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Posted: Friday August 20, 2004 11:12AM; Updated: Friday August 20, 2004 11:12AM
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  Independents Preview

   Stewart Mandel's Projected Records  
1
  Notre Dame
   7-4  
 
Home games in five of the first seven weeks should help sophomore QB Brady Quinn and the offense gain confidence.
2
  Navy
   6-5  
 
Following a breakthrough eight-win campaign, the Midshipmen look to keep Paul Johnson's triple-option rolling.
Photo credit: U.S. Navy

Cream of the Crop

2004 Preview
Myths, realities of title teams
What does it really take to win a national championship?
By Stewart Mandel
Applying the formula
Five teams that fit the mold in 2004, and three "contenders" that don't.
By Stewart Mandel
Profile of a Champion: A statistical breakdown of the 12 national champions from the past 10 years.
Athlon 2004 Previews: All 117 I-A teams
TV Guide: 10 games to watch in '04
National TV schedule | '04-'05 bowl schedule
 And much more ...
8/5  Return of the RBs
8/6  The true freshmen
8/10  SI's Top 25
8/11  ACC preview
8/12  Big 12 preview
8/13  Big East preview
8/16  Big Ten preview
8/17  Pac-10 preview
8/18  SEC preview
8/19  C-USA, Mt. West, MAC
8/20  Inds., WAC, Sun Belt
8/23  SI's All-Americans
8/24  SI's Heisman Preview
8/25  Bowl Projections
8/26  SI.com's Crystal Ball
8/30  Power Rankings
 

Kyle Eckel, FB, Navy: A 5-foot-11, 240-pound bruiser, Eckel became Navy's first 1,000-yard rusher in six years, gaining 1,249 in 2003.

Justin Tuck, DE, Notre Dame: In just his first year starting, Tuck broke the Notre Dame single-season sacks record with 13.5.

Eric Roberts, SB, Navy: The South Florida speedster averaged 9.1 yards on 69 carries and 24.6 yards on 20 receptions.

Others: Mike Goolsby, LB, Notre Dame; Josh Smith, S, Navy; Ryan Grant, RB, Notre Dame.

Poised for a Breakout

Tom Zbikowski, S, Notre Dame: Now a sophomore, the Chicago-area high school star should see significant action in the secondary.

Others: Aaron Polanco, QB, Navy; Keenan Little, CB, Navy; Chinedum Ndukwe, S, Notre Dame.

Burning Question

Will the West Coast finally work? Notre Dame has struggled miserably on offense in Tyrone Willingham's first two seasons. Then again, Willingham was also reluctant to fully loosen the reins because he lacked the personnel. Now that Quinn has a year under his belt at quarterback and the offensive line and receivers are experienced, there are no more excuses.

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