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2013 College Football Preview: Independents
By: Brian Graham - StatFox
Published: 7/19/2013  at  5:01:00 AM
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To get you prepared for the upcoming college football season, we continue our run of all FBS conference previews over the next several weeks. For complete coverage, download your copy of the 2013 StatFox Edge Football Preview. Next up is the Independents, which has two more schools than the usual four. Idaho and New Mexico State had no place to go after the WAC disbanded, bringing the total to six independents.

NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH


2012 Statistics:
SU Record: 12-1
ATS Record: 7-6 (54%)
Over/Under: 3-10
Points Scored: 25.8 PPG
Points Allowed: 12.8 PPG
Odds to Win 2014 BCS National Championship: 60/1

2013 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 6
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
The Irish were 12-0 before falling in the BCS Title game, and many players return for an encore. One big absence is QB Everett Golson who flunked off the team, leaving QB Tommy Rees (4,414 pass yds, 34 TD, 24 INT in career) to run a below-average offense (25.8 PPG, 80th in FBS). Leading receiver, TE Tyler Eifert, is gone, but WRs TJ Jones (649 rec. yds, 4 TD) and DaVaris Daniels (490 rec. yds) are ready for more action. RB George Atkinson III (361 rush yds, 5 TD) becomes the No. 1 back with a punishing O-Line to run behind. Notre Dame’s D was phenomenal in 2012, allowing just 12.8 PPG (2nd in FBS) and 305 YPG (7th in FBS). DE Stephon Tuitt (12 sacks) and NG Louis Nix III (50 tackles, 5 PD) will keep the front four charging, and LB Jarrett Grace replaces Manti Te’o. S Matthias Farley (49 tackles) and CB Bennett Jackson (4 INT, 65 tackles) headline a smothering secondary.

BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS


2012 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-5
ATS Record: 7-6 (54%)
Over/Under: 4-7-1
Points Scored: 28.7 PPG
Points Allowed: 14.0 PPG
Odds to Win 2014 BCS National Championship: 250/1

2013 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 6
Although BYU was a ho-hum 8-5 last year, four of those losses came by six points or less. New OC Robert Anae was hired from Arizona to employ a more up-tempo offense for QB Taysom Hill (425 pass yds, 4 TD, 2 INT; 336 rush yds, 4 TD) and star WR Cody Hoffman (1,248 rec. yds, 11 TD). This team won’t abandon the run though, with RB Jamaal Williams (775 rush yds, 12 TD), but the offensive line has some questions. BYU’s defense was phenomenal in 2012, finishing third in the country in both yards (266 YPG) and points (14.0 PPG), stopping both the run (87 YPG, 2nd in FBS) and pass (179 YPG, 10th in FBS). The D-Line is a bit thin, but LB Kyle Van Noy (13 sacks, 22 TFL, 8 QBH, 6 FF, 2 TD) is tremendous in all facets, CB Jordan Johnson (15 PD, 48 tackles) has a nose for the football, and safeties Daniel Sorensen (68 tackles, 3 INT) and Craig Bills (47 tackles, 5 PD) sure can hit.

NAVY MIDSHIPMEN


2012 Statistics:
SU Record: 8-5
ATS Record: 4-9 (31%)
Over/Under: 4-8
Points Scored: 25.0 PPG
Points Allowed: 25.7 PPG
Odds to Win 2014 BCS National Championship: 50/1 (Field)

2013 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 6
Defense: Starters Returning: 7
The Midshipmen began 1-3 last year, but then won seven of eight games to become bowl eligible. The triple-option propelled them to 278 rushing YPG (6th in FBS), but QB Keenan Reynolds (61-of-108, 898 yds, 9 TD, 2 INT; 649 rush yds, 10 TD) throws well enough to work out of the shotgun in some spread formations this year. He should have plenty of protection from his line, and top WR Brandon Turner (321 rec. yds, 4 TD) is dependable. RBs Noah Copeland (738 rush yds, 5 TD) and Chris Swain (154 rush yds, 10.3 YPC) are the two main ball carriers for this offense. The defense provided little pressure in opposing backfields (18 sacks, T-100th in FBS), 54 TFL (T-17th-worst in FBS). But a strong veteran presence remains in this 3-4 defense with ILB Cody Peterson (67 tackles), OLB Jordan Drake (49 tackles, 2 sacks), CB Parrish Gaines (69 tackles, 2 INT) and FS Chris Ferguson (37 tackles).

ARMY BLACK KNIGHTS


2012 Statistics:
SU Record: 2-10
ATS Record: 4-8 (33%)
Over/Under: 5-5-1
Points Scored: 24.3 PPG
Points Allowed: 35.3 PPG
Odds to Win 2014 BCS National Championship: 50/1 (Field)

2013 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 7
Defense: Starters Returning: 8
As if going 2-10 wasn’t bad enough, now Army has to replace legendary QB Trent Steelman who accounted for 6,048 yards and 59 TD in his career. The Black Knights will again run the triple-option that led them to a nation’s-best 370 rushing YPG, using either QB A.J. Schurr (8-for-18, 130 yds, 2 TD; 12 rush, 47 yds) or QB Angel Santiago (7-of-24, 84 yds; 53 rush, 174 yds, 1 TD). RB Raymond Maples (1,215 rush yds, 5.4 YPC) and FB Larry Dixon (839 rush yds, 6.0 YPC, 6 TD) will again get many option pitches behind a seasoned O-Line. WR Chevaughn Lawrence (357 rec. yds, 17.0 YPC) is a capable No. 1 receiver. Army’s defense struggled in many facets, allowing 35.3 PPG (106th in FBS) and 232 rushing YPG (T-3rd-worst in FBS). DL Robert Kough (42 tackles, 9.5 TFL) anchors a veteran O-Line while FS Geoffrey Bacon (136 tackles as linebacker) now keeps the secondary in check.

IDAHO VANDALS


2012 Statistics:
SU Record: 1-11 (1-5 in WAC)
ATS Record: 3-9 (25%)
Over/Under: 7-4
Points Scored: 15.8 PPG
Points Allowed: 42.4 PPG
Odds to Win 2014 BCS National Championship: 50/1 (Field)

2013 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 7
Defense: Starters Returning: 4
New Head Coach: Paul Petrino
The Vandals hope the switch from the WAC to the Independents can help with their 1-11 record last year. Idaho had the second-fewest points in FBS (15.8 PPG) failing to reach 30 points in a regulation game. With such a porous offense, new head coach Paul Petrino will take his time picking a starting QB (and starting RB) between a bunch of undesirable candidates. The O-Line should flourish, and a couple of decent pass catchers are back too -- WRs Najee Lovett (548 rec. yds, 6 TD) and Jahrie Level (538 rec. yds, 2 TD). New DC Ronnie Lee has plenty of work to make this unit respectable (42.4 PPG, 3rd-worst in FBS; 474 YPG, 12th-worst in FBS). DEs Maxx Forde (3 sacks, 4 PD) and Quinton Bradley (3 QBH), and CBs Solomon Dixon (3 INT, 36 tackles) and Bradley Njoku (43 tackles) can certainly use some help.

NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES


2012 Statistics:
SU Record: 1-11 (0-6 in WAC)
ATS Record: 4-8 (33%)
Over/Under: 6-5
Points Scored: 18.7 PPG
Points Allowed: 39.4 PPG
Odds to Win 2014 BCS National Championship: 50/1 (Field)

2013 Preview:
Offense: Starters Returning: 8
Defense: Starters Returning: 6
New Head Coach: Doug Martin
The Aggies carry over an 11-game losing skid from last year when they were in the WAC. To succeed as an Independent, new coach Doug Martin must improve their 18.7 PPG (T-114th in FBS). He has installed a spread offense with an option for his QB to run. The starter will either be junior QB Travaughn Colwell (485 pass yds, 3 TD, 3 INT in career) or senior QB Andrew McDonald (1-for-3, 3 yds). WR Austin Franklin (1,245 rec. yds, 9 TD) is a legitimate big-play receiver, and RB Germi Morrison (767 rush yds, 2 TD) is the top back with big potential. The horrible defense (39.4 PPG, 5th-worst in FBS) will get help from DL transfers Matt Ramondo (Michigan St.) and Willie Mobley (Arizona) joining veterans OLB Trashaun Nixon (96 tackles, 4 PD), FS Davis Cazares (116 tackles) and SS George Callender (86 tackles).

All 2013 College Football Previews:

MAC
Conference USA
Mountain West
Sun Belt
American Athletic
Independents
ACC - July 22
Big 12 - July 29
Big Ten - August 5
Pac-12 - August 12
SEC - August 19
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