Preview 2012 - Independent Predicted Finishes
The early summer look at where we think each team will finish.
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Preview 2012 - Predicted Conference Finishes
- ACC |
Big 12 |
Big East |
- Mountain West |
1. Notre Dame
2011 Record: 8-5, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 7-5
The team will be far better and the talent level is rising, but the schedule is a sadistic joke with no breaks whatsoever – outside of possibly a late home game against Wake Forest – and road trips to Michigan State, Oklahoma, Boston College, and USC. That doesn't even count the Opening Day game against Navy in Ireland that's followed up by the home opener against an improved Purdue team to follow. Throw in Michigan Stanford, BYU, Pitt, and a date in Chicago against Miami and a winning season in any way might put Brian Kelly in the hunt for Coach of the Year honors. The quarterback situation has to be sorted out – with the Tommy Rees problem not really helping the cause – but there's talent on offense. Losing pass rusher Aaron Lynch stinks, but getting LB Manti Te'o back for one more season should ease the pain a bit.
2011 Record: 10-3, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
QB Riley Nelson has the gig all to himself now after taking over and leading the way to a strong 2011. However, the O line might be a little shaky early on and the passing game might take a little while to explode. Fortunately, the defense is loaded with veterans with just about everyone of note back and with a terrific front wall likely to be a brick wall against the run. As an independent, the schedule has enough soft games to ensure a good record, but there are two tough sets of back-to-back road games with Utah and Boise State in the first half and Notre Dame and Georgia Tech in the second half. Four of the final road games are on the road.
2011 Record: 5-7, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 8-4
The Midshipmen should be able to get back on track and back to a bowl game with a manageable slate and with the call going out from coach Ken Niumatalolo to be far more physical and for the running game to be dominant again. The backfield has to undergo a bit of an overhaul, but the line should be nastier and tougher and the defense gets almost everyone back in the linebacking corps and secondary. The schedule is interesting with a trip to Ireland early to play Notre Dame followed up by a date at Penn State. Even with an 0-2 start there won't be any reason for panic with only one game the rest of the way against a team that went bowling in 2011.
2011 Record: 3-9, 2012 Roughly Projected Record: 5-7
The Knights should be better and this could be the best team Rich Ellerson has put on the field, but it'll still be a fight to get to a bowl game. QB Trent Steelman has been around long enough to be a master of the rushing game, but he needs to stay healthy and the ground attack will have to dominate with no passing game to speak of. The defense gets nine starters back, but there's no size whatsoever and it needs to be off the field as much as possible - that's where the running game and time of possession factors in. The big positive, though, is a schedule with only two true road games after the third week of the season including a terrific stretch of five home games in six weeks. The lone road trip in the middle of the season is at Eastern Michigan, but getting Boston College, Air Force, and Temple at home isn't going to be easy.