Friday Five: Winless college football teams most likely to reach a bowl game this year
Nobody wants to start 0-2, but it doesn't mean the season is over when it happens
Nobody likes starting a season with a loss, but a loss in the opener doesn't destroy a season. You can always turn to the "well, it's the first game of the year, and these things happen" excuse. There's nothing stopping you from going 11-1!
Then there's starting 0-2, which can feel like a death knell. One loss is a lot easier to write off as a fluke than two consecutive ones. You lose the first two games of the season and doubt starts to sink in. You hear that voice in the back of your head telling you that disaster is looming. You do everything you can to ignore it or make it go away, but it's there, and the only thing that can chase it away is victory.
While starting off the season 0-2 sucks, it doesn't mean the season is over. Teams rebound from 0-2 starts! That's why, for this week's Friday Five, I examined the 14 teams that are currently 0-2 with one goal in mind. I wanted to figure out which ones had the best chances of salvaging their season with a bowl appearance. It might not have been the main goal at the beginning of the season, but after starting 0-2, it's a reasonable one.
Admittedly, it was hard to find five solid options, but I believe these are the best.
5. Tennessee: Yeah, I'm not going to lie to you and say that I like the odds, but I don't think it's impossible. Granted, losing to Georgia State and BYU at home to start the year certainly makes it feel impossible. Still, if there's any good news here for the Vols, it's that they're in the SEC East. It's the one half of the SEC that provides the chance for more wins because outside of Georgia and Florida, there aren't any teams that have looked all that scary so far. And even Florida looked shaky against Miami. It's not insane to think Tennessee can pick up wins against teams like Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. Nor is it nuts to think they could get one from Mississippi State at home, or UAB. So while I don't think it's likely Tennessee gets to six wins, it has a better shot than the other nine teams who didn't make the cut here.
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4. South Florida: Like with Tennessee, it's hard to be optimistic about the Bulls right now. That's what happens when a team is mired in an eight-game losing streak. Still, South Florida does have the benefit of playing in the AAC's East Division. It's the home of UCF and a lot of question marks. No, the Bulls couldn't beat Wisconsin and Georgia Tech, but could they beat the likes of Cincinnati, ECU, Temple and UConn? Of course! I don't expect them to win all four of those games, but it's not impossible! Optimism!
3. Florida Atlantic: The Owls are 0-2, but it's hard to hold against them that they've lost to Ohio State and UCF. Those are two teams that could end up in New Year's Six bowls come the end of the season. While FAU isn't near ready to compete with programs of that caliber, it won't see any on the rest of its schedule. Based on how teams have looked so far, the toughest game remaining on FAU's schedule might be Marshall, and that game will be played in Boca Raton. The remaining road games are against Charlotte, Old Dominion, Western Kentucky and UTSA. Those four combined to go 15-33 last season and are currently a combined 4-4 in 2019. I'd say it's more likely FAU gets to a bowl this season than not, though it's far from a guarantee.
2. Fresno State: The Bulldogs are in a similar situation to Florida Atlantic. Yes, they're 0-2, but they've played at USC and home against Minnesota. The difference is Fresno State wasn't blown out in either game. It lost on the road to USC by eight and fell to Minnesota in double overtime. I readily admit that I had doubts about this team heading into the season because it lost so much from last year's squad, but most of those doubts have dissipated. I think this Fresno State team is one of the better squads in the Mountain West this year, and while I don't know if it's going to win its division or the conference, it's going to find at least six wins in its final 10 games.
1. Miami (FL): Listen, I'm ready to guarantee that Miami will reach a bowl game in 2019. I don't care that it's 0-2, its lost by a total of seven points against Florida and North Carolina. At some point, it will stop shooting itself in the foot and get things in order, and when it does, is there a team remaining on the schedule that it can't beat? Right now the toughest game looks to be a home date against Virginia in mid-October. Other than that one, I see a bunch of games where the Canes will likely be favored. I still see eight wins as a distinct possibility, and at least seven. Miami will go bowling, 0-2 start be damned.
Honorable mention: Vanderbilt, FIU
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