The Bottom Ten/NCAA Week 1
By Gaylon Kent
America’s Funniest Guy
It’s all over but the losing.
The coaching carousel has stopped spinning and the chase for one-star recruits is over. The few weeks of preseason practice – the time when foundations for strong Bottom Ten runs are laid – has concluded. The time has come to see which teams will contend for the ESPN Cup, given annually to the Bottom Ten champion.
Can Fresno State ascend the throne again? Will Duke return to the form that earned Team of the Decade honors for the Double Aughts? Or will a team come from out of nowhere to contend in 2017?
Hell, we don’t know either.
This week’s mess:
Editor’s Note: for teams that played this past weekend, current record is listed. For teams that did not play last weekend, 2016 record and final ranking are listed. Yeah, we’re confused, too.
1. Fresno State (1-11; 1st)
Mitigating Factors: Defending B-10 champion Bulldogs put it all together in 2016, not only first B-10 title, but also hanging first Tostitos Plaque – issued to team with longest losing streak in a season that actually includes a win – in trophy case…Expectations for repeating high, as Bulldogs return nine (9) starters from offense that wasn’t any good last year.
The Long And Winding Road: Loss to priest novitiates from lower level Incarnate Word in opener would set great tone, as Week 2 and Week 3 opponents – Alabama and Washington – were combined 26-3 in 2016.
Opening Loss: Incarnate Word
2. Earlham (0-10; 7th)
Mitigating Factors: Division III Quakers earned first-ever Continental Cup – issued to team with longest all-division losing streak in NATO – in 2016, having lost 33-straight…Earlham coaching staff really having to rework mentoring program, as only eight (8) seniors available to show 21 incoming freshmen in how to lose college football games…Last win came on 10/26/13, 21-20 over Anderson and Quakers have five (5) winless seasons this decade.
Waiting In The Wings: Should Earlham falter and somehow win, fellow D-III power Lewis and Clark is right behind with a 32-game skid.
Opening Loss: at Wilmington
3. Rice (0-1; lost to Stanford 62-7 at Sydney, Australia)
Mitigating Factors: Owls already in midseason form with type of total team effort that historically leads straight to B-10 glory…With game played on other side of International Date Line, Rice administrators thinking of petitioning B-10 staff to get game included in 2016 totals so Owls can move up in final 2016 poll…Owls have gone from ten (10) wins in 2013 to three (3) in 2016, giving Owl fan(s) hope that first ever B-10 title could be theirs in 2017.
FunFact: One of those “academic” schools, Rice players getting big props for predicting Hurricane Harvey months in advance, getting athletic department to move opener to Sydney, Australia.
Next Loss: at UTEP (9/9)
4. Rutgers (2-10; 2nd)
Mitigating Factors: Rutgers transfer to Big Ten Conference paying expected dividends, as Scarlet Knights secured first B-10 medal stand berth since 1869…Spoiled Rutgers fan(s) expecting nothing less than repeat performance in 2017, as squad returns 13 starters, including three fifth-year starters anchoring defensive line that was instrumental in finishing Next-To-Next-To-Dead Last in Rushing Defense in 2016.
Missed It By That Much: Though Rutgers narrowly missed out on Tostitos Plaque – issued to team with longest losing streak in a season that actually includes a win – current nine (9) game losing skid still good for second best in nation.
Opening Loss: Washington (9/1)
5. Duke (3-9; 9th)
Mitigating Factors: Finished 2016 in final B-10 survey has part of hilarious Trilateral Commission entry with Rice, Vanderbilt…As B-10 Team of the Decade for Double Aughts, Bleu Devils entitled to courtesy ranking in Week 1 poll, though losing five (5) of last six (6) in 2016 probably would have earned them one anyway…With losable game against lower level team in opener, Bleu Devils cannot get caught looking ahead to Week 2’s big B-10 Legacy Game vs Northwestern.
FunFact: Duke a shell of what they used to be, as Bleu Devils regularly appear in bowl games now and have not won fewer than three (3) games in a season since 2007 squad went 1-11.
Opening Loss: North Carolina Central
6. UMess (0-1; lost to Hawaii 38-35)
Mitigating Factors: UMess shows strong finishing kick that usually leads straight to B-10 medal stand, blowing 28-14 third quarter lead…UMess still has not won season opener as a major division school since 1901’s 17-0 thrashing of Holy Cross…UMess 10-50 since resuming major division football in 2012, making strong case for B-10 Team of the Decade honors…B-10 pollsters “pretty sure” Minutemen would be first team “basically ever” to win Team of Decade award without playing entire decade.
Strategies Of The Great Coaches Series: Trailing by three (3) with five (5) seconds left in game and ball at midfield, coaching staff shows they’re “all in” for in B-10 title run, securing loss by throwing swing pass to running back out of backfield, instead of Hail Mary pass to end zone.
Next Loss: at Coastal Carolina
7. Louisiana-Famous Dead Person (10-15; NR; UL-Monroe, 4-8; UL-Lafayette 6-7)
Mitigating Factors: Longtime, hilarious joint entry makes first Week 1 appearance in, well, quite a while…Early, 9/23 showdown will, as usual, be for Billy Cannon Certificate, symbolic of Cajun football ineptitude, and berth in B-10 Dixie Regional.
Name Game:.While Lafayette is, of course, named for French army officer, Monroe not named for former president of the United States, but for legendary, local Cajun accordion player Billy “Sugar Plum” Monroe.
Opening Losses: UL-Monroe: at Memphis (8/31); UL-Lafayette: SE Louisiana
8. Oregon State (0-1; lost to Colorado State 58-27)
Mitigating Factors: Trying to rebound from wishy-washy four (4)-win 2016 campaign, Beavers land squarely on B-10 pollster’s radar with clutch, blowout road loss…Only trailing by four (4) at halftime, Beavers put it in overdrive in second half, getting outscored 34-7.
There Is No “I “ In Bottom Ten: Entire team getting smiley faces on playbooks as defense allows 525 yards while defense chips in with five turnovers, leading to 27 (27) Colorado State (CSU) points.
Next Loss: Portland State
9. Conference USA
Mitigating Factors: With pretty much every team but Marshall having appeared in at least 17 B-10 surveys over the years, C-USA easy pick for preseason Conference of the Year honors…Still though, veteran B-10 fan(s) know you count out perennial conference disasters like the Sun Belt, Mountain West and Mid-American conferences at your peril.
The New Material Budget Was Zero, I See: While C-USA expected to take lumps in brutal non-conference schedule, entire conference expected to come back with strong .500 mark in conference play.
10. Army (8-5; NR)
Mitigating Factors: Hope springs eternal that Cadets can recover from second winning season this century and return to usual B-10 form as Black Knights of Confusion attempt to wrestle Sgt Bilko Trophy – symbolic of service academy lousiness from Navy…Cadets expected to be hampered by offseason Defense Secretary ruling – to help better prepare for future battles against ISIS – requiring playbook to be written in Farsi.
General, B-10 Reunion Committee On Line Two: Minefield of 2017 schedule reads like a B-10 Who’s Who, with games against Buffalo, UTEP, Rice, Eastern Michigan, Temple, Duke and North Texas.
Opening Loss: Fordham (9/1)
This Week’s Clash of the Titans: UMess at Coastal Carolina
Live On ESPN735: Fordham at Army