Fortunes have always varied wildly for the club of seven independent FBS teams, but the year of the coronavirus created a set of fates that couldn’t possibly have been more varied.
Two indies opted out of the fall season altogether (New Mexico State and UConn), while a third initially opted out before taking on a few blowout losses instead (UMass). The most storied indie of all (Notre Dame) joined the ACC for a year, nearly won it, then reverted to conference-less status, while two others enjoyed nearly unprecedented success: BYU and Liberty went a combined 21-2 with year-end AP rankings of 11th and 17th, respectively. All the while, Army continued its progress under Jeff Monken as though the outside world hadn’t changed at all.
In 2021, Notre Dame and BYU have key pieces to replace, Liberty’s got a potential first-round quarterback leading the way, Army’s got more returning production than normal and, well, the bottom three remain the bottom three. Let’s preview each indie squad.
Every week through the summer, Bill Connelly will preview another division from the Group of 5 and Power 5 exclusively for ESPN+, ultimately including all 130 FBS teams. The previews will include 2020 breakdowns, 2021 previews and a brief history of each team in one handy chart. The series has thus far covered the Conference USA East and West, the MAC East and West, the MWC Mountain and West, the Sun Belt West and East and the top and bottom half of the AAC.
After opting out of the fall season and playing only a pair of spring games, Doug Martin enters his ninth year in Las Cruces with a mostly new roster and few signs of serious hope.