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CFN 2011 Independents Preview
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Notre Dame LB Manti Te'o
Posted Aug 9, 2011

Preview, predictions, and breakdown of the upcoming Independent season.

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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

It’s a fun life being an independent, and BYU might provide the path to follow going forward.

While BYU could’ve been a star in the new Mountain West, after the writing was on the wall when the Pac-12 decided it wasn’t interested, it became time to go rogue and it became time to see if the better business deal could be had by becoming an independent. The school, more like the Church, has a TV network to play around with, and being an independent would allow the program to become bigger, better, and come up with a higher profile. Going 9-3 on your own looks better than being 9-3 and finishing second in a league.

Notre Dame knows this, and it has made gobs and gobs of money through NBC, the BCS, and by keeping all the money from bowl appearances. Sure, joining the Big Ten makes sense from just about every standpoint, but the Irish like the prestige of being its own entity, and it knows that if it joined the Big Ten, or the SEC, or any conference of its choosing – EVERY conference would love to have Notre Dame – it would be tough to be the big fish it is now.

Navy has become relevant again by being an independent. Being in the Big East might be nice, and that’s about as high as the football program could get conference-wise, but being able to pick and choose games against the pretty good, like the East Carolinas and Wake Forests of the world, has allowed the program to come up with nice record after nice record. Army figured this out, too, having ditched Conference USA after 2004 and now has figured out that life is much, much easier when Eastern Michigan, North Texas, Tulane, and VMI are on the slate. If you’re Army or Navy, it doesn’t matter who you play; just going to bowl games is enough.

And that’s why it’s going to be interesting to see how the college football world changes and adapts along with the business side of college athletics. Texas has its own network, and soon, there might not be any reason to hang around the Big 12 considering all the riches the athletic department could take in by picking its own schedule and keeping all its bowl money.

Of course, being a part of a conference has its perks in other sports and in academic partnerships, but it’s a bottom-line world and if schools can make more money and become a bigger deal on their own, they’ll start to look into it.

BYU will be an interesting test case. Notre Dame is Notre Dame, and it’ll draw interest no matter what, but BYU needs to win in some high-profile battles to generate any national attention. Army is still improving and Navy will do what Navy does, BYU appears to be ready to bounce back after a rebuilding season, and Notre Dame should be on the verge of big things now that the offseason storms have passed and Brian Kelly has his parts in place.

It’s a great time to be an independent. It’s an even better time to be a good one. 

Team That'll Surprise
BYU - The Cougars should be far, far better after last season's disappointing campaign. Jake Heaps is ready to mature into the star quarterback prospect he was expected to be from Day One last year, while the offensive line and linebacking corps should be good enough to win big with. 60 lettermen are back along with ten starters on offense. 

Team That'll Disappoint

Navy - The Midshipmen are used to assuming a bowl game is a given, but it could be a bit of a fight this year to get the 13th game. There are more than enough layups to ensure at least six wins, but the defense is going to take a step back and the passing game should be non-existent.

Game of the Year

Notre Dame at Michigan, Sept. 10 - The USC game is in South Bend, as are dangerous battles with Air Force, Navy, Michigan State, South Florida, and Boston College. Road games at Pitt and Stanford will be tough, but the Michigan game will be a tone-setter. New Wolverine head man Brady Hoke will want to make a big splash early on, but if the Irish defensive front can contain Denard Robinson, Notre Dame will get its first win in Ann Arbor since 2005.

5 Big-Time Players Who Deserve a Bigger Spotlight

1. DE Jabaree Tuani, Sr. Navy
2. FB Jared Hassin, Jr. Army
3. FB Alexander Teich, Sr. Navy
4. NT Romney Fuga, Jr. BYU
5. OT Zack Martin, Jr. Notre Dame

Coach on the Hot Seat

Brian Kelly, Notre Dame - The Irish head coach is always on the the hot seat. Kelly had to rebuild and reload a bit, and he did a great job of fighting through the adversity last year and keeping the team focused, but 8-5 is 8-5. He has recruited his tail off and the talent level is quickly being upgraded. The national title won't be in the equation this year, but the Irish should be in the hunt for an at-large BCS game.

5 Non-Obvious Independent Games That'll Shape The Season

1. TCU vs. BYU, Pct. 28 (in Dallas)
2. South Florida at Notre Dame, Sept. 3
3. Navy at South Carolina, Sept. 17
4. Notre Dame at Pitt, Sept. 24
5. Northwestern at Army, Sept. 17

Bold Predictions …
Army won't be Hawaii when it comes to throwing the ball, but the offense will use receivers Davyd Brooks and Austin Barr on a regular basis. ... BYU QB Jake Heaps is going to be terrific. He'll put up the type of numbers that'll make him the IT player going into 2012. ... Navy QB Kriss Proctor will run for 20 scores. ... Notre Dame will start out 6-0 going into the off week before dealing with USC.

5 Best Pro Prospects

1. LB Manti Te’o, Jr. Notre Dame
2. OT Matt Reynolds, Sr. BYU
3. WR Michael Floyd, Sr. Notre Dame
4. DE Aaron Lynch, Fr. Notre Dame
5. TE Tyler Eifert, Jr. Notre Dame

5 Biggest Shoes to Fill

1. QB Kriss Proctor for Ricky Dobbs, Navy
2. LB Steven Erzinger for Stephen Anderson, Army
3. DT Hafis Williams for Ian Williams, Notre Dame
4. S Travis Uale for Andrew Rich, BYU
5. DE Jarrett Mackey for Josh McNary, Army

- 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