NCAA Football Preview – Boise State, Notre Dame, and BYU
Unlike the big conferences I have already discussed, there are some notable programs which are either independent or stuck in relative obscurity in weak conferences. Notre Dame has long been independent, while BYU has only recently claimed that status, leaving the Mountain West Conference in 2011 due to poor television ratings. And then there is Boise State, who will leave the same Mountain West Conference next season in favour of the Big East. Either way, it is certainly worth a look at these three programs.
BOISE STATE BONCOS
2011-12 Record: 12-1 (6-1 Mountain West)
Returning Starters: 6 on offense, 1 on defense
Key Losses: QB Kellen Moore, RB Doug Martin, All-America OT Nate Potter
Player To Watch: Junior QB Joe Southwick has big shoes to fill in replacing Moore, to whom he was the backup in 2010 and 2011.
Of Note: The kicking game needs to be more consistent. Coaches have not yet named a starter between senior Michael Frisina and sophomore Dan Goodall (also the backup punter), but the Idaho Statesman reports that coach Chris Petersen wants to pick a starter rather than go with the hot hand- er, foot.
Can’t-Miss Game: The opener at Michigan State August 31 will likely be the most entertaining game on the Broncos schedule.
BRIGHAM YOUNG COUGARS
2011-12 Record: 10-3
Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 6 on defense
Key Loss: Despite just 11 returning starters, no one loss really stands out as no one position was particularly hard-hit.
Player To Watch: Kicker Justin Sorenson needs to improve his consistency after going 15-of-25 on field goals last season.
Of Note: The Cougars have won at least 10 games in five of the last six seasons. With road games at Utah, Notre Dame, Boise State, and Georgia Tech, it will be difficult but not impossible to make it six of the last seven. BYU opens at Washington State, whose new head coach Mike Leach is a BYU alum.
Can’t-Miss Game: The Holy War at Utah September 15
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
2011-12 Record: 8-5
Returning Starters: 8 on offense, 7 on defense
Key Losses: WR Michael Floyd, Ss Harrison Smith and Robert Blanton (NFL); DE Aaron Lynch (transferred to South Florida); RB Cierre Woods (suspended for first two games for violating team rules).
Key Addition: Top QB recruit Gunner Kiel (#20 overall at Rivals.com) who finally settled on Notre Dame after committing to and decommitting from Indiana and LSU.
Player To Watch: Redshirt freshman Everett Golson, who won a four-way battle for the starting QB position.
Of Note: The Irish have road games at USC, Oklahoma, and Michigan State, as well as visits from Michigan and Stanford. One place the team needs to improve is on punt returns, where they totalled just 48 yards in 13 games in 2011.
Can’t-Miss Game: Grab yourself a pint o’ Guinness and catch Notre Dame vs. Navy in Dublin on September 1.