Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, July 14, 2013 at 7:00 AM
The 2012 season was a truly magical one for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. They were supposed to be pretty good…but not a superpower (Preseason top 20, but not top five last year). Head coach Brian Kelly said he expected to compete for national titles…but everyone assumed he meant after a few years of building the program. Suddenly…thanks to a string of close wins…Notre Dame was facing Alabama for the trophy on the biggest stage in the sport.
And getting routed!
The luck of the Irish ran out in that 47-14 debacle. And, the team that barely beat Purdue, barely beat Pittsburgh, barely beat BYU, and needed extremely friendly officiating to beat Stanford in overtime realized there’s still a lot of work to be done if they want to be a true superpower.
This year, they’ll try to regroup from that humbling loss without the heart of their defense and their most dynamic quarterback. Manti Te’o is in the NFL. Everett Golson lost his eligibility in the offseason and has to miss the 2013 campaign (he reportedly hopes to return for 2014).
Here’s a look at Notre Dame and the rest of the Independents as we transition from the mid-majors to the majors today in our summer series of conference previews. The returning starter data comes from the respected Athlon publication. Be sure to look for JIM HURLEY’S big display ad right across from Notre Dame on page 173!
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 8 on defense
Quarterback: Tommy Rees
Head Coach: Brian Kelly
The heart of the Irish defense may be gone, but a lot of experience returns as the team will once again try to work through a tough schedule with a smash mouth style. Rees did see a lot of action at quarterback last year, even if he wasn’t star material. They’ll need a good game manager against a slate that includes Michigan and Michigan State from the Big 10, Oklahoma from the Big 12, Arizona State, USC, and Stanford from the Pac 12. Much of that is frontloaded, which means the team better be ready out of the gate. JIM HURLEY has already circled a few very good revenge spots for backing teams who lost to ND last year.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 4 on defense
Quarterback: Taysom Hill
Head Coach: Bronco Mendenhall
Will any Independents matter besides Notre Dame? Brigham Young has the best chance to crack the top 25. A schedule that includes Texas, Georgia Tech, Boise State, Wisconsin, and Notre Dame obviously has statement-making possibilities. But, the defense is inexperienced and projected quarterback Hill didn’t see a lot of action last year before getting hurt. Definitely a team to keep an eye on for value if the new defenders can match last year’s intensity.
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 6 on defense
Quarterback: Keenan Reynolds
Head Coach: Ken Niumatalolo
It’s been hard to see if you’re not looking closely…but Navy has been regressing under this coaching regime. They could only rank in the 70’s in total offense and total defense last year despite playing a very weak schedule. They were exposed badly when stepping up in class. Season bookends were a 50-10 loss to Notre Dame and a 62-28 bowl disaster against Arizona State. They did win the Commander-in-Chief trophy in down years for all the military programs. This year’s schedule may be their softest ever, which will probably earn them a bowl bid against a much better opponent.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 5 on defense
Head Coach: Rich Ellerson
Army went 2-10 last year, suffering losses to Stony Brook and Eastern Michigan. And, NOW, they have to find a new quarterback. Likely to be another dark year for the Black Knights. The kids are heroes, so you root for them to do well. In Las Vegas handicapping terms, it’s very hard to have any real expectations for a team that grades out this poorly. One of their two wins last year was against Air Force, which tells you how far Air Force has fallen.
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 2 on defense
Head Coach: Paul Petrino (new)
We use the Athlon rankings when listing the teams…we’re about to have two teams who are even worse than Army! Idaho showed some feistiness early last year before a complete and utter collapse. Their only win in a 1-11 season came against the New Mexico State team you’ll read about next. Almost the whole defense is gone. A new coach will have to build an offense without a proven quarterback. Look to fade the Vandals until the new regime shows promise.
NEW MEXICO STATE
Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense
Quarterback: Andrew Manley
Head Coach: Doug Martin (new)
The Aggies won their season opener against Sacramento State, then lost everything else in a weak conference. Another new coach will try to salvage the program. It’s tough…because New Mexico high schools don’t generate much talent. And, when they do, it gets raided by teams in West Texas or Arizona! Assume the worst, particularly in the first half of the season against Texas, Minnesota, UCLA, and San Diego State.
Never assume anything but THE BEST when you’re talking about the handicapping juggernaut of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK! We’re primed for another huge football season at the college and pro levels. You can sign up NOW for early-bird packages at great rates. Baseball’s All-Star Break is the perfect time to get your ducks in a row for football. If you have any questions, call us in the office during regular business hours at 1-800-323-4453.
Back with you Monday for more college football previews. Our schedule this week:
Monday: SEC West (featuring two-time defending National Champion Alabama)
Tuesday: SEC East
Wednesday: Big 10 Leaders (featuring national contender Ohio State)
Thursday: Big 10 Legends
After a Friday baseball report to kick off the second half of the season, it’s back to football with the ACC in showcase position Saturday and Sunday.
Stay with us every day through the summer so you can pyramid your profits in both baseball and football. You’ll always GET THE MONEY with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!