2010 BCS Profiles: Independent FBS Schools

This is 12th and final in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today we focus on the FBS independent schools.

Conference: FBS Independents

Current Member Schools: Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Navy Midshipmen, Army Black Knights. (3)

Bowl Affiliations: Poinsettia Bowl (Navy), Armed Forces Bowl (Army and Navy), Big East Bowls (Notre Dame).

2009 Results:
Overall Bowl Record: 1-0
Heisman Vote Recipients: Notre Dame WR Golden Tate (10th Overall)
AP All-Americans: Notre Dame WR Golden Tate (1st Team),

2010 Outlook: Three teams — Navy, Army and Notre Dame — make up the odd troika of Football Bowl Subdivision independent schools, three squads that although are a part of the FBS and can participate in the BCS, do not belong to any conference.

Of course, these three schools are well known and well followed around the country, with the armed forces getting national support and Notre Dame the closest thing the nation has to a collegiate “America’s Team” with their national television contract.

Yet, for all their past glory and tradition, the past couple seasons have been tough for Fighting Irish football as high expectations have been met with sub-par results on the field. Coach Charlie Weiss, quarterback Jimmy Clausen and wide receiver Golden Tate have all moved on after two disappointing seasons.

Notre Dame now looks to break out of a two-season funk with a new coach (former Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly), new quarterback (likely junior Dayne Crist) and new lead receiver and Heisman hopeful (Michael Floyd).

The Irish are usually a media darling if successful and could be in contention for a BCS bowl bid if they can get to nine wins this season.

For all the recent struggles of the Fighting Irish, the Midshipmen at Navy have been a surprisingly consistent and successful team during the past half decade. The Midshipmen were even able to weather the departure of coach Paul Johnson after the 2008 season, and finished 10-4 last season including a convincing 35-13 victory in the Texas Bowl over Missouri.

Navy’s star on offense, quarterback Ricky Dobbs is back to improve upon his record-breaking 2009 campaign, when he broke the FBS record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (27). Mastering the triple option has been a revelation for Dobbs and the Midshipmen, a different look for teams accustomed to more traditional offensive attacks, and gives the team an upper hand in every game.

Don’t be surprised if the Midshipmen finish the season ranked or even make a late push at a BCS bowl.

A revitalized Army team may round out a group of three without a losing record among them, as second-year coach Rich Ellerson may finally have the pieces to make a marked improvement on the Black Knights offense and defensive scheme. Air Force transfer fullback Jared Hasin and any combination of Army quarterbacks might just hold the keys to whether the Knights can submit a winning record in 2010.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: Navy QB Ricky Dobbs, Notre Dame WR Michael Floyd

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
“Conference Champion” – Navy (10-2)
“Conference Runner-up” – Notre Dame (8-4)
Heisman Finalists: None

2010 Non-BCS Conference Profiles: Western Athletic Conference

This is 11th in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today’s conference is the Western Athletic Conference.

Conference: Western Athletic Conference (WAC)

Active Since: 1962

Current Member Schools: Boise State Broncos, Fresno State Bulldogs, Hawaii Warriors, Idaho Vandals, Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Nevada Wolfpack, New Mexico State Aggies, San Jose State Spartans, Utah State Aggies. (9)

Bowl Affiliations: New Mexico Bowl, Humanitarian Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, Fight Hunger Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl . (5)

2009 Results:
Conference Champion – Boise State
Conference Runner-up – Nevada
Overall Bowl Record: 2-2
Heisman Vote Recipients: Boise State QB Kellen Moore (7th Overall)
AP All-Americans: Idaho OG Mike Iupati (1st Team), Fresno State RB Ryan Matthews (2nd), Boise State CB Kyle Wilson (2nd), Boise State QB Kellen Moore (3rd)

2010 Outlook: Returning 20 of 22 starters from a decent team would probably lead any casual observer to expect great things from a team.

But returning 20 of 22 starters from an undefeated team that nearly crashed the BCS party at its highest level? We could be in store for the most surprising national title contender in the BCS era.

Yes, Boise State is back and in full force and will once again be the class of the Western Athletic Conference. Coach Chris Peterson, QB Kellen Moore and the Broncos have an outside chance this season to do something that no other non-BCS school has done — make the BCS National Championship Game.

And it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to think the Broncos could just pull it off. Their schedule, while including two BCS conference foes, is more than conquerable for a team that proved its worth time and again last season. Plus Boise will likely start the season among the top of the polls, leaving very little climbing needed in order to get to the championship game. For more on their chances click HERE.

Boise aside, there is some real depth to the WAC this season, which while beneficial to the Broncos, could spell their downfall somewhere along the line. Nevada, who other than a disastrous first quarter, hung quite well with Boise State in a late-season match up in ’09 and is poised to improve in 2010.

Wolfpack dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick looks ready to improve on an impressive 2009 season where he ran for more than 1,000 yards while throwing for 22 TDs. If Kaepernick can improve his aerial prowess, Nevada could prove a thorn in Boise and the conference’s side, and when the teams collide in late November, could derail the Broncos’ hopes.

Fresno State and Idaho aren’t far behind, as both return starting quarterbacks looking to improve upon solid ’09 campaigns, with Idaho’s Nathan Enderle seemingly ready to step into the class of Moore and Kaepernick in the WAC.

New Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes could help the Bulldogs make a surprise run at a bowl after a 4-8 record in 2009.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: Boise State QB Kellen Moore, Idaho QB Nathan Enderle, Nevada QB Colin Kaepernick

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
Conference Champion – Boise State (12-0, 8-0)
Conference Runner-up – Nevada (10-2, 7-1)
Heisman Finalists: Boise State QB Kellen Moore
BCS Bowls: One – Boise State – Rose Bowl

2010 Non-BCS Conference Profiles: Sun Belt Conference

2010 Non-BCS Conference Profiles: Sun Belt Conference

This is tenth in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today’s conference is the Sun Belt Conference.

Conference: Sun Belt Conference (Sun Belt)

Active Since: 1976 (Football since 2001)

Current Member Schools: Arkansas State Red Wolves, Florida Atlantic Owls, Florida International Golden Panthers, Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, Louisiana Monroe Warhawks, Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, North Texas Mean Green, Troy Trojans, Western Kentucky Hilltopers. (9)

Bowl Affiliations: New Orleans Bowl, GMAC Bowl. (2)

2009 Results:
Conference Champion – Troy
Conference Runner-up – Middle Tennessee State
Overall Bowl Record: 1-1
AP All-Americans: None

2010 Outlook: Although not the strongest non-BCS conference, the Sun Belt does have a track record of very equal skill level across the entire conference. The parity is so overwhelming that in the past five seasons, just three of the conference members have less than 19 conference wins, and that includes Western Kentucky, who has been in the league all of one season.

2010 looks like another toss up, with at least six of the top teams having a legitimate shot at the conference title and berth into the Sun Belt’s best bowl tie-in, the GMAC Bowl.

Troy, whose 29 victories is most in that five-year span and have finished first each of the past four seasons, would usually be a good place to start when thinking about a potential Sun Belt champ, but the Trojans have some major kinks to work out this season.

2009 Sun Belt Player of the Year and single-season school record holder for passing yards Levi Brown will be missed by a Trojan offense that could strike at any moment, as was evidenced in last season’s GMAC Bowl where the Trojans posted nearly 600 yards of offense, including 403 from Brown.

Replacing Brown will be of the utmost concern to the Trojans, but holes on defense could also derail their chances at another conference crown.

Waiting in the wings might just be Middle Tennessee State and their explosive QB Dwight Dasher. Dasher is a classic dual-threat quarterback in the mold of Dan LeFevour whose offensive prowess landed him among the top ten in the nation in total offense last season. Dasher will have to make up for a team that was hut deeply by graduation and departure to the pros, but are poised to take the crown away from Troy.

Skill and potential are all around the remainder of the conference, including running backs Lance Dunbar (North Texas) and Alfred Morris (Florida Atlantic), who ranked 13th and 14th respectively in the FBS in rushing.

Parity mixed with potential around the conference could once again make the Sun Belt among the nation’s most entertaining and unpredictable conferences for another season.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: Middle Tennessee State QB Dwight Dasher, North Texas RB Lance Dunbar, Florida Atlantic RB Alfred Morris

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
Conference Champion – Middle Tennessee State (8-4, 7-1)
Conference Runner-up – Troy (8-4, 6-2)
Heisman Finalists: None

2010 Non-BCS Conference Profiles: Mountain West Conference

I’ll leave this here for those looking for the new Mountain West Logo. Enjoy!

Yes, I agree, this is a pretty dumb logo. Looks like the old N64 logo if you ask me.

 

This is ninth in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today’s conference is the Mountain West Conference.

Conference: Mountain West Conference (MWC)

Active Since: 1999

Current Member Schools: Air Force Falcons, Brigham Young (BYU) Cougars, Colorado State Rams, New Mexico Lobos, San Diego State Aztecs, Texas Christian (TCU) Horned Frogs, UNLV Rebels, Utah Utes, Wyoming Cowboys. (9)

Bowl Affiliations: New Mexico Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl, Poinsettia Bowl, Independence Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl. (5)

2009 Results:
Conference Champion – TCU
Conference Runner-up – BYU
Overall Bowl Record: 4-1 (Bowl Challenge Cup Champion)
AP All-Americans: TCU DE Jerry Hughes (1st team), BYU TE Dennis Pitta (2nd)

2010 Outlook: Three top-25 teams, a BCS bowl bid and a Bowl Challenge championship. Sounds like a BCS conference right?

Actually, it was the 2009 edition of the Mountain West Conference, a conference that in the past few years has been able to produce not only some of the best non-BCS conference action, but also has seemingly mastered the role of BCS-buster, submitting three teams — TCU last season and Utah in two other seasons — to the BCS.

2010 finds the MWC at an all-time high, coming off one of its best seasons and returning most of the skill that helped the conference make so much noise last year. Of course, any conversation about a repeat of last year has to begin with TCU, who not only made their way to a Fiesta Bowl bid, but also finished fourth in the final BCS standings, the highest ever finish for a non-BCS school.

The Horned Frogs return star quarterback Andy Dalton and most of the explosive offense that averaged nearly 40 points per game last season. And despite losing 1st-team All-American DE Jerry Hughes, the Frogs’ defense returns seven of 11 starters. However, the schedule looks quite daunting for the Frogs, with games at SMU and Utah plus visits from Oregon State and Baylor looming.

If TCU is to falter anywhere along the line, Utah is poised to retake control of the conference and can easily make their way to another BCS bowl. The Utes take on two tough BCS opponents, the Big East’s Pittsburgh and independent Notre Dame, along with tests against TCU and BYU. If they can make their way through that schedule unscathed, it would be hard to refuse the Utes a BCS bid.

Although the conference has been the domain of the Utes and Frogs these past few seasons the conference has quietly become strong from top to bottom, and any of a variety of teams could challenge the two for conference bragging rights.

BYU, who toppled both Sam Bradford and Oklahoma early in 2009, finished 11-2 last year and looked as strong as any MWC team, will compete again despite losing QB Max Hall to the pros. Air Force and Wyoming looked revived in ’09 and are poised to continue improving in 2010. Wyoming’s young gun Austyn Carta-Samuels could challenge Dalton as the conference’s player of the year and could make some early noise against BCS schools like Texas and Boise State.

Its not a surprise to find a strong Mountain West anymore, but the depth of the conference this season could go a long way towards solidifying its spot among the Football Bowl Subdivision elite, and even a BCS automatic bid somewhere down the line when the board reviews the automatic qualifiers in 2012.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: TCU QB Andy Dalton, Wyoming QB Austyn Carta-Samuels

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
Conference Champion – TCU (11-1, 8-0)
Conference Runner-up – Utah (10-2, 7-1)
Heisman Finalists: None

2010 Non-BCS Conference Profiles: Mid-American Conference

This is eighth in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today’s conference is the Mid-American Conference.

Conference: Mid-American Conference (MAC)

Active Since: 1946

Current Member Schools: Akron Zips, Bowling Green Falcons, Buffalo Bulls, Kent State Golden Flashes, Miami RedHawks, Ohio Bobcats, Ball State Cardinals, Central Michigan Chippewas, Eastern Michigan Eagles, Northern Illinois Huskies, Toledo Rockets, Western Michigan Broncos, Temple Owls. (13)

Bowl Affiliations: Humanitarian Bowl, Little Caesars Bowl, GMAC Bowl. (3)

2009 Results:
Conference Champion – Central Michigan
Conference Runner-up – Ohio
Overall Bowl Record: 1-4
AP All-Americans: Bowling Green WR Freddie Barnes (3rd Team)

2010 Outlook: For a non-BCS conference, the Mid-American Conference was lucky these past few years to have a star with such national attention in quarterback Dan LeFevour. But the former Central Michigan star is gone to the NFL, leaving the thirteen-team conference without a face and a historically open conference as unpredictable as ever.

No one team seems destined to top either of the conference’s two divisions, but if there is one major player, it would have to be Northern Illinois. Led by explosive running back Chad Spann and defensive end Jake Coffman, the Huskies are poised to continue their success in the conference, as they return a large portion of their starters from a 7-6 2009 squad.

Temple, a surprise contender in the conference last season, also return a large portion of their skill positions and have a veteran presence that could prove very useful in a young and transitioning conference. Running back Bernard Pierce, who led the conference in rushing as a freshman, will be back to buoy the offense while new quarterback Chester Stewart gets settled into the system.

Ohio, explosive and experienced all around the field and Kent State, a team with a wealth of offensive options, can also both make big noise in the large conference, and could make it a year worth remembering for this mid-major group which has served as target practice for BCS conference schools as of late.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: Temple RB Bernard Pierce, Northern Illinois RB Chad Spann

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
Conference Champion – Northern Illinois (10-2, 8-0)
Conference Runner-up – Temple (9-3, 6-2)
Heisman Finalists: None

2010 Non-BCS Conference Profiles: Conference USA

This is seventh in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today’s conference is Conference USA.

Conference: Conference USA (C-USA)

Active Since: 1995

Current Member Schools: Houston Cougars, Rice Owls, Southern Methodist (SMU) Mustangs, UTEP Miners, Tulane Green Wave, Tulsa Golden Hurricane, UAB Blazers, Central Florida Knights, East Carolina Pirates, Marshall Thundering Herd, Memphis Tigers, Southern Mississippi (USM) Golden Eagles. (12)

Bowl Affiliations: New Orleans Bowl, St. Petersburg Bowl, Hawaii Bowl, EagleBank Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl, Liberty Bowl. (6)

2009 Results:
Conference Champion – East Carolina
Conference Runner-up – Houston
Overall Bowl Record: 2-4
AP All-Americans: Memphis P Matt Reagan
Heisman Vote Recipients: Houston QB Case Keenum

2010 Outlook: Do you enjoy offense? Well, if you do, Conference USA would be a conference to watch in 2010. Every major contender in the conference has threats on the offensive side of the ball, and that conversation starts with Houston and their nationally recognized quarterback, Case Keenum.

Keenum put together a statistically brilliant season in ’09, passing for more than 5800 yards and 48 TDs. For his performance, he was rewarded with a variety of honors, but Keenum was unable to bring his Cougars a C-USA championship. Expect Keenum and Houston to be motivated to give the conference crown another shot.

Two-time defending conference champion East Carolina will be trying to string together a third title under the tutelage of new coach Ruffin McNeill, but it will be difficult to maintain their recent success with a defensive roster that was depleted by graduation.

Rice running back Sam McGuffie could make an immediate impact on C-USA play after sitting out a transfer-required year after leaving Michigan behind in 2008, only strengthening the conference’s overall offensive prowess.

Coach June Jones at SMU seems to moving the Mustangs in the same direction he pushed Hawaii when he was overseeing some of the most production quarterbacks and offenses of the past few decades, and with a large contingent of returning starters from last year’s 8-5 squad, SMU could be poised to make a move into national prominence.

A mid season meeting between SMU and Houston may hold the key to the West Division crown and the winner may be on the fast track to the C-USA conference title.

Marshall, Tulsa and Southern Miss are also all improved and are are a part of what could be a very strong conference come the end of the 2010 season.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: Houston QB Case Keenum, Rice RB Sam McGuffie, Southern Miss WR DeAndre Brown

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
Conference Champion – Southern Methodist (9-3, 8-0)
Conference Runner-up – Central Florida (8-4, 6-2)
Heisman Finalists: None

2010 BCS Conference Profiles: Pac-10 Conference

This is sixth in a series of conference profiles as part of BCS Know How’s season preview. Today’s conference is the Pac-10.

Conference: Pacific 10 Conference (Pac-10)

Active Since: 1915

Current Member Schools: Arizona Wildcats, Arizona State Sun Devils, California Golden Bears, Oregon Ducks, Oregon State Beavers, Stanford Cardinal, UCLA Bruins, Southern California (USC) Trojans, Washington Huskies, Washington State Cougars. (10)

Bowl Affiliations: Rose Bowl (BCS), Las Vegas Bowl, Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Sun Bowl, Fight Hunger Bowl. (6)

2009 Results:
Conference Champion – Oregon
Conference Runner-up – Oregon State/Arizona/Stanford
BCS Bowl Results: Rose Bowl – Ohio State 26 vs. Oregon 17
Overall Bowl Record: 2-5
Heisman Vote Recipients: None

2010 Outlook: A change of guard atop the conference last season shocked many around the country, but this season could be more of the same, as two programs will come into the season with a completely different feel.

Oregon will have to go without its Heisman-hopeful quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, who was kicked off the team, and USC will be playing without a shot at postseason play because of NCAA violations. One of the two teams has finished atop the Pac-10 each of the last 10 seasons, but this year might just hold a different result in the cards.

Heisman candidates are scattered around the conference, from Stanford’s standout quarterback Andrew Luck to Oregon State’s small and speedy back Jaquizz Rodgers and Oregon’s backfield stalwart LaMichael James. Any of these candidates, along with Washington quarterback Jake Locker, who is considered among the best pro prospects in the country, could help lead their teams to a Pac-10 title and likely Rose Bowl bid.

And of course, USC and new coach Lane Kiffin — although decimated by the loss of a major portion of their recruiting class, underclassmen transfers and departures to the NFL — is still laden with talent, however untested it may be.

The conference may once again come down to the annual “Civil War” between Oregon and Oregon State, but unlike last season, when Masoli and the Ducks squeaked out a victory over Oregon State, the Beavers will be at home in Corvalis and Masoli will be noticeably absent.

2010 Heisman Hopefuls: Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Oregon State RB Jaquizz Rodgers, Oregon RB LaMichael James, Washington QB Jake Locker

BCS Know How’s 2010 Predictions:
Conference Champion – Oregon State Beavers
Conference Runner-up – Oregon Ducks
BCS bids – One: Oregon State – Rose Bowl
Heisman Finalists – None