The Pi-Rate Ratings

August 19, 2016

2016 FBS Independents Football Preview

Filed under: College Football — Tags: , , , , , , , — piratings @ 7:40 am

At one time, there were 30 college football teams at the highest level playing as independents not affiliated with any conference. There was a veritable who’s who of college football members that lived a nomadic existence. Notre Dame, Penn State, Miami, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Air Force, Houston, Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and others once made hay in the sunshine of the independent ranks.

In 2016, one new team has been added to the independent ranks, bringing the total to just four. With conferences scrambling to add conference games to their schedules (Big Ten moved up to 9 this year, while Big 12 and Pac-12 already play 9), it could be tough for these teams to make future schedules, or at least schedules strong enough to sell tickets.

Notre Dame is fortunate. The Irish can participate in the ACC in all other sports, plus they get the benefit of having five guaranteed games against ACC football members, and they can also take one of the ACC’s automatic bowl bids, even with one-fewer win than the ACC regular team. Let’s see: A 6-6 Notre Dame team or a 7-5 Wake Forest team: which one would the next bowl in the pecking order take?

BYU is almost as fortunate as Notre Dame. The Cougars still have enough prestige based on a gloried past to sell seats on the road, while their home base is very loyal. BYU could be a future member of the Big 12, but the Cougars do not want to play Sunday games, and it could be a problem for some sports like baseball. Our guess is that the Big 12 will find a way to play Thursday-Saturday games against BYU.

Army West Point remains the lone service academy not in a conference. The Black Knights are no longer a power player like they once were in the days of Colonel Earl “Red” Blaik, who went 121-33-10 in 18 years at West Point, including three national championships and three more seasons where Army kept a goose egg in the loss column.

Today, Army must rely on scheduling games against FCS schools, MAC teams, and the two service academy rivals. Still, the Cadets cannot manage a winning record and bowl eligibility. Worse, their losing streak to Navy has now reached 14, and the chances for that number hitting 15 are better than 50%.

Army fans should cheer up some, because the PiRates believe the Black Knights have a decent shot at getting to six wins and taking an at-large bowl bid this year, even if Navy is not one of those wins. Coach Jeff Monken has two experienced quarterbacks, and enough talent returning to make the offense add a few points per game to the average, while the defense should see major improvement this year, shedding at least a field goal off the generosity of last year. Nine of their 12 games are winnable, so getting to 6-6 is quite possible this year.

Massachusetts was not a great fit in the Mid-American Conference. The Minutemen may be a better option one day in the AAC, but UMass must first become respectable on the gridiron. Their record for the last four seasons is just 8-40, and it’s not like they have been playing a difficult schedule. The biggest loss for this school is not having Eastern Michigan, Miami of Ohio, and Kent State on their schedule. Other than weak FCS member Wagner, there are no other guaranteed wins on the Minutemen’s 2016 slate.

There is no pre-season media polls for the four independents. Therefore, here is the consensus of computer ratings (including the three PiRate Ratings) for the teams to start the season. There are no surprises.

# Team
Includes PiRate Retrodictive
1 Notre Dame
3 Army
4 Massachusetts

Here are the initial PiRate Ratings for the quartet.

Team PiRate Mean Bias Average
Notre Dame 116.0 110.8 114.6 113.8
BYU 110.4 102.7 110.1 107.7
Army 84.7 93.7 87.1 88.5
Massachusetts 74.9 84.4 76.1 78.5
Independents Averages 96.5 97.9 97.0 97.1

The PiRate Ratings are meant to be used only to predict the outcomes of the next week of games, and are not best used to predict beyond that point. Because we use algorithms that include automatic adjustments by each team based on depth and experience, two different teams can win by the exact score we predict, and their new ratings might change differently.

Thus, using our ratings to predict won-loss records and bowl projections is a bit comical, but then we all need some laughs every now and then. So, laugh away at our projected standings and bowls.

Independents Projected Standings
Team Conference Overall Bowl
Notre Dame x 9-3 Orange
BYU x 6-6 Poinsettia
Army x 6-6 [Cure]*
Massachusetts x 1-11  
* Army fills in as an at-large team in the Cure Bowl

Starting Saturday, August 20: The PiRates begin previewing the Power 5 Conferences.  First up–The Big Ten.  Can a new team emerge as the team to beat in 2016, or will it be a repeat?


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