It’s only a matter of time. That might as well be the motto for football independents this season. In that it’s only a matter of time until there’s no such thing as an independent in college football. The BCS conferences are gobbling up teams from the lower tier conferences faster then a Tommy Rees meltdown in the pocket. Navy is bolting for the Big East in 2015 and you can be sure Army will go somewhere soon. The Big 12 might be interested in BYU, so that leaves the ultimate non-conformist independent, Notre Dame, who would like to think it’s the only real independent. For a program that cherishes its football independence almost as much as its self-denying superiority complex, it’ll be a tough pill to swallow. Rumors have linked them to the Big Ten(12) for years, but now the Big 12(10) is getting in on the act, which will help the school’s ego for sure, but the brutal schedule won’t. Being the offpsring of two Domer alums gives me a unique perspective on the team.

Other Previews: ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, C-USA

Notre Dame
As unlikely as it seems, the offense could be better then it was last season. But it all rests on who’s under center. Rees and Andrew Hendrix are mistake prone and Everett Golson and Gunner Kiel are untested. The passing attack lost one of its best in Michael Floyd but returns Tyler Eifert who is the best TE in the country and an intriguing mix of size and speed at receiver. A rotation at RB of Cierre Wood, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III could pile up yards fast. A stout O-line led by Braxston Cave will keep whomever is the QB upright. A better pass rush on defense will help the turnover at corner, but Zeke Motta looks ready to replace Harrison Smith at safety. The front seven will be effective despite the pass rush, led by LB Manti Te’o who can make tackles everywhere on the field.

The Cougars hope they can build off the momentum of last season’s finish and prove it wasn’t just because of an easy schedule. QB Riley Nelson returns to build on his progress from last year and has a stable of throwing options. WRs Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo are an underrated 1-2 punch while JD Falslev could benefit from all the attention paid to those two. The running game loses its top rusher, but the O-line should be a strength. Despite an inconsistent pass rush and lack of takeaways, the D was actually quite good. The back seven had to work harder when the pass rush wasn’t working and it produced. The LBs are the stars of the unit with Kyle Van Noy, Brandon Ogletree and Spencer Hadley all capable of making plays.

Closing strong will be the theme for Navy this season as they lost several tight games last year. QB Trey Miller is an adequate passer that doesn’t need to be great nor do the receivers need to be because Navy is a run first team. The backfield is loaded with speed and talent in Gee Gee Greene, Noah Copeland and John Howell. The O-line is built for the run game with tough, physical guys paving the way. The defense will lag behind the offense in terms of production. It doesn’t really rush the passer, stop the run or prevent big plays but does have some talent in LB Matt Warrick and S Tra’ves Bush.

Like Navy, the Army offense is predicated on the run, but the Knights’ passing game is one of if not the worst in the country. Even QB Trent Steelman was among the leading rushers. Raymond Maples is the leading rusher, but Malcolm Brown, Jared Hassin and Larry Dixon are all capable of putting up big numbers. The O-line isn’t spectacular, but is inefficient in creating running lanes. There’s alot of work to do on defense and it starts with fitting everything together into a coherent unit. It doesn’t help that the unit as a whole is udnersized.