2016 was not a good year for the independents as Notre Dame was a major disappointment, BYU didn't quite meet expectations, and UMass continued to fail at fielding a competitive FBS team.
However, Army West Point was among the nation's biggest surprises as the Black Knights went 8-5 while finally ending a 14-game losing streak to Navy. In its third season with Jeff Monken as head coach, Army capped off the campaign with a Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl overtime win over North Texas that avenged one of their regular season losses.
Notre Dame was 4-8 with 7 losses by 8 points or less. BYU had 7 games decided by 3 points or less, including each of its first five, en route to a 9-4 campaign. UMass went 2-10, as predicted.
The stunning revelations in the 2017 forecast, based on the Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com, are that 2017 won't be any better for Notre Dame, and Army could be in for a banner year. Meanwhile, BYU will improve, and UMass will not.
Brian Kelly escaped the ax at the end of the 2016 debacle, but surely won't last the season if the computer's projections are true. It calls for the Fighting Irish to win just 3 games with the only victories coming over Temple by 1.48 in the opener, Miami (Ohio) by 5.34 on September 30, and Wake Forest by 0.11 on November 4.
Notre Dame is an 8.59-point home underdog versus USC, and an even heftier underdog in visits to Miami, Fla. (14.44) and Stanford (18.30).
Even though Notre Dame faces the nation's toughest schedule, six of the projected losses are by 6.59 points or less, and 3 of those have margins under 2 points.
Army would be a huge story if the 11-1 forecast is even close to reality. The only predicted loss is an obvious one at Ohio State on September 16. The schedule is weak enough (94 SOS) and games against Temple and Duke are at home. Perhaps most importantly, the Black Knights are picked to capture the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy for the first time since 1996.
BYU gets 3 of its 4 toughest opponents at home, and the other at a neutral site. The Cougars face LSU in Houston, and welcome Utah, Wisconsin and Boise State to Provo. The road schedule is loaded with seemingly easy victory opportunities as Utah State, East Carolina and Mississippi State are all predicted to have a down year. Other trips take BYU to Fresno State, UNLV and Hawaii.
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