The 2016 College Football season is right around the corner and that means it is time for predictions. Below, five predictions will be made for the FBS Independents for the 2016 season. Some predictions will be right, some predictions will be wrong, and some will be spectacularly awful by the end of the season.
Here are the five predictions for the FBS Independents in 2016:
1. Army will beat Navy in 2016 – This would be huge for Army as Navy has won 14 straight in one college football’s greatest rivalries. Army has lost by 7 points or less in four of the last five years and now return 16 starters. Navy returns just 8 starters with only one of those on offense while also losing the incredible Keenan Reynolds. A lot of factors point in Army’s favor to end the 14 year losing streak.
2. Army will reach 6 wins in 2016 – The Black Knights have not been to a bowl game since 2010 when they beat SMU 16-14 in the Armed Forces Bowl. This year they have winnable games against UTEP, Buffalo, Lafayette, North Texas, Wake Forest, and Morgan State. They also face Temple, Rice, Duke, Air Force, Notre Dame, and Navy. They could conceivably beat Rice or Navy, but that is a daunting task to defeat more than one of those (preferably Navy as seen above). Still, there is plenty to like about this team returning 16 starters and having an easy schedule to reach 6 wins.
3. UMass will not top 3 wins in 2016 – Last year the Minutemen went 3-9 with 19 starters back. While the offense was solid again, the defense improved only marginally and now only five starters return to that unit. In addition, the schedule looks tough for UMass as they face three SEC squads in Florida, Mississippi State, and South Carolina. They have winnable games against Old Dominion and Wagner plus they face Tulane and FIU. They will need to win all four of those games to prove this one wrong.
4. BYU will pull at least 3 upsets in the regular season – This prediction is based solely on the killer schedule the Cougars are facing: Arizona (neutral), at Utah, UCLA, West Virginia (neutral), Toledo, at Michigan St, Mississippi State, at Boise State, at Cincinnati, Southern Utah, Massachusetts, and Utah State. Of the 12 teams on their schedule, only Massachusetts did not play in the postseason as FCS Southern Utah played in the FCS Playoffs (lost to Sam Houston State in the first round). BYU does have the Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams combination in the backfield as well as 8 starters back on defense. It is hard to think that BYU will not be able to win at least three games in which they are not favored.
5. Notre Dame will lose at least 3 regular season games – The Irish had an excellent 2015 season going 10-3 despite the early season loss of Malik Zaire. DeShone Kizer did well in his absence as both players return. The real problem is the amount of talent they lost on the line and at receiver. Replacing WillFuller will not be easy though having ToriiHunter and CoreyRobinson waiting will certainly help somewhat. The defense returns 5 starters but not the talented Jaylon Smith and also miss two starters at linebacker. The Irish have to face Texas (away) Michigan State (home), Stanford (home), Miami (FL), Virginia Tech (home), and USC (away). Three losses could be conceivable though there is plenty of talent on the Notre Dame roster.
The start of the college football season is right around the corner on August 29 with an FCS game between North Dakota State at Montana. In the build up to the season, we will provide in-depth previews of each conference and division starting with the Mid-American Conference East Division. The entire preview schedule is as follows:
MAC East Division – July 1
MAC West Division – July 3
Mountain West, Mountain Division – July 7
Mountain West, West Division – July 10
C-USA East Division – July 14
C-USA West Division – July 17
The American East Division – July 21
The American West Division – July 24
Sun Belt – July 28
FBS Independents – July 28
Big 12 – July 31
ACC Coastal Division – August 4
ACC Atlantic Division – August 7
Big 10 West Division – August 11
Big 10 East Division – August 14
Pac-12 North Division – August 18
Pac-12 South Division – August 21
SEC East Division – August 25
SEC West Division – August 28
Without further ado, let’s jump into the MAC East.
1. Ohio Bobcats
There is a lot to like about Ohio’s chances to win the MAC East. They return a total of 18 starters with 10 on offense and 8 on defense. Their lone loss on offense was their top receiver from 2014, but his production (21 catches for 443 yards and 1 touchdown) can be replaced with the second, third, and fourth leading receivers returning. The quarterback battle will be between JDSprague and Derrius Vick, but whichever one wins the battle will do well lead the offense. 2014’s leading rusher was AJ Oullette who ran for 785 yards and 7 touchdowns on 160 carries (4.9 yards per carry).
On defense, the Bobcats lose two linemen and a defensive back. They return their top three tacklers (Quentin Polling, Jovon Johnson, and Blair Brown), who all play at linebacker. The defensive backfield is stocked full of seniors at all positions while the defensive line is full of upperclassmen.
If Ohio is to win the MAC East they will have to overcome a tough trio of in-conference games. They get an up and coming Western Michigan team at home on October 17, but have road tests at Bowling Green (November 4) and Northern Illinois (November 24). If Ohio can at least beat Bowling Green, they will be in excellent position to win the MAC East.
2. Bowling Green Falcons
The favorite to win the MAC East belongs to the Bowling Green Falcons under second year head coach Dino Babers. BG won the MAC East last year, but was crushed by Northern Illinois 51-17 in the Title Game. What is really scary about the Falcons is that they return 10 starters from an offense that averaged 30 points a game. There is no reason to expect that average to go down with a full year in the system and two experienced quarterbacks in Matt Johnson and James Knapke. Scary indeed.
The one area of concern for Bowling Green is on defense where they return 5 starters from a unit that surrendered 33.5 points per game in 2014. The losses are immense in the back seven with 5 starters gone from the linebacker and secondary units. The top four tacklers are also gone with several inexperienced players projected to start. One player that is coming in and expected to start is Eilar Hardy from Notre Dame at the strong safety position.
The MAC East will likely come down to a matter of three games in the span of two weeks. They will face Ohio at home on November 4 and then take on Western Michigan on the road November 11. The gauntlet ends with Toledo visiting Bowling Green on November 17. A 2-1 record in those games, especially a victor over Ohio, will probably give them the inside track to win the division.
3. Massachusetts Minutemen
There is no doubt that Mark Whipple made an impact on this team in 2014 in his first year back at the helm. The team lost by field goals to Colorado and Vanderbilt while playing Bowling Green, Miami (OH), and Toledo close, losing those three games by a touchdown or less. UMass beat Kent State, Eastern Michigan, and Ball State to finish 3-9.
In 2015, the Minutemen return a total of 19 starters with 10 on offense and 9 on defense. The offense was vastly improved last season going from 11.7 points per game in 2013 to 27.3 in 2014. Quarterback BlakeFrohnapfel will be leading the offense for the second straight year after throwing for 3,345 yards (55.1%) with 23 touchdowns against 10 interceptions. He also has his top target in Tajae Sharpe back (85 catches for 1,281 yards and 7 touchdowns). The offense will continue to put points on the board in 2015.
The defense, however, will need to improve drastically if Massachusetts wants to make their second bowl game in school history. In 2013, they gave up 33 points per game and did the same in 2014 with five starters back. Nine starters return in 2015 and it would be surprising if they did not improve across the board. Under this 3-4 system, UMass has seven seniors projected as starters in the linebacking and secondary units.
UMass has also been given a favorable schedule in their final season in the MAC. They face Bowling Green on the road, but draw Toledo at home and will not play fellow MAC East opponent Ohio in 2015. They will also face a couple of Western Division bottom feeders in Ball State and Eastern Michigan. UMass could be headed to a bowl game in 2015.
4. Akron Zips
It has been a decade since Akron made a bowl game, but they have been close the past two seasons with back-to-back 5-7 records. They return six starters on offense led by quarterback Kyle Pohl. He threw for 2,189 yards (54.3%) with 9 touchdowns and 8 interceptions in an injury plagued season. He will need to stay healthy because he does not have his top two receivers from a year ago nor does he have the top returning rusher. The second leading rusher in 2014, Conor Hundley, ran for 540 yards and 4 touchdowns on 104 carries. The offensive line looks like the strength of the offensive with four senior starters and could be key to helping the Akron offense.
Like offense, the defensive side of the ball returns six starters as well. The strength appears to be on the defensive line with three returning starters coming back from a unit that allowed only 149 yards rushing per game in 2014. The defense loses 8 of the top 11 tacklers, but the top tackler in Jatavis Brown will anchor the linebacking unit. He had 99 stops, 4 sacks, and 10.5 tackles-for-loss last season. The secondary loses two starters, but should be decent in 2015.
The schedule was kind to Akron. From the MAC West they drew Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, two teams that are expected to be near the bottom of that division. They get Ohio for homecoming on October 3, and have road games at Bowling Green and Massachusetts. Akron has a real chance at making their second bowl game in school history in 2015.
5. Buffalo Bulls
2015 will be a season of change for the Buffalo Bulls. They made a splash hire by taking Lance Leipold away from Division 3 Wisconsin-Whitewater. At Whitewater, Leipold won 6 National Titles in 8 seasons while making the National Championship 7 times. While he should not be expected to win a National Title in Buffalo, he should have them contending in the MAC within a few years.
Leipold inherits seven starters on offense including the top returning quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Joe Licata threw for 2,647 yards (64.9%) with 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, AnthoneTaylor ran for 1,403 yards and 12 touchdowns (5 YPC), and Ron Willoughby caught 50 passes for 771 yards and 9 touchdowns. Leipold has the pieces in place on offense to run his system well in his first season.
On defense, Buffalo returns only four starters from a defense that gave up 31.5 points and 398 yards per game. The top four leading tacklers from 2014 depart and the biggest loses come in the secondary. They lost three starters that accounted for 90 career starts. It is hard to see the defense improving drastically with the experience and talent lost from last year.
To win the MAC East, Buffalo will need some help. The face Bowling Green at home to start conference play on October 3 and they were able to draw Central Michigan from the West. However, they will have to play Northern Illinois at home in November. Buffalo has a chance at getting to six wins with some wins in the toss up games.
6. Kent State Golden Flashes
It has been tough for Kent State since Darrell Hazell‘s departure after the 2012 season when they went 11-3. They have gone a combined 6-17 in 2013 and 2014 while the offensive numbers have slipped and the defensive numbers have gotten worse.
Kent State has 8 players coming back on offense, their most since 2011, which was Hazell’s first season in charge. They have to replace a wide receiver, tight end, and center, otherwise the offense remains intact. Quarterback Colin Reardon has been the starter since the beginning of 2013, but saw a small dip in his numbers last year. He loses his top two receivers, but adds in former West Virginia player Connor Arlia. The running game should also be just fine with Nick Holley returning as starter.
Defensively, Kent State has 9 starters coming back from a defense that gave up 29 points and 430 yards a game in 2014. The biggest area of improvement needed is stopping the run, as Kent State gave up an average of 214 rushing yards per game and 4.8 yards per carry. The two starters need to be replaced on the line. Overall, Kent State returns their top 11 tackles from a season ago and the entire secondary returns, which gave up only 216 yards passing per game. That will be the strength once again.
Kent State has some tough games if they want to win the MAC East. They have back-to-back road games at Toledo (October 10) and Massachusetts (October 17). That is followed up with a home game versus Bowling Green on October 24. After a bye week, they face a winnable game against Buffalo on November 5, but have a quick turnaround to face Ohio on the road November 10.
7. Miami (OH) Redhawks
Year 1 under Chuck Martin saw improvement from the Redhawks. They improved their win total by two, but more importantly they improved on offense and defense. The offense went from 9.8 points per game in 2013 to 22.3 in 2014. The defense went from 35.7 points per game to 31.8 despite only 6 six starters returning.
The unfortunate part for Miami in 2015 on offense is the return of only four starters. They lost their top quarterback, rusher, and receiver from 2014, which puts them in a bad position. The projected replacements at both quarterback and running back are redshirt freshmen. The lone bright spot is the second, third, and fourth leading receivers return. Expect some worse numbers from the offense this season.
The Redhawks will probably continue to improve on defense with 8 starters coming back. The defensive line should improve after giving up 200 rushing yards per game in 2014 as all four starters return. Two of the three linebackers return to help the rush defense including 2014’s second leading tackler in JoeDonlan. The secondary returns two starters as well with the top tackler in 2014 returning in HeathHarding (98 tackles). The defense should improve, but it will need to be a lot better if Miami has hopes of getting near bowl eligibility.
Miami has a tough year ahead in 2015. They have only one winnable game in non-conference action (Presbyterian opening week) and only a few in conference. They drew Northern Illinois, Western Michigan, and Eastern Michigan from the MAC West with only the latter being possible as a win. It looks to be another long season for Miami.
The MAC East appears to be coming down to Ohio and Bowling Green. Bowling Green will have an incredibly potent offense while Ohio has more experience returning on both sides of the ball. The meeting between those two teams on November 4 could decide the MAC East representative in the Championship Game.
Outside of those two, Akron, Massachusetts, Kent State, and Buffalo will be vying to make bowl eligibility. Meetings between those teams could determine who makes a bowl game and who does not.
To recap the predicted order of finish:
2. Bowling Green
6. Kent State
7. Miami (OH)
Check back on Friday, July 3 to see the MAC West Preview and who will be predicted to win the MAC Championship in 2015.
Below is the Ivy League Basketball Roundup for Saturday, November 29, 2014. Four more Ivy League teams were in action – Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, and Penn. None of the teams were in a tournament like we saw in the previous few days.
Wesley Saunders Leads Harvard Past Massachusetts
Wesley Saunders scored the last 6 points for Harvard including two free throws in the final 38 seconds to allow the Crimson to hold on for a 75-73 over Massachusetts on Saturday.
Both teams were stroking the ball early in the first half. UMass had a 16-10 lead with 14 minutes left in the first half and with 7 minutes left it was 31-24 in favor of UMass. The scoring slowed down in the final quarter of the first half with with only 10 points combined from both teams in the final five minutes. The Minutemen held a 38-32 lead at the break.
UMass was led by 9 points from Trey Davis on 3 of 5 shooting and 2 of 3 from beyond the arc. UMass shot 48.1% in the first half and were 3 of 5 on three point shots. Harvard was led by Saunders with 9 points on 4 of 7 shooting. The Crimson hit 46.7% from the field and hit only 1 of 5 three pointers.
Both teams were strong from the field early in the second half. UMass led 43-36 before a 9-2 run by Harvard tied the game at 45. Both teams continued to duke it out with neither team asserting themselves. With 1:17 left, the game was tied at 69, but 5 quick points from Saunders let them take a 74-71 lead. Derrick Gordon made a layup to cut the deficit to 1 point. Siyani Chambers and missed the front end of a one-and-one, but a foul by UMass put Saunders on the line and he went 1 of 2 to make it 75-73. Trey Davis tried a miracle three with a second left was no good.
Cady LaLanne had 8 points and 6 rebounds in the second half as UMass shot 48% from the field. They hit 1 of 4 three pointers and made 10 of 15 free throws (66.7%). Saunders really got going in the final 20 minutes with 18 points on 6 of 9 shooting. The Crimson shot 54.8% from the field and hit 4 of 10 three pointers. In addition, they committed only 3 turnovers.
For the game, UMass had 5 players finished in double figures. Cady LaLanne and Trey Davis had 13 points apiece with LaLanne also grabbing 13 boards. Maxie Esho scored 12 points and grabbed 5 boards while Derrick Gordon had 12 points. Jabarie Hinds chipped in 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting as well. UMass shot 25 of 52 from the field (48.1%) and 4 of 9 from beyond the arc (44.4%). They hit 19 of 28 free throws (67.9%), out-rebounded Harvard by a slight margin of 33 to 32, and committed 12 turnovers.
Saunders led the way for Harvard with 27 points on 10 of 16 shooting. Kenyatta Smith had 11 points and 7 rebounds to aid Saunders great game. The Crimson went 31 of 61 from the field (50.8%) and 5 of 15 from beyond the arc (33.3%). They made 8 of 14 free throws (57.1%) and committed only 8 turnovers.
Massachusetts (5-2) faces LSU (4-2) in Baton Rouge on Tuesday. Harvard (4-1) stays home to face Northeastern (5-1) on Wednesday night.
Cornell Dispatches Binghamton On The Road
Shonn Miller’s 11 points and 11 rebounds paced Cornell to a 68-54 win over Binghamton.
Both teams started the first half with mini-runs. Cornell hit a three pointer before Binghamton went on a 7-0 run. Cornell responded with a 12-2 run to take a 15-9 lead. That start, and the strong shooting from beyond the perimeter, would lead to a 23-12 lead just before the halfway point in the first half. An 8-0 run from the Bearcats cut that lead to 23-20, but Cornell responded with a 12-7 run to end the first half and a 35-27 lead at the break.
Devin Cherry had 7 first half points and 5 rebounds to lead the Big Red. They shot 42.9% from the field, but hit 9 of 17 threes (52.9%) to allow them to take an 8 point lead. Willie Rodriguez and Romello Walker both had 7 points for Binghamton as they shot 38.5% from the field as a team. They hit 2 of 9 three pointers and struggled on the glass grabbing on 14 boards compared to Cornell’s 21.
Shonn Miller scored the first 6 points for Cornell in the second half to get them going on offense. The rest of the team followed suit and the defense clamped down to allow the Big Red take a 51-33 lead with 12:38 left in the game. The Big Red would maintain that margin for the rest of the game on their way to a 68-54 win.
Shonn Miller and Robert Hatter led Cornell in the second half with 8 points apiece. Miller also had 8 rebounds. The Big Red shot 48.3% in the second half and went 25% from beyond the arc. Binghamton was led by Yosef Yacob in the second half with 11 points. The Bearcats shot 33.3% from the field and 28.6% from three point range.
Cornell was led by Shonn Miller 11 and 11 performance, but he was not the only player to contribute in a big way. Robert Hatter scored 14 points and Devin Cherry scored 12 points and grabbed 6 rebounds. The Big Red went 26 of 57 from the field (45.6%) and hit 11 of 25 three pointers (44%). Cornell hit 5 of 13 free throws (38.5%) and committed 11 turnovers.
Yacob Yosef had 15 points and 4 rebounds for Binghamton with Romello Walker scoring 10 points and grabbing 7 boards. The Bearcats shot 17 of 47 from the field (36.2%) and hit only 4 of 16 three pointers (25%). They hit 16 of 26 free throws (61.5%) and committed 12 turnovers.
Cornell (4-4) faces Massachusetts-Lowell (4-2) next Saturday, December 6 at home before playing the following two games on the road. Binghamton (1-6) takes on Boston U (1-3) on Wednesday.
Columbia’s Defense Continues Their Stellar Play
Columbia continues to play stifling defense and it has led them to their fourth win a row. Maodo Lo scored 20 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead the Lions past American U 52-43.
American grabbed an early 7-2 lead, but Columbia’s defense came alive and took a 16-13 lead with 10:47 to go in the first half. From the 10:47 mark to the 6:44 mark in the first half neither team was able to put a single point on the board. American’s John Schoof hit two free throws to end the scoring drought and eventually led to American taking a 21-18 lead. However, Columbia ended the first half on a 6-0 run to take a 24-21 lead at the break.
American was led by Schoof’s 8 first half points. The Eagles shot 37.5% in the first half and hit only 1 of 4 three pointers. The Lions were led by Lo’s 8 points and Cory Osetkowski with 7 points and 4 rebounds. They shot 45.8% from the field and 12.5% from beyond the arc.
The second half began with American going on a 9-2 run and taking a 30-26 lead. Pee Wee Gardner accounted for 4 points for the Eagles. At that point, the Lions turned the defense up and went on a 16-4 run to take control of the game at 42-34. However, American would continue to stick around getting as close as 44-41 before Columbia closed the game out on an 8-2 run.
The top scorer for American in the second half was Pee Wee Gardner with 6 points. The Eagles shot 34.6% from the field in the second half and hit 2 of 5 free throws. Columbia was led by 12 points from Lo and he also grabbed 9 rebounds. The Lions shot 41.7% in the second half and 23.1% from the perimeter.
For the game, American was led by John Schoof with 11 points. The Eagles went 18 of 50 from the field (36%) and hit 3 of 9 three pointers (33.3%). They went 4 of 6 from the free throw line and committed 10 turnovers.
Columbia was led by the 20 points and 9 rebounds from Maodo Lo. Jeff Coby had 10 points on 4 of 4 shooting as well. The Lions went 21 of 48 from the field (43.8%) and hit only 4 of 21 three pointers (19%). They went 6 of 10 from the charity stripe (60%), committed 9 turnovers, and out-rebounded American 35-29.
American U (4-3) faces a second straight Ivy League opponent on the road Wednesday in the Brown Bears (2-5). Columbia (4-1) faces Loyola (MD) (2-4) on Tuesday.
Penn Cannot Hold On To Late Lead In Loss To Wagner
Penn led for the first 58 minutes, but could not hang on when it mattered the most in a 64-61 loss to Wagner.
Penn got off to great start leading 14-2 eight minutes into the game. Even with 6 minutes left in the half, Penn held a 10 point lead at 21-11. Sam Jones made a layup at the buzzer to give the Quakers a halftime lead of 31-26.
In the first half, Darien Nelson-Henry and Tony Hicks were joint top scorers with 6 points. Three other players, DarnellForeman, Greg Louis, and Antonio Woods, all had 5 points each. The Quakers hit 61.1% of their shots in the first half and were 2 of 5 from beyond the arc. They did, however, commit 12 turnovers. Wagner was led by 7 points from Marcus Burton. Aaren Edmead had 6 points. The Seahawks shot 41.7% in the first half hit 3 of 10 three pointers.
In the second half, Penn continued to hold on to the lead. Matt Howard had 5 points in a 31 second span to put Penn on top 38-30. Wagner got it down to a 43-41 lead with 13:33 left, but could not get closer until late in the game. Penn held a 58-54 lead with 5:18 left, but a cold streak allowed Wagner to get their first lead of the game at 59-58 with 1:43 left to play. Penn was undone by their cold shooting as they made only 1 bucket in the final 10 minutes of the game. That shot was a three pointer from Sam Jones with 2 seconds left. Wagner made the necessary free throws to win 64-61.
Penn was led in the second half by Matt Howard’s 9 points. They shot well in the second half going 8 of 15 from the field (53.2%), but had to rely on making free throws, which they hit only 60% of in the final 20 minutes. Wagner was led by 13 points from JoJoCooper and 10 points from Marcus Burton. They shot 46.7% in the second half and hit 7 of 12 free throws (58.3%).
Darien Nelson-Henry had 11 points and 8 rebounds to lead Penn. Greg Louis and Matt Howard both had 9 points. They shot 19 of 33 from the field (57.6%) and hit 4 of 11 three pointers (36.4%). They went 19 of 28 from the free throw line (67.9%), out-rebounded Wagner 29-23, but committed 22 turnovers.
Wagner was led by 17 points from Marcus Burton and 15 points from JoJo Cooper. Wagner went 24 of 54 from the field (44.4%) and hit 6 of 20 three pointers (30%). They went 10 of 16 from the free throw line (62.5%) and committed only 10 turnovers.
Penn (0-5) travels to face Navy (2-5) on Wednesday. Wagner (2-3) faces Maine (0-4) on Tuesday on the road.