Idaho and New Mexico State are off to the Sun Belt after spending just one season as a major independent. The Vandals and Aggies were refugees from the WAC which dropped football after the 2012 season due to realignment attrition. Their departure reduces the number of independent programs back to four.
Notre Dame joins the ACC in all sports except football, but the school did agree to play five football games each season against ACC teams. However, due to previous scheduling commitments, that number was reduced to 4 games this season, followed by 6 games in 2015 and then 5 each year beginning with 2016. On The Irish' slate for 2014 are visits to Syracuse (Sept. 27) and Florida State (Oct. 18), and home games vs. North Carolina (Oct. 11) and Louisville (Nov. 22).
The computer says Notre Dame will finish 10-2, but will have to navigate the toughest schedule of all 128 FBS teams. The forecast is highlighted by home wins over Michigan and Stanford, with the only blemishes coming in road trips to Florida State and USC.
BYU and Navy are also picked to go 10-2, but with much easier schedules. The Cougars' slate ranks 83rd while the Midshipmen schedule ranks 91st.
Army replaces head coach Rich Ellerson with with Jeff Monken. Monken was plucked from Georgia Southern where he was 38-16 in 4 seasons at the FCS level. Georgia Southern moves to the FBS this season as a member of the Sun Belt.
Ironically, Jeff was a Navy assistant from 1997-2005 where he coached running backs and special teams from 1997-2005. His cousin, Todd Monken, is the head coach at Southern Miss.
The Black Knights fired Ellerson on December 15 after posting a 20-41 record in 5 seasons, including an 0-5 mark versus Navy. Only 16 of the wins came against FBS schools and one of the losses came against FCS member Stony Brook (2012). The Black Knights have only posted one winning season since 1996 and that was a 7-6 mark in 2010 in Ellerson's second season. That campaign ended with a 16-14 win over SMU in the Armed Forces Bowl which stands as the United States Military Academy's only bowl victory since 1985.
Army will bring up the rear of the independent ranks, but will be competitive. The 4-8 projection includes expected losses by a touchdown or less to Wake Forest, Rice and Kent State.