College football Bottom 10: Penn State, Illinois worse than we bargained for

ByRyan McGee ESPN logo
Wednesday, October 27, 2021

[Editor's note: The nation's last two winless teams stayed winless while a pair of Big Ten teams played themselves into the Coveted Fifth Spot, though it took nine overtimes to get there.]

Inspirational thought of the week:

So close, yet so far from paradise

I hold, you in my arms, in paradise

Is mine, then you slip away

Like a child at play, and here am I

So close, yet so far from paradise

When you, are close to me, it's paradise

We kiss, oh my love, paradise

Is mine, then suddenly you're gone from me

Like a floating star, I see, and here am I

So close, yet so far from paradise

-- "So Close, Yet So Far," Elvis Presley

Here at Bottom 10 Headquarters, located somewhere in the middle of that giant white cloud left behind by David Pollack's perpetual tornado of protein powder, we deal in the business of heartbreak. Like, that time you finally built up the courage to ask the homecoming queen to prom, and for a split second she smiled as if she was going to say yes ... but then you realized that was her pre-hysterical laughter smile. OK, that might just be me and I might just be bitter, but you get the analogy.

A week ago, we were all staring at the Week 8 schedule and wondering aloud where the drama was going to come from and if there was going to be any drama coming at all. Then the noon Big Ten games got weirder than Kanye West's name-change application. Then Kansas led Oklahoma. Then UNLV and Arizona, the nation's last two winless teams, led in the second half of their games.

Then I went and got my high school yearbook to see if I could track down that homecoming queen and let her know that she blew it because she could be married to the guy who writes the Bottom 10 now. Then my wife saw what I was doing. Then my pillow and pajamas were suddenly on the couch in the basement. But then I realized that meant I could stay up and watch the New Mexico State-Hawaii game at 2 a.m. ET with the volume turned all the way up.

With apologies to Kim Hudgins, Timmy Chang, my wife and Steve Harvey, here's the 2021 post-Week 8 Bottom 10 rankings.

1. unLv (0-7)

For the second consecutive week, the Fightin' Tark Sharks snatched defeat from the Jaws of victory, this time leading nearly the entire game at home against San Jose State, only to succumb to a 24-3 Spartans run, a blocked field goal that set up SJSU's game-winning TD and driving into the red zone late only to come up short. The good news? That giant slot machine UNLV has on the sideline is awesome. The bad news? I think it might be one of the slot machines from "Ocean's Thirteen" that Brad Pitt rigged to fail unless you know the secret code.

2. By The Time I Get To Arizona (0-6)

The Wildcats also led late, taking a 16-7 lead in the fourth quarter over then-two-win Warshington and seemingly only minutes away from ending an 18-game losing streak. Instead, they fizzled late and now that streak is up to 19 straight losses. If UNLV and Arizona finish the season as the only winless teams, we've found a town at the halfway point between Tucson and Vegas. It's Bagdad, Arizona, and they have a nice little high school football stadium, so we say let's schedule the Bottom 10 Playoff Championship for there this winter. Then again, the Bagdad High Sultans are 7-3 and in first place in their district, so Arizona and UNLV will still be worst teams in the building.

3. Kansas Nayhawks (1-6)

Does it feel mean to move KU up/down in our rankings after scaring the crimson and cream out of Oklahoma for four quarters? Yes. But let's also consider their last month, losing 52-33 at Duke, 59-7 at Iowa State and 41-14 to a Texas Tech team that immediately fired its head coach. Also, the enchantingly exact FPI computers currently have the Nayhawks rated with a 2.7% chance of beating Oklahoma State, a team that just experienced its annual But We Were Ranked So High, How'd We Lose That One? Classic at Iowa State.

4. U-Can't (1-7)

Naturally, you can leave it to the Huskies to take a bite out of our "so darn close" theme. They lost to Muddled Tennessee State 44-13. Now they go to Death Valley to face Clemson, who should have automatically lost a bazillion style points with the College Football Playoff selection committee for scheduling a game with UConn. But they don't have to worry about that this year, because they haven't been able to do anything involving points of any kind this season.

5. Ill-ugh-noise 20, Pin State 18 (9 OT)

This week the Coveted Fifth Spot is the Coveted Ninth Spot, as in nine overtimes. An 11 a.m. Central contest that became the first game to truly test the new OT rules produced 38 total points despite including nine (!) extra periods of football. And afterward Illinois learned it had lost its quarterback for the remainder of the season and Pin State head coach James Franklin ended up answering more questions about the USC job opening than the game itself. Illini coach Bret Bielema might call it "borderline erotic," but we're calling it below-the-line esoteric.

6. FI(not A)U (1-6)

The Butch Davis Farewell Tour continued with a 34-19 loss to then-two-win Western Kentucky. Now the Panthers travel to We Were Marshall and finish the season against Bottom 10 flirts Old Duh-Minions, Muddled Tennessee, North Texas Lean Green and Southern Missed. According to the witchingly watertight FPI formula, the Panthers are the underdog in all of those games, with a 69% average chance of losing. On most farewell tours, they give a guy a bunch of rocking chairs. Davis is having chairs pulled out from underneath him.

7. UMess (1-6)

After beating UConn to snap a 16-game losing streak, the Minutemen got back on track with a 59-3 loss at Florida State. And by "back on track," we mean tied up and laid down on railroad tracks like a 1920s silent movie damsel in distress.

8. Whew Mexico State (1-6)

Speaking of old-timey, I wasn't being completely honest with y'all when I said I watched the New Mexico State-Hawaii game on TV. I listened to the NMSU radio play-by-play on my phone. I felt like I was living out all those awesome stories my dad tells about lying in bed late at night and listening to the Yankees on his transistor radio ... only his radio wasn't interrupted by bad cell service and constant push notifications that another Tennessee fan was mad at me about putting them in the Coveted Fifth Spot last week.

9. Tulame (1-7)

It feels a little wrong to rank the Green Wave after what they endured with Hurricane Ida at the start of the season, but they also just extended SMU's unbeaten season via a 55-26 loss in Dallas. Now they face another loss-less opponent in second-ranked Cincinnati and will be a 24.5-point home underdog.

10. Georgia Southern Not State (2-5)

This weekend Georgia Southern University hosts rival Georgia State University in the Battle For The Use Of GSU Bowl, presented by Gulf States Utility and the Genealogical Society of Utah. The winner will move on to face Grambling State University in the parking lot of the Grain Services Union, while the loser will visit the clinic at Geneseo State University for a Gray-Scale Ultrasonography.

Waiting list: Colora-duh Muffaloes, Indiana Who-siers, Arkansaw State, Vanderbilt Commode Doors, Southern Missed, North Texas Lean Green, Old Duh-minions, Cow Berkeley, half of the MAC East, COVID-19.

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