INDEPENDENTS 2009 FOOTBALL PREVIEW
Marc Lawrence • PLAYBOOK.com
Like last year, just three teams make up the INDEPENDENTS, yet all three will have a strong say on the participants in the 2009 National Championship BCS game when they take on no less than 20 combined opponents that landed bowl bids last season.
Rest assured, without a conference affiliation, this self-governing group holds plenty of veto power when it comes to dashing the dreams of many BCS Championship Game aspirants.
Here is my take on the INDEPENDENTS for 2009.
Coming up next: the MID AMERICAN CONFERENCE. Enjoy…
Returning starters are listed alongside each team’s name (returning QB’s designated with an *).
ARMY – *3 / 7
Team Theme – COME PLAY WITH OUR PRIVATES
The Black Knights knew what they were getting when they named Rich Ellerson their new head coach. Not only does he have family ties to Army (his father and brothers played here and are career officers), he grew up a military historian with great love for West Point. “I will never receive, nor have I ever received, a finer compliment professionally or personally than to be entrusted with the Army football program at this point in its history,” said Ellerson. “I grew up with Army football.” Ellerson, a true triple-option expert, was the head coach at Cal Poly the last 8 years where his teams finished in the season ending Top 25 polls each of the last 4 seasons. Although he will need to replace leading rusher Collin Mooney (1339 yards), don’t count him out. PASS
NAVY – 4 / 7
Team Theme – TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA, NADA
There was a time when playing 13 regular season games provided an extra opportunity for teams to gain bowl-eligibility. That’s not the case these days. All it means is a 7th win, rather than 6, is required to become bowl-eligible. The problem doesn’t stop there for the Middies this season. That’s because Navy could play 14 games this campaign, if they qualify for the Texas Bowl at season’s end. That would mean the Swabbies would need to win at least 8 games in order to extend a seven-year winning skein. They will also be angling to capture a seventh-straight Commander-In-Chief trophy and an unprecedented fifth-straight rushing title. For a team tied with Utah for the most BCS wins (13) by a non-BCS team since 2003, we won’t discount their chances. Especially behind a scoring defense that was the most improved in the nation last year. PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Pittsburgh (9/19)
NOTRE DAME – *9 / 6
Team Theme – RISE AND STRIKE
After coming thisclose to getting pink-slipped at the conclusion of the 2007 season, Chunky Charlie saved face with a bowl rout over Hawaii last year. Suddenly, the pieces look as if they are about to come together. “You see elements in place to be a really good team,” exclaimed Weis. It starts with a favorable schedule (no back-to-back road games) and a roster laden with experience (29 SR’s, 29 JR’s and 30 SO’s). Third-year QB Jimmy Claussen appears ready for a breakout year. An amped-up running game, behind a veteran OL that features 5 seniors who have combined for 97 starts, rushed for 254 yards in the spring game. Claussen put it best when he said, “Coach Weis will not get fired because of me. We have to stop messing around and play to our potential.” PLAY ON: vs. Boston College (10/24)
Note: Marc Lawrence is a 30-year veteran handicapper. He finished No.1 in the nation (88-63 +25.7 Net Units) in MLB during the 2007 season as documented by Sports Watch in Las Vegas.
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