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Previewing the Rest of the Independents
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Previewing the Rest of the Independents

Liberty Flames:

The Flames burst on the national stage last year and finished with an 10-1 record missing an undefeated season by a 1-point loss to NC State in Raleigh. They have 16 starters back from that team with several key players returning including QB, Malik Willis who accounted for over 3,200 yards and 34 touchdowns. Three top receivers are back along with the entire offensive line and the defense returns ten starters from the 11th ranked total defense in the country. They are going to be very good but the marquee team on their schedule is Ole Miss and a win there won’t account for much national attention.

Players to Watch: QB, Malik Willis, RB, Joshua Mack, WR, D.J. Stubbs, DE, Durrell Johnson, DT, TreShaun Clark, LB, Javon Scruggs

Must Wins: Campbell, Old Dominion, Middle Tennessee, at ULM, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Army

Games They Should Win: at Troy, at Syracuse, at North Texas

Toss-Up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at UAB, at Ole Miss

Overall Record: 10-2

Army Black Knights:

Army had another good season finishing 2020 with a 9-3 record. The Black Knights have won nine or more games in three of the last four years and three Commander-in Chief’s trophies under Coach Jeff Monken so they have it going at West Point. The QB position is a bit unsettled but Monken insists he isn’t worried. There are no problems at running back with the top-3 rushers returning. The offensive line needs to fill a couple of holes but there is experience. Seven starters return on defense from a defense that allowed only 275 yards per game.

Players to Watch: FB, Jakobi Buchanan, FB, Anthony Adkins, RB, Tyrell Robinson, LB, Arik Smith, S, Cedrick Cunningham, QB, Tyhler Tyler

Must Wins: UConn, Miami(OH), Bucknell, UMass, Navy

Toss-up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Georgia State, Western Kentucky, at Ball State, Wake Forest, Air Force

Probable Losses: at Wisconsin, at Liberty

Overall Record: 7-5

Connecticut Huskies:

The Huskies cancelled the entire season last year so there really is no way to predict much for 2021. The quarterback situation is yet to be decided, They have a good running back and the offensive line is experienced. There are some quality receivers as well. The defense used the offseason to get bigger and stronger. The lack of playing games was spent practicing and working together and coaches say the team has bonded. Whether that shows on the won-loss record remains to be seen.

Players to Watch: QB, Jack Zergiotis, RB, Kevin Mensah, WR, Cam Ross, S, Diamond Harrell, LB, Jackson Mitchell

Must Wins: Holy Cross, at UMass, Yale, Middle Tennessee

Toss-up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: at Army, at Vanderbilt, Purdue

Probable Losses: at Fresno State, Wyoming, at Clemson, at UCF, Houston

Overall Record: 4-8

Massachusetts Minutemen:

UMass only played four games last year and lost them all. In fact, they have lost 15 out of their last 16 games. But, there is hope from two solid recruiting classes and a promising new quarterback. The running back group is talented and the receivers have potential. Defensively, eight starters return from a group that improved as the season went on. Being an independent makes it hard to schedule and get suitable opponents but, there could be room for some progress in 2021.

Players to Watch: QB, Tyler Lytle, RB, Ellis Merriweather, WR, Jermaine Johnson, CB, Noah Boykin, DE, Avien Peah, LB, Nahji Logan

Must Wins: Eastern Michigan, Rhode Island, Maine, at New Mexico State

Toss-up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: Toledo, UConn

Probable Losses: at Pittsburgh, Boston College, at Coastal Carolina, at Florida State, at Liberty, at Army

Overall Record: 4-8

New Mexico State Aggies:

The 2020 season was a banner year for the Aggies as they didn’t have a losing season. Nevermind the fact that they didn’t play a game at all because of COVID. The outlook for 2021 is the same as it always is in Las Cruces: Will they win a game or lose them all? This is a program with as dismal of a football history of anybody in the country. And, being an independent, makes it doubly hard to improve because it is very hard to find people to play and talk them into coming to New Mexico to play.

Players to Watch: QB, Jonah Johnson, RB, Juwaun Price, C, Eli Johnson, LB, Nick Giaccione

Must Wins: South Carolina State, UMass

Toss-up Games They Need to Win But Could Lose: UTEP, at New Mexico

Probable Losses: at San Diego State, Hawaii, at San Jose State, at Nevada, Utah State, at Alabama, at Kentucky, at Hawaii

Overall Record: 1-11

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