The Bottom Ten/NCAA Final
By Gaylon Kent
The Writer's Shack
December 15, 2015
Shutouts, blowouts and losses to lower level teams, this year's race for the ESPNCup had it all, including two (2) 0-12 teams, a situation sure to renew call(s) for a Bottom Ten playoff.
Faced with a Kansas team that ranked Dead Last in Total Defense, and a Central Florida hot mess that ranked Dead Last in Total Offense, Bottom Ten pollsters gave the title to Kansas, based on their inability to return punts more than a few feet.
All the other Bottom Ten hardware is issued, too: the Continental Cup, the Tostitos Plaque and the Sgt Bilko Trophy!
The final survey:
1. Kansas (0-12; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: Jayhawks take first ever B-10 title, running table and finishing with nation's best 15-game skid…Defense historically bad, ranking Dead Last in Total Defense, giving up NCAA record 560 yards per game…After setting strong tone with loss to lower-level team in opener, Jayhawks put it on cruise control, putting up ten (10) or fewer points four (4) times, including one (1) shutout…With defense giving up 50 or more points five (5) times, Jayhawks have not trouble getting outscored by an average score of 43.1-to-15.3
Rock, Chalk, B-10 Title: Total team effort as punt return average made the difference, with Jayhawks only mustering six (6) feet every return - a mark that could be improved simply by getting some 7-foot basketball players to fall forward after catching a punt.
2016 Outlook: Strong…Jayhawks one of few teams to win both ESPNCup and Tostitos Plaque (2010, 2011) - issued to team with longest streak in a season that actually includes a win - and are making big pitch for B-10 Team of the Decade honors.
2. Central Florida (0-12; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: Knights claim first ever B-10 medal stand finish after becoming second team to finish in runner-up spot following winless season (Eastern Michigan, 2009)...Knights fan(s) crying foul, claiming Jayhawks issued title thanks to usual power conference bias…Complete inability to run football key to B-10 glory, as Knights ranked Next-To-Dead-Last in Rushing Offense, which helped them rank Dead Last in Total Offense…Knights leaving nothing to chance, hiring new coach for next season in quest for first B-10 title.
Well, We Got This Going For Us, Which Is Nice: Current 13-game skid team best since 17-gamer from 2003-05.
2016 Outlook: Tough…Two years removed from a Fiesta Bowl win, UCF accustomed to success and 2015 was probably only shot at B-10 glory.
3. Eastern Michigan (1-11; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: Eagles fan(s) ecstatic as second B-10 medal stand finish also results in triumhant, first ever Tostitos Plaque - issued to team with longest losing streak in a season that actually includes a win - finishing 2015 with ten (10)-game skid…Following only win over Wyoming, EMU comes back strong with key loss to Army before running table in minefield that is Mid-America Conference play.
Building Champions: After three straight two (2)-win seasons, Eagle fans looking forward squad putting it all together in quest for first ever B-10 title in 2016.
2016 Outlook: Very strong…After plateauing at two (2) wins the past three (3) seasons, Eagles finally reach one (1)-win mark and are early favorites to take 2016 crown.
4. Army (2-10; lost to Navy - again - 21-17)
Mitigating Factors: Tough, gritty loss gives Black Knights of Confusion eighth straight Sgt Bilko Trophy - symbolic of service academy lousiness…14th straight loss to Navy means there are Army officers who are halfway to retirement without having ever beaten Navy…Army hampered by recent ISIS directive mandating 100 straight losses to Navy, in order to insure morale rock bottom for future battles against Islamic State…Only 2015 wins came against Eastern Michigan and lower level school and Army has not beaten major division team that finished season with winning record since beating dreaded Louisiana Tech in 2008.
An Army West Point Of One: Changed name from Army to Army West Point this year to better differentiate it from other colleges named Army.
2016 Outlook: Bullish...History's only 0-13 team and perennial winners of Sgt Bilko Trophy, Army can polish up Team of the Decade credentials with B-10 title in 2016.
5. Cheney (0-11; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: Division II Wolves claw way to second straight - and third overall - Continental Cup - issued to team with longest all-division losing streak in NATO - with 43 consecutive losses…Cheyney's last win came against Lincoln to open the 2012 season and the Wolves have lost 77 of their last 81 games, and have produced ten (10) winless seasons this century.
Setting The Pace: Basketball team isn't any good either, off to 1-7 start in 2015.
2016 Outlook: Very strong…Cheyney may never win again.
6. Boston College (3-9; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: BC snaps Syracuse's nine-game losing streak in finale to finish in B-10 for first time, finishing with its own shiny eight (8)-game skid…Eagles had nation's best defense and use offense that couldn't execute a screen pass against eleven (11) nuns to propel them to B-10 glory, ranking 125th in Total Offense and 124th in Passing Offense and 121st in Scoring Offense.
FunFact: Two (2) of three (3) wins came against lower level teams, the other against a dreaded MAC power.
2016 Outlook: Hard to say…B-10 success is there if they want it bad enough, but with B-10 pollsters emphasis on legacies, nobody in B-10 office is getting too excited right now...Show them the losses.
7. Oregon State (2-10; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: Beavers just miss out on Tostitos Plaque - issued to team with longest losing streak in a season that actually includes a win - after wrapping up 2015 with nine (9)-straight losses.
FunFact: Consistent Beavers got it done in all phases of game in 2015, ranking 110th or worse in no less than 14 official NCAA stat categories.
2016 Outlook: While veteran B-10 watchers know you overlook Washington State at your peril, Beavers appear primed to keep Spotted Owl Jug - symbolic of Pacific Northwest B-10 supremacy - for the next few years.
8. Sun Belt Conference
Mitigating Factors: In one of easiest decisions B-10 pollsters have ever faced, Sun Belt Conference back for another go-round as B-10 Conference of the Year laureate, with almost three-quarters of conference teams (eight of eleven) declining to finish 2015 with winning records… .142 non-conference "winning" percentage (5-30) easily best in nation…Four (4) teams finished 2015 on losing streaks of at least three (3) games.
Second Verse, Same As The First: Most maligned conference in B-10 history came back strong for usual .500 mark in conference play.
2016 Outlook: While always tough to forecast entire conferences - and while expecting the usual pesky challenges from the MAC and Mountain West - the Sun Belt remains the team to beat - literally - in the race for Conference of the Year honors.
9. Louisiana Purchase (8-29; Wyoming: 2-10 DNP; Louisiana-Famous Dead Person: UL-Monroe, UL-Lafayette: 6-19 DNP)
Mitigating Factors: Final game wins by Wyoming, UL-Monroe completely shake up final B-10 rankings, forcing rare, hilarious combined entry…Despite loss in hand to Eastern Michigan, final win costs Wyoming first ever medal stand finish…Bad, but not bad enough offense, defense, hurt Cowboys, who refused to finish Dead Last in any official NCAA stat category…UL-Monroe, bellwether of classic Cajun combo, wins final game, also costing it B-10 medal stand finish...In fact, only UL-Lafayette's season ending four (4)-game skid kept UL-FDP entry in final survey.
Uh, Yeah, Sure, Whatever: B-10 pollsters "pretty sure" this is first ever combined entry with an element that is itself a combined entry and "mostly sure" this is first combined entry in final survey since 2009's New Mexicans (UNM, NMST) entry.
10. Vanderbilt (4-8; DNP)
Mitigating Factors: B-10 perennials - traditionally strong finishers - sneak into final survey having lost two (2) straight and four (4) of last five (5)…Turn-of-century decision to merge Student Affairs, Athletic Departments still paying dividends as defensive backfield consisting of ballet majors gives up school record 73 passing touchdowns of 50-yards or more in 2015, although SEC back judges give kids most style points in conference.
FunFact: While still short of the standard set in the glory days, Vanderbilt back on road to B-10 excellence with consecutive losing seasons following three (3) consecutive bowl games.
2016 Outlook: Commodores appear to be happy being fodder for real SEC football teams, so Vanderbilt can never be counted out, either on their own or as part of hilarious Tri-Lateral Commission entry with Rice and Duke.
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