2019 Independents Preview

August 12, 2019 by CFP Staff

Last year, Army continued its successful run under head coach Jeff Monken by tallying a program-record 11 wins (11-2). It comes on the heels of the Black Knights' triumphant 2017 campaign when they posted their first 10-win season (10-3) since 1996. Army also retained the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy with a 17-14 win over Air Force and a 17-10 victory over Navy. Army capped off the season with a record fourth straight bowl win by trouncing Houston 70-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl. It was West Point's third bowl win in consecutive years under Monken.

The Congrove Computer Rankings at CollegeFootballPoll.com had Army taking a small step backward last year to 8-4 but that obviously didn't pan put. This year, it sees a 9-4 season for the Black Knights, but continued retention of the C-I-C Trophy as they go 1-1 vs. Air Force (loss) and Navy (win). The actual win total could easily exceed expectations as Army faces the second-easiest schedule among the 130 FBS schools. Their 13 opponents won a cumulative 53 games a year ago and 7 of their opponents won 3 games or less - Rice (2-11), UTSA (3-9), Western Kentucky (3-9), Georgia State (2-10), San Jose State (1-11), VMI (1-10) and Navy (3-10).

Tops among Independents will be Notre Dame, though the Irish should also slip backwards just a bit to a 10-2 campaign after going undefeated in the regular a year ago (12-0) before getting whipped 30-3 by Clemson in a College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Cotton Bowl.

The Notre Dame schedule is relatively tame compared to most seasons when the school faces one of the toughest slates in the nation. This year's schedule is ranked just 47th by the computer, softened by games against Louisville, New Mexico and Duke. But the Irish still have more than their fair share of big games with home tussles against ACC Coastal favorites Virginia and Virginia Tech, in addition to traditional rival USC, and road trips to Georgia, Michigan and Stanford.

BYU gets an 8-4 forecast with all four losses coming at the start of the season. The Cougars ambitiously open with Utah, then travel to Tennessee before returning home to face USC and Washington. BYU also gets Boise State at home in October. For the football ticket-buying fan, it's an attractive home schedule to say the least.

Liberty and New Mexico State tried something unique last year when they scheduled home-and-away games vs. each other in the same season. The two schools will repeat that scheduling oddity this season after each won on their home turf in 2018.

UMass, which has won a grand total of 14 games in 6 seasons as a FBS school, is projected to suffer through another miserable year with a 1-11 forecast. The lone win would come at home versus Southern Illinois. The Saluskis were 2-9 a year ago in the FCS' Missouri Valley Conference.

New Head Coaches

Liberty: The Flames on Friday, December 7 introduced Hugh Freeze as the new head coach. The scandal-riddled Freeze was hired by the same athletic director, Ian McCaw, who had to resign from Baylor in 2016 amidst all of the fall-out from the massive sexual harassment and rape investigations. Freeze was forced out at Ole Miss in 2016 as a messy trail of public relations issues and NCAA violations dating back to the Houston Nutt era came to a head when it was learned that Freeze had several calls to an escort service found on school-issued phone. The NCAA also cited numerous violations by Freeze and his staff from October 2012 to January 2016 and leveled the most serious charge of lack of institutional control. In response, Ole Miss self-imposed a 2017 bowl ban and other restrictions. The NCAA on December 1 announced its penalties which added 2018 to the bowl ban and a further reduction of scholarships.Freeze was 39-25 in five seasons, but 5-7 in 2016.

Turner Gill unexpectedly retired from Liberty on December 2, citing the need to care for his ailing wife whom the Roanoke Times website (roanoke.com) reported was diagnosed with a heart ailment in 2016. Liberty completed its first season as a FBS school (Independent) with a 6-6 record. The former Nebraska star quarterback (1980-1983) was a head coach for 13 seasons - 4 with Buffalo, 2 with Kansas and 7 with Liberty. He was 72-84 overall.

Massachusetts: Florida State offensive coordinator Walt Bell was hired December 3 as the new head coach at UMass. On November 21, the Minutemen announced the mutually agreed upon resignation of Mark Whipple. That action came following a 4-8 campaign in Whipple's 5th season since returning as head coach in 2014. Whipple was reprising the role he held from 1998-2003 when UMass was playing at the 1-AA (now FCS) level and won the 1998 national championship. Whipple was 49-26 during that stint. However, he was only 16-44 the second time around.

2019 Projected Order of Finish


  Team W-L CW-CL Rank Power SOS
1 Notre Dame 10-2 0-0 13 90.46 47
2 Army West Point 9-4 0-0 57 54.53 129
3 Brigham Young 8-4 0-0 49 66.71 66
4 Liberty 7-5 0-0 74 51.98 116
5 New Mexico State 4-8 0-0 105 47.95 85
6 Massachusetts 1-11 0-0 128 38.73 100