There will be no postseason for the Power Five teams represented in the Bottom 25 this week. The hopes of bowl eligibility have long departed for Indiana, Arizona State, Stanford, Baylor and Vanderbilt. So while the rest of the college football world fixates on the cloudy College Football Playoff picture, we invite those five to treat this week as a Bottom 25 Playout.
All five could theoretically escape the final Bottom 25 rankings next week if they pull off victories in their last games of the season. Thus, it's a "playout" game with dignity and pride on the line. Even Vanderbilt, which is all the way down at No. 10 this week, would likely escape the final rankings if it pulled off an upset at Tennessee as a 27-point underdog.
While the prospects of that result are far-fetched, the outlook is somewhat more practical for Indiana and Baylor. The Hoosiers are only a three-point underdog at Purdue, and the Bears are just nine-point underdogs at home against West Virginia. Stanford faces long odds as a 26-point underdog against Notre Dame, and Arizona State is an 11-point dog against Arizona.
For all of them, it's time to put the ridicule and shame of poor 2023 seasons in the past, buck up one more time and go prove to the nation that they aren't among the 25 worst teams.
Bottom 25 rankings
After years as the QB1 of the Bottom 25, Tom Fornelli has passed the baton to David Cobb this season. We're still using Fornelli's power rankings to determine the order -- with the No. 1 ranking belonging to the worst FBS team -- but the written jabs are from Cobb.
|25. Western Michigan
|Western Michigan looked like it was trending up when it scored 45 and 38 points in wins over Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan, respectively. Then came last week's 24-0 loss at Northern Illinois. The Broncos amassed just 206 total yards and couldn't run the football at all as their hopes of bowl eligibility vanished. (Last week: NR)
|24. Ball State
|Ball Sate is taking big steps in the right direction — rare for a Bottom 25 team — and would escape the rankings altogether with a win over 9-2 Miami (Ohio) to close the season. The Cardinals have won two straight and three of the last four after holding lowly Kent State to 97 yards in a 34-3 win last week. (11)
|Say what you will about coach Tom Allen's future, but the Hoosiers haven't stopped fighting. If three-point losses to Illinois and Michigan State had gone the other way the past two weeks, Indiana would be playing for bowl eligibility against Purdue this week. Alas, the best IU can do is match last season's 4-8 record. (NR)
|22. Arizona State
|Barring an upset victory over red-hot rival Arizona, the Sun Devils are likely to finish in the Bottom 25. But there have been some encouraging signs in Year 1 under Kenny Dillingham, who inherited a mess from predecessor Herm Edwards. Unfortunately, a 49-13 loss to Oregon last week was not one of those encouraging signs. ASU is simply out of gas. (NR)
|Barring an upset victory over Notre Dame, the Cardinal are likely to finish in the Bottom 25. But there have been some bright spots in Year 1 under Troy Taylor, who inherited a program coming off consecutive 3-9 seasons under predecessor David Shaw. However, the team didn't look good 27-15 home loss to rival California last week. Are the Cardinal simply out of gas? (22)
|Unless UTEP becomes the first team to beat Liberty this season, it's going to finish 3-9. That would mark a second straight season of regression under fifth-year coach Dana Dimel. It's a difficult job, and Dimel led the Miners to a bowl in 2021. But the wind is gone from the sails in El Paso. (19)
|There was a time when FIU stood at 3-1 and looked capable of making a bowl under second-year coach Mike MacIntyre. Then came a stretch of six losses in seven games. That continued last week with a 44-20 loss at Arkansas. Every loss in that stretch came by at least 13 points, and the lone victory was against Sam Houston, a first-year FBS program. (23)
|Bringing coach Dave Aranda back for a fifth season feels increasingly difficult to justify as the Bears continue to crater into a Big 12 doormat. This team's only Big 12 victories are by a combined four points against league newcomers UCF and Cincinnati. Those teams are a combined 3-13 in conference play. The last two weeks, Baylor has been outscored 101-42 against Kansas State and TCU. (NR)
|17. Louisiana Tech
|Louisiana Tech is nothing if not consistent. The Bulldogs wrapped up their third consecutive 3-9 season last week with a 56-17 loss at Jacksonville State. That marked six straight defeats to end the season. The first three were one-possession games. But since November arrived, the Bulldogs' level of competitiveness has waned. (NR)
|16. San Diego State
|San Diego State didn't exactly rally around the announcement that Brady Hoke is retiring after the season. The Aztecs followed up the news with a 24-13 loss at San Jose State. If SDSU doesn't beat Fresno State this week, it will finish with its lowest win total since 2008. (16)
|Buffalo just navigated a ridiculous MAC gauntlet, losing to Toledo, Ohio and Miami (Ohio) in three straight weeks. Those are the three best teams in the MAC with a combined 27-6 record, and Buffalo was forced to play two of them on the road. What did did the Bulls do to anger the league's scheduling algorithm? (15)
|Hawaii finished 2-6 in Mountain West play last season. To improve on that mark in Year 2 under coach Timmy Chang, it will need a win over Colorado State this week. That seems unlikely given how poorly last week's trip to Wyoming went. The Rainbow Warriors fell behind 35-0 in the first half en route to a 42-9 loss. (20)
|Charlotte followed a win at Tulsa and a near-upset of Memphis with a 28-7 home loss to…Rice? The 49ers mustered only 158 yards in the loss and didn't score until the fourth quarter. The Biff Poggi era is going to need a little more runway before takeoff truly commences. (18)
|E.J. Warner continues to be a fun quarterback. The son of NFL legend Kurt Warner has thrown for 2,746 yards, 21 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in nine appearances this season. The Owls just don't have enough around him to capitalize on his talent. (14)
|Tulsa has lost six straight, and four of those losses have come in one-possession games. The Golden Hurricane look more like a tropical depression dropping light rain at this point. The stage is set for a Bottom 25 Battle Royale with ECU this week. Hurricanes vs. Pirates sounds like an idea for a ride at an upstart theme park, but it'll make for an awful football game. (12)
|Would Vanderbilt fans have signed up for 3-9 this season if they knew it would include a win at Tennessee to close the season? It's a fun hypothetical to consider entering this week's game against the Volunteers. But even the lifeless Vols should have no trouble smoking the 'Dores. During Vandy's eight-game losing, the seven losses against Power Five opposition have come by double digits. (9)
|9. East Carolina
|When a statement came across the wires Sunday morning about a coaching staff change at East Carolina, the natural assumption was the program was parting ways coach Mike Houston. After all, the program has fallen off a cliff this year. No, it was just the offensive coordinator getting fired, which was probably warranted after Saturday's 10-0 loss to Navy in which the Pirates earned nine first downs. (10)
|UMass losing 49-25 to an unbeaten Liberty team looks almost respectable at first glance. It wasn't. The Minutemen trailed 28-0 by the middle of the second quarter and were down 49-10 early in the fourth. The Flames let off the gas late. But with a win over UConn in the Bottom 25 FBS Independent Game of The Century this week, UMass can still reach four wins for the first time since 2018. (7)
|7. Sam Houston
|Sam Houston held a fourth quarter lead against Western Kentucky before falling 28-23. It's just been that kind of season for the Bearkats, who are in their first season at the FBS level. They are 1-5 in one-possession games entering this week's season finale against Middle Tennessee. (8)
|6. Southern Miss
|A win over a Mississippi State team playing under an interim coach actually seemed like a rational aspiration for Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles entered last week's in-state showdown on the heels of consecutive victories. But the Golden Eagles couldn't get star running back Frank Gore Jr. going and wilted late against the Bulldogs in a 41-20 loss. (6)
|Thank goodness for Sacred Heart. The Pioneers provided the schedule break UConn needed last week as the Huskies picked up a 31-3 win over their lowly 2-9 FCS foe. Even with a win over UMass to close the season this week, it will still go down as a disappointing campaign after Jim Mora led this program to a bowl last season. (2)
|For a child of college football royalty, Terry Bowden sure isn't afraid to get his hands dirty by grinding in the muck of unglamorous jobs. Trying to budge ULM forward has certainly proved challenging. Since their last victory over Lamar on Sept. 9, the Warhawks have endured a painful mix of close defeats and uncompetitive blowout losses. (5)
|Akron is 7-46 over the last five seasons. The glories of two bowl trips in Terry Bowden's seven seasons have faded far into the past. A win over Ohio this week would still give the Zips their best win total since 2018. But Akron's victories this season are a 24-21 win over FCS foe Morgan State and a 31-27 win over Kent State. There's no chance the Zips beat the 8-3 Bobcats. (4)
|Nevada's back-to-back wins in late October turned out to be fool's gold. The Wolf Pack have returned to their losing ways with three consecutive double-digit losses. They put up a fight against Colorado State and former coach Jay Norvell last week, but lost 30-20. A loss to Wyoming would mark Nevada's first time winning two games or fewer in consecutive seasons as an FBS program (3)
|1. Kent State
|This horrendous season shows why former Kent State coach and current Colorado assistant Sean Lewis gets mentioned as a candidate for vacancies around the country. He posted just a 24-31 record in five seasons, but it turns out winning at Kent State is quite tough. Lewis is responsible for two of the program's four all-time bowl appearances and guided the Golden Flashes to a 19-17 MAC record. (1)