The Bottom Ten/NCAA Week 1
By Gaylon Kent
The Writer's Shack
September 1, 2015
Now the hell will start.
The race for the most coveted awards in all of sports - the ESPNCup, symbolic of Bottom Ten supremacy - begins this week.
And what a field! Known for its depth in recent years, the 2015 Bottom Ten promises to fall even deeper - as if that's possible - as Bottom Ten staffers, looking to prevent the Sun Belt Conference from occupying all ten spots, are considering giving the conference its own Bottom Ten poll.
And B-10 pollsters set a record that can never be broken, issuing the first Bottom Ten award of the season in this week's poll. The previous record was, of course, the Jim Hanifan Medallion - symbolic of NFL preseason ineptitude, issued in the Week 2 NFL poll.
This week's mess:
Editor's Note: Final 2014 record and Bottom Ten finish in parenthesis.
1. Idaho (1-10; 3rd)
Mitigating Factors: Worst Team To Never Win B-10 title earn first ever preseason #1 ranking…Vandals have gone 3-32 the past three (3) seasons and have not won consecutive games since 2009…Coach Paul Petrino, starting his third season, still trying convince natives he has what it takes to win B-10 title, as only eleven of 33 incoming freshman are actually from Idaho…None, however, are any good.
All The Marbles: Oct. 31 showdown with New Mexico State looms large, as in 2014 and 2012 only blemish on otherwise perfect seasons have been wins against Aggies.
Opening Loss: vs. Ohio (9/3)
2. Georgia State (1-11; 1st)
Mitigating Factors: Expectations sky-high for defending ESPNCup champions, with nation's best eleven (11) game losing streak…Bulldogs or Eagles or whatever they're called also defending holders of Tostitos Plaque, issues to team with longest losing streak in season that actually includes a win…Ordinarily a defending B-10 champion who is 1-23 the past two seasons would be looking at consecutive B-10 titles, but team was ineligible for B-10 in 2013, their first year of major division college football.
Good News/Bad News: Georgia State returns two experienced running backs, who exploded for 563 yards and four (4) touchdowns in 2014.
Opening Loss: Charlotte (9/4)
3. New Mexico State (2-12; 2nd)
Mitigating Factors: Another B-10 perennial looking to cement its Team of the Decade application with their first B-10 title, Aggies have lost ten (10) straight, second-best in nation…Only wins last year came against B-10 champion Georgia State and lower level team…Coaching staff knows defense wins B-10 titles, and Aggies returning ten (10) starters from defense that ranked Dead Last in Rushing Defense (309.9 ypg) and gave over 39 points per game.
The Tradition Continues: New Mexico State has not appeared in a bowl game since 1960 - the longest drought in college football - when they defeated Utah State 20-13 in the Sun Bowl.
Opening Loss: at Florida (9/5)
4. Sun Belt Conference (5-32)
Mitigating Factors: With stellar .135 non-conference winning percentage and entire Week 1 medal stand occupied by Sun Belt teams, conference easy pick for preseason Conference of the Week honors…After getting 45 percent of conference teams ranked at least once in 1014 B-10, Sun Belt looking to run the table and get entire conference ranked at least once in 2015.
The New Material Budget Was Zero, I See: Sun Belt Conference teams rebounded for strong .500 mark in conference play.
5. Duke (9-4, NR)
Mitigating Factors: B-10 Team of the Decade for the Double Aughts gets annual, cursory Week 1 berth mandated by B-10 bylaws, new Iran nuclear treaty…Despite spike in football interest due to recent bowl appearance(s), rest assured everyone on campus knows basketball practice begins in a month…2014 squad first Duke team since 1936 to have separate four (4) game winning streaks in same season.
The More Things Change…: Despite three straight bowl appearances, Bleu Devils have finished season with a win only once since George H.W. Bush administration (2003).
Opening Loss: at Tulane (9/3)
6. Cheyney (0-11; 7th)
Mitigating Factors: Division II Wolves, already the only two-time winner of Continental Cup - issued to team with longest all-division losing streak in NATO - have lost 32 straight and are easy pick to retain title…Newest B-10 Hall of Fame inductees not content to rest on laurels, bringing in new head coach with proven track record, having guided Cheyney to 3-30 mark in late 20th century…Ad on splash page of Cheney football's website allows visitors to permanently skip ad, as if anybody is going to visit Cheney football's homepage more than once.
Fly In The Ointment: Should Wolves stumble and win, D-III Wilmington (Ohio) waiting in the wings with 23 consecutive losses.
Opening Loss: Lincoln (9/5)
7. Steve Sarkasian (NR)
Mitigating Factors: USC coach earns first B-10 hardware of 2015 campaign, receiving six-pack of inaugural Dr Bill Commemorative Rocks Glasses Presented by AA for booze, prescription drug-fueled tirade at recent team kegger…Sarkasian heard to make slurred call for return to good old days when fellow drunk SC coaches and sportswriters would either have joined him or prevented him from drunk public speaking in first place.
Family Affair: Fortunately, he doesn't have wife to embarrass anymore, as couple filed for divorce months ago.
Opening Loss: First step.
8. NCAA Bottom Ten Week 1 Poll (3-18; NR)
Mitigating Factors: Official government research shows B-10 pollsters may not know what they are talking about - a shocker, we know - as only three of 21 teams that have begun season on vaunted B-10 medal stand since 2008 have actually finished season on vaunted B-10 medal stand…None of these three teams began and ended the season at number one, though defending champion Georgia State began 2014 at number three.
What In The Hell's Going On Here: B-10 pollsters "pretty sure" 2015 Week 1 survey first Week 1 survey to make appearance in Week 1 survey "basically ever".
9. Vanderbilt (3-9; 10th)
Mitigating Factors: Commodore fan(s) expecting strong B-10 run this season, as 2014 squad recovered nicely from consecutive 9-4 seasons to return to B-10 glory…Commodores still seeing benefits from early-century merger of Student Affairs/Athletic Department as incoming crop of interpretive dancers, ROTC cadets expected to provide help at linebacker.
Strong Finishing Kick: Traditionally strong finishers, Commodores may need one in 2015 to overcome dangerous, winnable games against lower-level Austin Peay and sort-of-lower-level Western Kentucky early in season.
Opening Loss: Western Kentucky (9/3)
10. Army (4-8; 6th)
Mitigating Factors: Black Knights of Confusion looking for third consecutive Sgt Bilko Trophy - symbolic of service academy lousiness - in 2015… Cadets long a model of B-10 consistency, having lost at least three consecutive games in 17 of the last 18 seasons, sometimes twice in the same season…Army expected to benefit from Secretary of Defense ruling requiring civilian opponents to show proper respect for future warriors by calling all play signals and audibles to the tune of God Bless America.
Ten Hut!: Handicapping service academies is always crap shoot, but opening with losses in winnable games against Fordham and UConn could set the tone for the best Army season since the historic 2003 squad ran the table at 0-13.
Opening Loss: Fordham (9/5)
Opening Week Clash of the Titans: Western Kentucky at Vanderbilt
These Aren't Going To Be Any Good, Either: Entire Sun Belt Conference schedule
Coming Up Next On ESPN3,627:Charlotte at Georgia State
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