College football Bottom 10 year in review: Best/worst moments of 2023

ByRyan McGee ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Bottom 10 inspirational thought of the week:

Time flies, messy as the mud on your truck tires

Now I'm missing your smile, hear me out

We could just ride around

And the road not taken looks real good now

And it always leads to you and my hometown ...

We could call it even

Even though I'm leaving

And I'll be yours for the weekend

'Tis the damn season

-- "'tis the Damn Season," by Travis Kelce's girlfriend

Here at Bottom 10 headquarters, located in an abandoned Houston warehouse packed with unsold Bluebonnet Bowl merchandise, we have spent the days since the end of the regular season and the beginning of bowl season contemplating, well, the season itself.

Last weekend we enjoyed Army-Navy and the various lower-level NCAA playoff games, but, like we were during Championship Week before it, we were like my dog after she buried all her toy bones in the yard and then immediately forgot where she'd hid them. Without our beloved Bottom 10 teams on the field, we were a dart without feathers. Lost.

To counter such empty mid-December feelings -- and, OK, yes, to give myself an excuse to say "sorry, I have to check my phone" at the neighborhood Christmas party to avoid talking to that guy in my cul-de-sac who went to Florida State -- we have procured a list of the most Bottom 10-ish moments and memories of the 2023 college football season. We hope you enjoy it. And we hope that Connor Stalions hasn't already ruined it for you, because we're pretty sure we saw a guy in a Central Michigan Chippewas hat with binoculars outside our window earlier.

With apologies to Taylor Swift, 1987 Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl hero Brett Stafford and Steve Harvey, here are the Bottom 10 Moments and Other Stuff for 2023.

Bottom 10 Entrance of the Year, presented by Doors & More: Oklahoma, Week 13

No sooner had the Sooners hit the field for their season finale and all-time Big 12 finale against TCU than they accidentally reenacted the scene in "The Replacements" where Keanu Reeves & Co. fell out of the tunnel, though OU replaced the trip wire with a teammate's head.

Bottom 10 News Conference Convo of the Year, presented by MCI Calling Cards: James Franklin on throwing deep

In the days leading up to Penn State's pseudo-bye week against Bottom 10 stalwart UMess, Nittany Lions coach James Franklin was asked a question about taking shots downfield. Franklin reacted as if he had just been told by Jigsaw that he would have to eat his own arm off in order to escape the room. He ended his "no"-filled response by adding, "I'm hoping we can cut this out so that it doesn't get out into the universe." In related news, Penn State ranked 73rd in the nation in yards per play.

Bottom 10 Injury of the Year, presented by Goody's Back & Body Pain Powders: Western Kentucky's Bryson Washington

The WKU Hilltoppers were all up in the midst of a seesaw battle with Louisiana Tech when sixth-year linebacker Bryson Washington was involved in a huge tackle for loss. But during his stomp-footed celebration of the play, his right leg bent like my putter after missing a gimme 2-footer at the local muni course and then getting slammed into the green like Thor's hammer. The bad news? Washington had to be helped off the field, and his crooked leg took over college football social media timelines. The good news? He returned later, recorded seven tackles and an interception, and won Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week.

Bottom 10 Field of the Year, presented by NBC's "The Blacklist" starring James Spader: SUNY Morrisville

There were already college football fields of blue, gray, teal and even red and purple. But NCAA Division III competitors SUNY Morrisville rolled out a new playing surface this season that is solid black. That would never work in the Deep South, where in September such a surface would become one big skillet, but just down the road from Syracuse, the Mustangs have no such worries. Plus, it's very slimming.

Bottom 10 Stunt of the Year, presented by Cirque du Soleil's Bazaar: Garrett Shrader, Syracuse

Best I can tell, former St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Ozzie Smith never did his signature backflip at old Yankee Stadium, but on Nov. 11, Syracuse quarterback Garrett Shrader did one in new Yankee Stadium as the Orange hosted Pitt. He had split out wide for an attempted halfback pass and apparently believed that the impromptu gymnastics routine would provide the kind of distraction the trick play would need to work. But not only did the cornerback assigned to defend Shrader not see the flip, the play was run on the opposite side of the field, a double pass that ended flat as running back LeQuint Allen caught a lateral and threw a very deep but very incomplete pass.

Bottom 10 Other Stunt of the Year, presented by Sansabelt slacks: Iowa Cheer

Hey, at least Shrader kept his pants on ...

Bottom 10 "Blind Side" of the Year, presented by the Memphis Lawyers Institute for Billable Hours: New Mexico State vs. Hugh Freeze

When Auburn and first-year coach Hugh Freeze were stunned on the Plains by a 31-10 loss to Bottom 10 legends-turned-Conference USA contenders New Mexico State, it marked only the second time in recent memory that a team went into a game as a 21-plus-point underdog but won by 21 points or more. The last time it happened? One year ago, when those same Aggies did the same thing at Liberty, which was coached by ... Hugh Freeze.

Bottom 10 Uniform of the Year, presented by Pearl Jam's "Black": Florida Gators, Week 10

The Gators still own the distinction of having won our Bottom 10 All-Time Worst Uniforms title a few years back, via their duds that were supposed to resemble real gator skin but wound up looking like tree bark. There were no such distracting details in their military salute unis against Arkansas, which instead were solid black. Not orange. Not blue. Not even white. Black. At noon in central Florida. Those in the Swamp were having a difficult time deciding how they felt about the look. But when the Hogs were already up 14-0 after three minutes of play, Florida fans' minds had gone to a place as dark as the threads on the field.

Bottom 10 Game of the Year, presented by Timex: Georgia Tech at Miami, Week 6

As that tweeter -- or X'er, whatever -- had warned, black magic was very real in 2023. Just one month earlier, the Canes seemingly had Georgia Tech put away, up three points in the middle of Yellow Jacket territory as visiting Tech had no timeouts remaining (or maybe they did; there was some confusion about that, too). That's when Miami chose to run the ball instead of taking a knee and presumably ending the game with half a minute remaining, icing the win and successfully defending its No. 17 national ranking. But the Canes ran it. And fumbled it. And then Tech went 74 yards in four plays and 25 seconds. And then Miami lost. And then the nation lost it.

Bottom 10 Exit of the Year, presented by your Uncle Lonnie and his Irish exit later this month after Christmas dinner: O possum, my possum

This mad marsupial being forced to exit Texas Tech's game with TCU back on Week 10 will be us all in a few weeks as the 2023 college football season comes to a close. And if you think he's cute, head to Lubbock, where this possum has become a full-on critter corporation, spawning T-shirts and signage wherever the Red Raiders teams show their teeth.

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