FBS Independents Week 4 Thoughts

Last week, only one of the four Independents won. Notre Dame was able to take care of Boston College to the tune of 515 rushing yards, headlined by the tandem of running back Josh Adams and quarterback Brandon Wimbush.

UMass was able to make a game out of it with Temple, losing 29-21. All four of the Minutemen’s losses have been by 10 points or less this season. As for Army and BYU… well… they certainly tried. The Big 10 wasn’t kind to them; Army lost by 31 to Ohio State on the road, while BYU lost by 34 to Wisconsin at home.

There’s only three Independent games this week, as BYU runs into their much-needed bye week. So, let’s take a look at the matchups.

UMass (0-4) v. Tennessee (2-1)

So, I try to be optimistic. I think, if nothing else, UMass has proved that their roster isn’t devoid of talent. They have played four teams of varying levels, and they’ve managed to hang in the game with all of them. Last year, the Minutemen played three SEC teams; they lost by a touchdown to Mississippi State and South Carolina, and they fell apart late in the fourth quarter against Florida, though they were in a position to take the lead in the final frame.

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Andrew Ford (above) has played as well as any quarterback in the country thus far, and he’s shown he can hold his own against SEC defenses. They’ll need a big game on the road in a hostile environment against a team that gives up over 400 yards of total offense per game. Tennessee is vulnerable after losing in awesome fashion to the Gators last week. Vols back John Kelly has been exceptional so far this year, but if they can force the game onto the shoulder of turnover-prone quarterback Quinten Dormady, they stand a chance. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

You can catch this game tomorrow at noon on ESPN 3 or on the SEC Network. I like Tennessee by 10 in this one.

Army (2-1) v. Tulane (1-2)

If you like running the football, this will be the game for you. Tulane has actually entered the game as a 2.5 point favorite, but they’ve also entered with questions at the quarterback position. Original starter Jonathan Banks was ‘ehh’ the first two games of the year before missing their latest matchup against #2 Oklahoma. Their other options, Johnathan Brantley and Khalil McClain split reps all week long.

It’s the Green Wave defense here, that will give the Black Knights some trouble. Though they lost, Tulane sees Navy ever year, and only lost by 2 points. They held Navy, who is widely regarded as a better team with a better offense than Army, to a hair under 200 yards rushing, well below the Midshipmen’s season average. I’d say Tulane is the closest to an even matchup Army has had on the season.

You can watch this one tomorrow at noon on CBS Sports Network. I’m going with the Green Wave by 4.

 

Notre Dame (2-1) v. Michigan State (2-0)

For Independents, this is the game of the week¹. Notre Dame’s high-powered offense will rumble against the defense of Michigan State, who has only given up an average of 12 points per game and 204 total yards per game. Now, the Spartans have played Bowling Green and Western Michigan, and no disrespect to those two schools, they definitely don’t have the offensive capability Brian Kelly’s squad has.

Earlier this week, I wrote about the need for Wimbush to become a more effective passer. While that’s still important to the long term success of this Notre Dame team, I think that can be put on hold for a week. Michigan State has a great pass defense and a great defensive line. In that scenario, I think it’s always best to play to your strengths and run the ball to control the clock, especially when you consider the Spartans haven’t gone up against an o-line like Notre Dame’s yet, or backs like Adams and Dexter Williams yet. While the Irish defense certainly isn’t as good as the Spartans’, it has not played poorly this year. ND has given up about 19 points per game. If they can take LJ Scott out of the equation and force quarterback Brian Lewerke to beat them with his shoulder, I like their chances.

This is the last matchup between the two rivals until 2026, unless they meet in a bowl game or playoff game sometime in between. Notre Dame leads the all-time series, but they still have a sour taste in their mouths from losing at home last year. The last matchup in a rivalry is always an important one, and it’s a scenario the Irish have shown up for before and then some.

You can watch this game on Fox at 8 pm tomorrow. I like the Irish by 3 in this one, which has the makings of another classic in a storied rivalry.

 

  1. To be honest, basically every Notre Dame game will be the matchup of the week for Independents.

 

Cover photo from MLive.

GIF from Elite Athlete Talk.

 

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