Bottom 10: Where even winners can feel like losers

  • Senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com
  • 2-time Sports Emmy winner
  • 2010, 2014 NMPA Writer of the Year

Inspirational thought of the week:

And you try you try so hard
But I swear it on your heart
And you play you play the game
But you pay you pay for it
You can’t win no, you can’t win no

–“You Can’t Win,” Kelly Clarkson

Here at Bottom 10 Headquarters, located behind the moonshine still where John Daly has his breakfast before Arkansas day games, we spent Week 1, which with games from Thursday to Monday was indeed pretty much one entire week, thinking about winning and losing. Not the difference between one and the other, but rather what it means when both feel like the same experience at the same time. As one of those goth-looking dudes on one of those cable network tattoo-contest reality shows once said when asked to describe what it feels like getting a countertop’s worth of body ink needled into one’s skin: “The sensation is pleasurably uncomfortable.”

To be clear, we weren’t going down this mental pathway because we’re considering getting Randy Edsall’s autograph emblazoned across our lower backs. No, we gave up on that dream long ago after he threatened to sue us for copyright infringement.

Instead, we are trapped in this win/loss emotional mind blender because, as you are about to read (assuming you haven’t clicked on something else already), multiple teams included in this week’s rankings had the audacity to win their games. However, those victories came against supposedly lesser opponents. And when we say lesser opponents, we mean schools we had to do an internet search on to learn where they are located and if they actually have a football team. Exactly what the athletic directors of the Bottom 10 schools had to do when it came time to put together a schedule that might produce some wins, even if those W’s ultimately wound up feeling like L’s.

Like, say, two L’s at the end of Edsall as it is injected into the epidermis just above your L5 lumbar vertebrae.

With apologies to Kat Von D and Steve Harvey, here’s are the post-Week 1 Bottom 10 rankings.

1. UMess (0-1)

The bad news is that the Minutemen started the season with a 42-10 loss at TU, as in Tulane. The worse news is that they are on the road again, this time to UT, as in Toledo, where they are four-TD underdogs in the Glass Bowl. The best news? All due respect to the beignets at TU and the Hungarian hot dogs at UT, the campus that is home to the nation’s bottom-ranked team is also home to the nation’s top-ranked campus eats for the sixth straight year. Making a mess on the field is easier to swallow when you come home to make a mess in the best mess hall.

2. Huh-Why?-Yuh (0-2)

The Rainbow Warriors followed up their Week Zero 63-10 loss to Bottom 10 regular Vandy with a 49-17 loss to Bottom 10 regular Western Kentucky. Up next is a trip to a decidedly non-Bottom 10 regular in Michigan, followed by a visit from 0-2 FCS social media sensation Duquesne (remember the dude with the too-big red britches?) and then a September-ending potential Pillow Fight of the Year of the Century against …

3. Whew Mexico State (0-2)

Former Minnesota Gophers head coach Jerry Kill led the Other Aggies onto his old stomping grounds, and the Gophers took that stomping part very seriously. It was the worst reunion since my cousin Lonnie showed up for Thanksgiving after borrowing money from everyone in the family for a “can’t-miss investment opportunity” and then sunk it all into Alliance of American Football NFTs.

4. Temple of Doom (0-1)

The Bowels traveled to Durham to face Duke and just kept going south, losing 30-0 to a team that has won just one ACC conference game since 2019. They were last seen somewhere near the Georgia-Florida line eating peach ice cream, buying discount tickets to Legoland and texting back to Philly, “Tell the Lafayette Leopards we’ll get there when we get there.”

5. Oregon … DUCK! (0-1)

As in, “Duck! Dive! Dodge! There’s another Georgia defender coming! And he’s chewing on another page of Dan Lanning’s playbook!”

6. Akronmonious (1-0)

Yes, the Zips won. The Zips won over the St. Francis University Red Flash. The Zips won by a score of 30-23 after being favored by 17 points. The Zips won after entering the game with, according to the usually mystically and magically accurate ESPN FPI formula, an 88% chance of winning but spent most of the game stuck around 50%. The Zips won, but it took them an OT period to do it. So, yes, the Zips won, but did so over a team that was picked to finish third in the Northeast Conference of the FCS. So, yes, sometimes a win doesn’t feel a whole lot different than a loss, especially when you come out on the other side and are immediately put on a bus bound for Michigan State.

7. U-Can’t (1-1)

Nearly all of what you just read about Akron’s win can also be applied to the UConn Huskies’ 28-3 victory against Central Connecticut, aka the team that was picked to finish one spot behind St. Francis in the NEC. Now the Huskies host Syracuse in the Hey Don’t You Wish This Was A 1999 Basketball Game Bowl.

8. FI (not A) U (1-0)

The Panthers iced their win over Bryant with a two-point conversion in OT. Just to be clear, they didn’t have to go into overtime to edge out a school founded by Bear Bryant, Dez Bryant, Bobby Bryant, Martavis Bryant, Money Matt Bryant or even Anita Bryant. No, they edged out Bryant University, the Rhode Island-based team picked to finish fifth in the six-team Big South Conference of FCS.

9. Charlotte 0-and-2’ers (0-2)

The 49ers opened the season with a Week Zero 43-13 loss to FA(not I)U and followed that up with a 41-24 downing at the hands of William & Mary, which earned its first victory over an FBS team since 2009. Charlotte has emerged as a sleeper pick to win the Bottom 10 title, with likely multiple Pillow Fights of the Week over the horizon against FI(not A)U, Minute Rice and MTSU. Speaking of the team from Murfreesboro …

10. Muddled Tennessee (0-1)

The Blew Raiders blew a motor at James Madison, losing a 44-7 nailbiter. That achievement unlocked the reward of hosting Saturday’s Pillow Fight of the Week, traveling to Colorado State, where the Rams’ horns are still sore from spending their Week 1 Saturday afternoon making everyone in Ann Arbor feel better about any potential post-CFP hangover.

Waiting List: No-braska, Virginia Tech No-kies, Minute Rice, Whew Mexico, ULM (pronounced “ulm”), UTEP Minors, dropping 2-point conversions, refusing to uncross one’s arms for four hours.

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