Brigham Young (BYU) The Cougars have Riley Nelson back at the helm, and he can both run and pass effectively. With Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo, he has two NFL-caliber, big, physical and fast receivers to throw to. Last year, they combined for 95 catches and 19 touchdowns! The line returns three starters and the Cougars should easily average more than the 30.1 PPG they put up last year. The defense returns seven starters and features an outstanding linebacking corp. They must replace two in the secondary, but if solid replacements are found, I expect the Cougars to match last year’s 20 PPG. The Cougars mission takes them on a tough journey, including games at Utah and Boise State in a five-day stretch. Later, they have back-to-back games at Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. If you’re looking for this year’s BCS Buster, you’ve found it! This Cougar team is loaded and with a little divine intervention, could actually run the table
Big Game: September 15 at Utah My prediction — 10-2
Notre Dame I agonized over this. What Irish team are we going to get week by week. The one that plays well and has the talent to beat just about anyone, or the one that loses to Navy? Looks to me like Andrew Hendrix gets the nod at QB. Just not sure how short the leash will be, Evertt Gholson is waiting in the wings. The running game is in great shape with the return three offensive linemen and Cierre Wood, who ran for 1,186 and caught 27 balls out of the backfield last year. Replacing Michael Floyd won’t be easy, but there are several talented recruits waiting in the wings. Last year, the Fighting Irish averaged 29.2 PPG and I expect similar production this season. The front seven is loaded with talent, led by All-America candidate MLB Manti Te’o. Replacing three starters from last year’s secondary will be key, as the Irish play several top notch passing teams this season, including USC, Oklahoma, Michigan, BYU and Stanford
Big Game: September 22 host Michigan My prediction 7-5
Navy The Midshipmen are guaranteed a bowl if they become eligible. Getting there this year will be a challenge! They must replace both QB Kris Proctor and RB Alexander Teich who combined to rush for over 1,900 yards and 25 TDs last year. Throw in the fact that three offensive linemen left, and I see danger on the horizon. Matching last year’s 29.7 is going to be tough! Navy does have seven starters back on the defensive side of the ball, but lose the entire starting defensive line. The strength of the defense is the secondary which returns intact. The Midshipmen gave up 28.9 last year, and that could go up dramatically.
Big Game: October 20 host Indiana My prediction 7-5
Army The Cadets are going to be much improved. I just don’t think it’s going to manifest itself in the win column. The Cadets, like the Midshipmen, are guaranteed a bowl should they become eligible. Last year they averaged 24.8 PPG and with the return of Quarterback Trent Steelman and an experienced offensive unit, should top that number. I also expect improvement on the defensive side. Last year’s mark of 28.3 PPG allowed should shrink with the return of eight starters. The projected starters on the front wall average only 240 pounds, but the good news, is the secondary returns!
Big Game: November 17 host Temple My prediction 4-8