College football realignment has hit the FBS Independents hard, reducing their ranks significantly. Four games into the 2023 college football season, how are the four remaining performing this year? Unsurprisingly, one team stands clear of the rest in our FBS Independent Power Rankings, while a battle rages on to be named the best of the rest.
FBS Independent Power Rankings 2023
Our FBS Independent Power Rankings for the 2023 college football season take into account several factors. Overall record is a consideration, but roster talent and depth, coaching staff, strength of schedule, plus offensive and defensive efficiency are taken into consideration in our latest update.
4) UConn Huskies
Preseason Ranking: 2nd
There was a sense of expectation surrounding Jim Mora’s team ahead of the 2023 college football season after he guided them to more wins in 2022 than the previous four years combined, and a first bowl game since 2015. Sitting at 0-4 entering college football Week 5, it’s fair to say the UConn Huskies have failed to live up to those expectations.
Their positioning in our FBS Independent Power Ranking isn’t purely on overall record, however. With multiple Power Five opponents on their schedule, it would be unfair to. Quarterback indecision — and the associated offensive inefficiency — combined with some poor play on defense, means the Huskies’ record is a true reflection of their play so far.
3) UMass Minutemen
Preseason Ranking: 4th
The UMass Minutemen climb off the bottom of the FBS Independent power rankings, and the floor of college football, after matching their 2022 win total on the very first attempt this season. Unfancied against New Mexico State, the Minutemen romped to a 41-30 Week 0 victory that showcased key improvements from a dismal campaign last fall.
While one win doesn’t make a turnaround, UMass has been close in two other games, including a tight two-point defeat to Eastern Michigan. Running back Kay’ron Adams is already having a career year, and there’s talent across the wide receiver room. As a result, they’ve doubled their offensive output from last year, averaging a decent if not spectacular 26.2 points a game.
2) Army Black Knights
Preseason Ranking: 3rd
This is not your grandma’s Army Black Knights. Hell, this isn’t even a service academy football program that your Dad or elder brother would recognize. Yes, 6’0″, 260-pound fullback Jakobi Buchanan is still going to ram the ball down your throat at the goal line — successfully — but they also have an honest-to-goodness passing attack led by new starting QB Bryson Daily.
In wide receiver Isaiah Alston, they’ve also got a legitimate pass-catcher to get on the end of them, while Noah Short has proven impactful too. The season started a little dicey with a loss to UL-Monroe, but a win over highly-fancied UTSA has enough value to vault the Black Knights into second in our FBS Independent Power Rankings.
1) Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Preseason Ranking: 1st
Amidst the ongoing and seemingly never-ending circle of college football realignment, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are seen to be the key piece that could determine the balance of power for any one of the Power Five (Power Four for 2024 onwards with the ultimate demise of the Pac-12) conferences. Yet, the marquee university holds strong as a football independent.
They also hold strong as the best independent program there is. There is a more significant gap between them and the rest than there was one we released our preseason FBS Independent Power Rankings. Questions about what the Fighting Irish might accomplish in 2023, have been swiftly answered.
What questions, I hear you cry? Those with short memories might have forgotten that there were concerns over how Sam Hartman might adapt to a new scheme outside of his long-standing tenure in the slow-mesh system at Wake Forest. They might have forgotten that the departure of offensive coordinator Tommy Rees caused some uncertainty over the offense.
Hartman has answered those questions with aplomb. From the minute he walked out on the field in Dublin he has electrified the Fighting Irish, buoyed by an impressive offensive line, dangerous weapons aplenty — including the unstoppable Audric Estime — and a defense that, when there’s 11 men on the field, flies to the football with bad intentions and plenty of success. They’re legit.