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July 10, 2006

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Team-by-Team Previews


Notre Dame and Navy are clearly the class of the small pool of D-I college football teams without a conference home. The Irish boast both a serious Heisman Trophy candidate and hopes for a national title, while the Midshipmen are looking to capitalize on three straight seasons of eight wins or more. Army, meanwhile, is hoping to take a step forward and approach the .500 mark this fall, while the Temple Owls, under the guidance of first year head coach Al Golden, are looking to simply put some life back into the program and perhaps win a few games in the process.


Notre Dame 10-2
Navy 9-3
Army 4-8
Temple 1-11

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NOTRE DAME Charlie Weis's first year with the Irish went better than many expected, making expectations for 2006 that much higher. QB Brady Quinn, a preseason Heisman candidate, is back to lead an offense that returns seven starters from a season ago. RB Darius Walker, who dashed for nearly 1300 yards and 9 scores last year, as well as WR Jeff Samardzija (1250 yards, 15 TD), are both back as well. And we haven't even mentioned the defensive unit, led by guys like Ambrose Wooden and Tom Zbikowski, that returns all but two starters from last fall.

As always, the schedule is extremely tough. A four game stretch at GT, vs PSU and Michigan, and at Michigan State to open the season is likely to result in a loss for the Irish, though they could slip away blemish-free. The middle portion of the slate is a good bit easier before they finish with a tough road test at USC to wrap up the regular season.

Projected Wins: PSU, at MichSt, PUR, STAN, UCLA, at Navy, UNC, at AF, Army
Projected Losses: (none)
Toss-Ups: at GT, MICH, at USC
Projected Record: 10-2

NAVY Under the guidance of head coach Paul Johnson the past four years, the Midshipmen have very quietly put together a very solid program. They've won at least eight games each of the past three seasons and 26 total during that time period. With 18 starters returning from last fall's squad, another successful season is expected in Annapolis. QB Lamar Owens, the team's top passer and rusher, will have to be replaced, however. The good news is that three other players who scored at least a half-dozen TDs last fall, as well as nine defensive starters, return to help carry the load.

With the possible exception of a late October matchup with Notre Dame, every game on the 2006 schedule is winnable. Road tests at Stanford, Connecticut, and Air Force won't be easy, nor will home games with recently-improved Rutgers and Tulsa. However, I still look for the Midshipmen to approach the 10-win mark and make their fourth straight postseason appearance.

Projected Wins: ECU, UMASS, at CONN, at AF, at Duke, at EMU, TEMP, Army
Projected Losses: ND
Toss-Ups: at STAN, Tulsa, RUT
Projected Record: 9-3

ARMY Bobby Ross enters his third season in West Point attempting to do much like Paul Johnson has done at Navy. The Knights, however, have won just six games total over the past two seasons. Sixteen starters return this fall, though, including WR Jeremy Trimble who went for over 500 yards and four scores last fall. QB Zac Dahman and 1000-yard rusher Carlton Jones will both have to be replaced, though, meaning picking up more than three or four wins this season is not likely to happen.

Two early season games at Arkansas State and vs Kent State - both respectable non-BCS foes - will be an interesting barometer for the 2006 Knights. After taking on two Big XII squads, Army then returns home and has a great shot to pick up a pair of wins over Rice and VMI to get the month of October, and the second half of the season, off to a good start.

Projected Wins: VMI
Projected Losses: at TAMU, at BAY, at CONN, TCU, at ND, Navy
Toss-Ups: at ArkSt, KENT, Rice, at Tulane, AF
Projected Record: 4-8

TEMPLE Owl football has been in a serious nose-dive for quite some time now. In fact, the team has averaged just a single win per season over the past three years, and only six starters return from last fall's squad; that could be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at the situation. First year head coach Al Golden is hoping to enter Philadelphia with some spark and help bring this program back to life, though everyone knows it will certainly take time.

A road trip to Buffalo is a chance for the squad to get off to a positive start. Other winnable games on the schedule include a trip to Western Michigan and home matchups with Kent State and Central Michigan.

Projected Wins: (none)
Projected Losses: LOU, at MINN, at VAN, KENT, CLEM, at NIU, BGSU, at PSU, at Navy
Toss-Ups: at BUF, at WMU, CMU
Projected Record: 1-11


QB Brady Quinn Notre Dame
RB Darius Walker Notre Dame
RB Adam Ballard Navy
WR Jeff Samardzija Notre Dame
WR Jeremy Trimble Army
TE John Carlson Notre Dame
OL Elliot Seifert Temple
OL Bob Morton Notre Dame
OL John Sullivan Notre Dame
OL Zach Gallion Navy
OL Ryan Harris Notre Dame
DL Victor Abiamiri Notre Dame
DL John Chan Navy
DL Cameron Craig Army
DL Derk Landri Notre Dame
LB Rob Caldwell Navy
LB Tyler Tidwell Navy
LB Barrett Scruggs Army
DB Ambrose Wooden Notre Dame
DB Tom Zbikowski Notre Dame
DB Chinedum Ndukwe Notre Dame
DB Caleb Campbell Army
K Justin Koenig Army
P Owen Tolson Army
KR Karlos Whittaker Navy
PR Tom Zbikowski Notre Dame

Individual team previews by editor Jonathan.

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