Bottom 10: Sun Belt’s rise shows there’s hope for everyone

  • 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:

If you can walk or crawl, let’s leave this hospital
And take this car far as it goes
Lost and kicked about, sun belt scars remove all doubt
Cover up, this chapter’s closed, no, this world ain’t all snow

— “Sun Belt Scars,” by Banner Pilot

Here at Bottom 10 headquarters, located behind the buckets where my SEC Network coworkers puked up their Nashville hot chicken, we have long been on the Sun Belt bandwagon. Which is to say that we have ridden on that wagon when it not only didn’t have a band, but it was trying to roll on four flat tires.

We’re talking about the not-so-long ago days when Georgia State was racking up Bottom 10 championships. When Georgia Southern fans were angry at me because I jokingly called them Georgia Southern Not State. When R.O.C.K. in the UTSA was a decade-long joke. When the only notes of notability about Coastal Carolina were that its field was teal and its mascot was a rooster first written about by Chaucer.

Now all of those teams are bowl season regulars. And thanks to the unforgettable Week 2 Saturday conjured up by them and their conference cohorts, the cloud-busting beams of the #FunBelt have giddily sunburned shoulders in the unsuspecting seating bowls of college football’s most stories venues, from College Station to Lincoln to South Bend. And the three big winners — Appalachian State, Georgia Southern and Marshall — were paid more than a million bucks each to slap the faces of the superpowers who had just signed those checks.

Good thing. Because some stuff is going to need to be fixed back home.

With apologies to John David Crow, Johnny Rodgers, Paul Hornung and Steve Harvey, here are the post-Week 2 Bottom 10 rankings.

1. UMess (0-2)

Quick recap of the Minutemen’s 2022 season: Lost to TU, as in Tulane University, 42-10. Lost to UT, as in University of Toledo, 55-10. In two weeks, they face TU, as in Bottom 10 Waiting List member Temple University. But first, they must TU-ssle with Stony Brook. The most famous former Seawolves s-TU-dent is Pat Benatar, Class of ’74, b-UT she dropped o-UT.

2. Huh-Why?-Yuh (0-3)

It is easy to be distracted by the game that the Rainbow Warriors have looming over the horizon on Sept. 24 (see below), but first they will host a 1-2 FCS team in Duquesne — pronounced Due-cane — as in, dude, cane we finally win a game this season?

3. Whew Mexico State (0-3)

And here is that Week 4 game we referenced, potentially the first Pillow Fight of the Year of the Century of 2022, when Hawai’i travels to Las Cruces to face the Other Aggies, who lost to Bottom 10 Waiting Listers UTEP last week. See? Told you it was over the horizon. Like, 3,209 miles over the horizon. But first, New Mexico State must travel 1,220 miles to Madison, Wisconsin, for the second leg of their Hey I’m Jerry Kill, Remember Me, From Minnesota, And I’m A Nice Guy So Please Don’t Destroy Us Too Badly Tour. (The Other Aggies got thumped by the Golden Gophers in Week 2.)

4. Charlotte 0-and-3’ers (0-3)

The 49ers were shell-shocked by the Terrapins of Maryland 56-21 and now travel to face a Georgia State team that should have joined the Week 2 Fun Belt bonanza by beating North Carolina at the Artist Formerly Known As Turner Field. Speaking of Georgia State Not Southern, a public service announcement: If you won tickets from the Bad Ass Rock Show to this weekend’s game, do not show up in Atlanta. You’re supposed to be in Statesboro at Georgia Southern Not State.

5. The Ghost of Dana X. Bible

From 1917 until 1928, head coach Dana X. Bible led Texas A&M to five Southwest Conference titles and a pair of national championships. But in ’29 he left for Nebraska, where he won another six conference championships in eight seasons. How did he land that job? Because it had been turned down by their first choice, Notre Dame head coach Knute Rockne, who told Nebraska administrators that he couldn’t leave his beloved Fighting Irish, but added, “I am recommending a man you probably know little about. He is Dana X. Bible at Texas A&M and I consider him the finest young coach in America. If you can get him, he’s your man.” Oh, and Bible finished his head coaching career with a decade at Texas. One can only imagine Bible and Knute bellied up to a bar in college football heaven this past Saturday as they watched their beloved Aggies, Huskers and Irish being simultaneously smoked by the Sun Belt, not to mention the Horns’ blown lead against Bama. The comments were no doubt Dana X-rated.

6. Southern Missed (0-2)

Much was made on social media of The Boo at The U as Miami fans could be heard angrily shouting down from the stands of Hard Rock Stadium. At the time, we all assumed their disgruntlement was aimed at the home Hurricanes, mired in an uninspiring 7-3 tractor pull with the Golden Eagles through the closing seconds of the first half. What we know now is that the fans were grossed out by undershirt-less Southern Miss head coach Will Hall, who was holding his own personal wet T-shirt contest on the steamy South Florida sideline.

7. U-Can’t (1-2)

During Week Zero, UConn lost to Utah State 31-20. Since then, USU has lost to Alabama 55-0, which is totally understandable, but then fell 35-7 to Weber State, which is totally not understandable. Also not understandable is why the Huskies’ next two games are against top 25 teams Michigan and NC State. Even less understandable is why three weeks into the season, Michigan will have played three Bottom 10 teams. The Wolverines started with Hawai’i, they are about to face UConn and last weekend they beat …

8. Colora-duh State (0-2)

Most in the Centennial State will agree that it is total ram doo-doo that Colorado State no longer plays Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Most in the Mile High State agree that it is a pile of buffalo caca that the best the teams could do was schedule home-and-homes sporadically over the next two decades. But we all can agree that the absence will be felt most this year, when both schools are 0-2 and playing like their cleats stepped in all of that dung previously mentioned.

9. The Akronmonious Buffaloed Baller Central State of Kent

While the #FunBelt was in full-on party mode, poor #MACtion spent its entire Saturday already looking like the morning after. The conference went 2-8 in nonconference games. Five teams are 0-2, punctuated by the Buffalo Bulls Not Bills and the 46-yard, as-time-expired game-losing TD toss it allowed to the Holy Cross Crusaders, a team that obviously practices a lot of Hail Mary’s but apparently says a lot of Hail Mary’s too.

10. Boiling Green (0-2)

The Brown Falcons lost in seven overtimes to Eastern Kentucky, the team picked to finish third in the ASUN Conference of the FCS. Bowling Green erased a 14-point deficit with a 21-0 run, but EKU scored on the final play of regulation to force overtime, then stopped BGSU and responded with a score to win in the seventh OT. So, if you were wondering why we left Bowling Green off the previous list of heartbroken MAC teams, now you know that was no accident. It didn’t merely have its heart broken, it opened up its own wing of the cardiac ward.

Waiting list: Temple of Doom, Colora-duh, ULM (pronounced “ulm”), the year 2022 B.C., UTEP Minors, Whew Mexico, FI(not A)U, Minute Rice, the entire AFC South.

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