Teams without a conference grew by two this year as Idaho and New Mexico State went independent for this season. They will join the Sun Belt Conference as football-only members next year, needing a conference after the WAC dropped football following last season. Navy is leaving in 2015 for the old Big East - now called the American Athletic Conference. New Mexico State and Idaho were both 1-11 last year. Those results led to New Mexico State bringing in Doug Martin as the new head coach and Idaho hiring Paul Petrino for the same position.
TOP-FIVE FANTASY STARS
Cody Hoffman, WR, BYU - Hoffman was BYU's best wideout last year, coming on late in the year to put up strong numbers: 100 catches, 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns. With Taysom Hill, the starter in BYU's best game last year, winning the quarterback competition, Hoffman should see even more balls thrown his way in 2013. He appears healthy after offseason shoulder surgery and poised for another strong year.
DaVaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame - With the departure of Tyler Eifert, Cierre Wood and others, Daniels, who has big-play ability, is in line to be a big producer for the Irish. His 2012 numbers were stout: 31 catches for 490 yards, averaging just shy of 16 yards per catch. His 2013 numbers should be even better.
Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU - With Michael Alisa suffering an arm injury and still not participating in contact practices in camp, Williams' stock is rising fast. In 2012 he rushed for 12 touchdowns and 775 yards on 166 carries. If Alisa continues to miss time and Williams stays healthy, he could easily be a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013.
Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy - Navy had a pretty decent year last year, going 8-5, and part of that was due to the emergence of Reynolds. The rookie put up veteran-like passing numbers, going 61-of-108 for 898 yards and nine touchdowns along with only two interceptions. He also ran for 699 yards and 10 more touchdowns. With a full spring practice under his belt and a year of real-game experience, those numbers should be equaled or surpassed in 2013.
Taysom Hill, QB, BYU - Hill suffered an LCL tear in October last season, cutting short a promising season. A running quarterback, he remains an injury risk, but BYU's up-tempo offense gives him the opportunity to post fantasy-worthy numbers. Hill also has one of the nation's better wideouts in Cody Hoffman to target in the passing game. Hill brings a certain risk, but his upside is worth gambling on.
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame - Tyler Eifert is gone, leaving the tight-end job to Niklas, who had 40 receptions for 490 yards and four touchdowns last year. Niklas isn't the caliber of Eifert just yet, but the Irish like to use tight end in the passing game, which likely will give Niklas plenty of targets. In a thin position in the college ranks, Niklas is an excellent fantasy option.
George Atkinson, RB, Notre Dame - Much has been made about the departure of Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood in South Bend, but less has been made about their replacement, Atkinson. He showed signs of being a highly productive player in 2012, scoring five touchdowns on 51 carries and averaging more than seven yards per rush. With the coast cleared in front of him, Atkinson is poised to outperform his draft-day price.
Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame - Everett Golson's off-field issues have given the veteran quarterback - who served as the closer at times last season in relief of Golson - one last hurrah as Notre Dame quarterback. Rees doesn't run much, but he's has a good arm. He could put up big numbers thanks to the playmakers who still surround him.
Jahrie Level, WR, Idaho - Simply put, Idaho is not a good football team. However, Level could be its one shining star. After scoring two touchdowns and having 46 receptions in 2012, he had nine catches for 169 yards in the spring game, and if the quarterback competition gets settled early and the winner finds a rhythm, Level could surprise. Last year's leading receiver, Mike Scott, graduated, leaving the bulk of the receiver work to Level this season.
Germi Morrison, RB, New Mexico State - Morrison is in a similar situation to Idaho's Level. New Mexico is not very good, but Morrison could be its best player, giving fantasy owners a reason to keep an eye on his play. In 2012, he had 159 rushes for 767 yards and two touchdowns. New coaches tend to rely on a team's previously established strengths, which could turn Morrison into a 1,000-yard rusher in 2013. What's more, Austin Franklin, who caught 74 passes for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns last season, has been ruled academically ineligible. The Aggies might have to lean on Morrison more than anticipated.
Michael Alisa, RB, BYU - It's never good when these words are written in the newspaper: "Meanwhile, senior Michael Alisa is still trying to overcome an arm injury and is not participating in contact drills in fall camp. Alisa broke his arm against Hawaii last September, then suffered a setback when he re-injured his arm in the summer." Ouch. With Jamaal Williams showing promise last season at the position and Alisa out, Alisa's fantasy impact may be minimized even if he does return to the field soon and regains his complete health.
Austin Franklin, WR, New Mexico State - Franklin was New Mexico State's best player last year on a terrible offense, leading the team with 74 receptions for 1,245 yards and nine touchdowns. He won't get the chance to improve those numbers, though, as he was ruled academically ineligible and will redshirt this season. Keeper leagues should keep him on the radar, but standard leagues can cross him of the cheat sheet.
Angel Santiago, QB, Army - Santiago beat out A.J. Schurr in camp for the right to replace four-year starter Trent Steelman at quarterback for the Black Knights. But don't be quick to pencil him in for Steelman's production. It wouldn't surprise if Schurr took over the job at some point or shared snaps with Santiago. And neither quarterback likely has Steelman's running ability. On a run-first team that doesn't ask the quarterback to do much in the air, Santiago doesn't have much upside.
TEAM-BY-TEAM FANTASY STARS
Overall position ranking in parenthesis.
Army Black Knights
QB Taysom Hill (20), WR Cody Hoffman (27), RB Jamaal Williams (20)
QB Keenan Reynolds (33)
New Mexico State Aggies
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
RB George Atkinson (33), TE Troy Niklas (30), K Kyle Brindza (22)