by Daniel Olsen | We hold these truths to be self-evident, that not all teams are created equal. There are wealthy unions of Power 5 conferences and smaller ones in the Group of Five. However, there are a handful of teams that don’t want to be tied down by the dictatorship of one supreme leader. They turn their backs to Craig Thompson of the Mountain West and proclaim their supremacy over the tyranny the King of the PAC-12 Larry Scott. In the West, BYU has sparked the question: Is Independence the way to go?
The answer is yes at least in this year where a pandemic has affected multiple teams in terms of their start dates and even cancellations. Let’s take a look and see how the Cougars stack up to the other Independents:
2. Notre Dame: As BYU is, Notre Dame once was. As Notre Dame is, BYU may become. The Fighting Irish have appeared in a recent BCS national championship game as well as the college football playoff not long ago. They have 11 national titles in their illustrious history. The gold helmets and the Navy jerseys stand out among a sea of green.
The Irish are undefeated and they knocked off the number one Clemson Tigers. This was the highest ranked ACC matchup in decades. This year technically Notre Dame is a one-year-only member of the ACC. They play in this conference in all other sports. We will still count them for the sake of this list because they are traditionally known as an FBS Independent in normal years. They would have to have a humongous collapse to be kicked out of the College Football Playoff. If anything, Clemson has more to worry about as another loss to the Fighting Irish in the championship could knock them out of the CFP race for good.
8. BYU: We now move west to a land where valiant young men have gone to battle for their school and have managed to only have one cancellation (against Army in September) in a state where pandemic cases are skyrocketing. Earlier in the year, they seemed to be in the worst situation in the state as most conferences went with conference-only schedules. This changed as BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe worked his magic and built a ten game schedule on the fly. The Cougars have colonized the west this season as the first and only team out west to be playing football before October.
22. Liberty: Their name alone is one of the inalienable rights in the original Declaration of Independence. This Independent team is doing great things with liberty in only its second year of Bowl eligibility at the FBS level. Liberty joins Notre Dame and BYU as the only teams in the country that are 8-0.
The Flames haven’t gotten as much respect in the rankings as BYU and Notre Dame have in the rankings. While they have beaten two Power 5 teams in the ACC, their margin of victory hasn’t been super impressive. If they run the table then maybe they get an at large bid. These bids will be hard to come by though with Notre Dame and BYU in the mix. All three FBS Independents will be fighting for one of the 11 spots that usually go to Power 5 teams. There is one auto bid for the highest ranked Group of 5 team that the Independents don’t qualify for.
If the Flames can defeat NC State this week, they should earn some more respect and make a climb into the top 20 at 9-0. They are the undefeated team most at risk to lose this week. One advantage they have is that they have 11 total games on the schedule. Notre Dame does as well so BYU needs to add at least an 11th game following their game this week to stay relevant.
Putting my John Hancock on the season:
If these three Independents can run the table my crystal ball bodes well for them. One of the three should be in the football playoff and at least two of the three should make a New Year’s Six Bowl. Independence isn’t always the answer but in this pandemic-riddled year it is definitely looking like one of the best options. BYU broke off from the mother country of the Mountain West Comference nearly a decade ago. Under the direction of General Sitake and the revered Heisman ride that Lieutenant Zach Wilson has been on, this Declaration of Independents is turning out to be a great decision for one college in Provo, Utah.
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