit Rankings
- 2011 Independent Schedules & Picks | 2011 Independent Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-Ind Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 Independent Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish