The Bottom 25: The Juggernaut SMU avoids total disaster

SMU found itself facing its biggest test of the season on Saturday
SMU found itself facing its biggest test of the season on Saturday. (USATSI)

Anybody can put together a ranking of the 25 best teams in the country, but it takes a true college football fan to compile a list of the 25 worst. Every Tuesday of the regular season, the Eye On College Football's Tom Fornelli will do just that.

No champion goes untested, but should SMU finish the 2014 season as our Bottom 25 champion, there's no doubt the Mustangs will look back at this past Saturday as the key moment of the season.

While most college football fans were tuned into Alabama and Mississippi State, the Mustangs were doing battle with South Florida and had a 13-0 lead over the Bulls at halftime. And then the Mustangs had a 13-0 lead after three quarters.

Nearly halfway through the fourth quarter, the score remained 13-0. I can't lie to you, I was freaking out. I was sitting there watching it all go down scared that everything SMU had done this season, all that hard work, was about to take one final orbit around the toilet before disappearing forever. 

But then The Juggernaut returned.

USF would cut the lead to 13-7 with just over eight minutes to play, but try as it might, SMU just couldn't allow another touchdown. That is, not until the final seconds. That's right, with four seconds remaining in the game, USF quarterback Mike White hit Andre Davis for a four-yard touchdown to tie the game 13-13.

The most important extra point of the season -- and of our lives -- would follow, and while it felt like that football took three hours to travel the 20 yards it needed to go, it made it's way through the uprights and SMU's perfect season remained intact.

If that's not the kind of drama that makes college football so great, I don't know what is.

25. San Jose State 3-7 (NR)

Best Win: 27-20 at Wyoming | Worst Loss: 13-0 vs. Hawaii

Average Score: 21.8-27.4 | This Week: at Utah State

This isn't the first time San Jose State has entered our rankings, but while it's barely hanging on to this spot at the moment, with games against Utah State and San Diego State there's a better than decent chance it'll finish the year ranked.

24. Ball State 3-7 (NR)

Best Win: 32-29 at Central Michigan | Worst Loss: 27-20 vs. Indiana State

Average Score: 24.6-27.2 | This Week: vs. Eastern Michigan

Ball State spent most of the season ranked here until a two game winning streak in late October knocked them out. Now we welcome them back after last week's loss to UMass, though we do it with a heavy heart as we're going to miss the Minutemen. They've been one of The Bottom 25's oldest friends.

23. Colorado 2-8 (25)

Best Win: 41-38 at UMass | Worst Loss: 36-31 vs. Oregon State

Average Score: 29.8-38.6 | This Week: at Oregon

Colorado had been hovering at No. 25 the last few weeks, unable to climb any higher in spite of its continuing losses, but that changed this week even though Colorado didn't do anything different. Sometimes you catch a break, I guess.

22. New Mexico 3-7 (NR)

Best Win: 21-9 at UTSA | Worst Loss: 35-24 vs. Fresno State

Average Score: 27.6-34.3 | This Week: at Colorado State

While New Mexico may have three wins on the season, at least all three of the victories have come against teams currently ranked in The Bottom 25 (New Mexico State, UTSA, UNLV) so they don't hurt the resume too badly.

21. Iowa State 2-7 (22)

Best Win: 20-17 at Iowa | Worst Loss: 34-14 vs. North Dakota State

Average Score: 24.4-37.8 | This Week: vs. Texas Tech

Iowa State will find itself in a big game this weekend, as there's a very good chance that the loser of the Cyclones' tussle with Texas Tech will find itself ranked here next week. Of course, there's also a chance the winner will as well...

20. Florida Atlantic 3-7 (20)

Best Win: 45-38 vs. Western Kentucky | Worst Loss: 31-10 at North Texas

Average Score: 22.6-34.7 | This Week: at Middle Tennessee

The Owls took last week off, and they deserved it after figuring out a way to lose to North Texas by 21 points.

19. UTSA 3-7 (14)

Best Win: 27-7 at Houston | Worst Loss: 41-37 at FAU

Average Score: 16.4-23.9 | This Week: at Western Kentucky

UTSA came out on the wrong end of the 12-10 blockbuster against Southern Miss last week, and it finds itself falling five spots in the rankings because of it. 

18. Hawaii 3-8 (12)

Best Win: 38-28 vs. Wyoming | Worst Loss: 21-12 at Colorado

Average Score: 19.5-26.0 | This Week: vs. UNLV

While I'm grateful to Hawaii for bringing San Jose State back to us, I'm still somewhat disappointed in the fact that they not only beat the Spartans, but they shut them out as well. Where was the defensive effort?

17. Vanderbilt 3-7 (16)

Best Win: 42-28 vs. Old Dominion | Worst Loss: 37-7 vs. Temple

Average Score: 18.9-32.4 | This Week: at Mississippi State

The Commodores took last week off to give themselves more time to prepare for what should be an easy loss against Mississippi State.

16. North Texas 3-7 (17)

Best Win: 31-10 vs. FAU | Worst Loss: 30-20 vs. Southern Miss

Average Score: 28.2-31.0 | This Week: vs. FIU

The Mean Green got back on the losing track against UTEP, but were only able to move up a spot. That win over FAU still hurts.

15. Tulane 3-7 (19)

Best Win: 31-24 at Houston | Worst Loss: 38-31 at Tulsa

Average Score: 18.3-29.7 | This Week: at East Carolina

Tulane shook off its win against Houston (wonder how Houston feels knowing that it's the best win for two of our Bottom 25 teams) a couple weeks ago and lost big to Memphis on Saturday. With games remaining against ECU and Temple, there's a chance the Wave could get to The Bottom 10 before the year ends.

14. Army 3-7 (18)

Best Win: 47-39 vs. Buffalo | Worst Loss: 49-43 at Yale

Average Score: 24.7-34.7 | This Week: vs. Fordham

Army finds itself in a tough position this week as it prepares to play Fordham, but if the Knights were able to drop a game against Yale, they might have what it takes to lose to Fordham as well.

13. Troy 3-8 (8)

Best Win: 41-24 vs. New Mexico State | Worst Loss: 38-35 vs. Abilene Christian

Average Score: 21.7-35.6 | This Week: No game

Troy is falling apart down the stretch as it's now won two-straight games. That's the risk when you play a schedule that includes three of our Bottom 10 teams (New Mexico State, Idaho and Georgia State), but champions figure out ways to lose those.

12. Wake Forest 2-8 (15)

Best Win: 24-21 vs. Army | Worst Loss: 17-10 at UL-Monroe

Average Score: 15.1-27.3 | This Week: vs. Virginia Tech

Fun fact about Wake Forest: The Deacons have less rushing yards as a team this season (341) than Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon had against Nebraska on Saturday (408).

11. Southern Miss 3-8 (13)

Best Win: 21-20 vs. Appalachian State | Worst Loss: 12-10 at UTSA

Average Score: 18.5-34.5 | This Week: No game

Southern Miss didn't have a strong a season as hoped considering it was one of our preseason favorites, but it can finish strong with a loss to UAB in two weeks.

10. New Mexico State 2-8 (10)

Best Win: 34-31 at Georgia State | Worst Loss: 29-17 at Idaho

Average Score: 24.2-37.1 | This Week: vs. UL-Monroe

The Aggies had the weekend off but remain in The Bottom 10.

9. Tulsa 2-8 (11)

Best Win: 38-31 vs. Tulane | Worst Loss: 50-21 at FAU

Average Score: 23.6-38.4 | This Week: at Houston

As I mentioned earlier, Houston is already the best win of two of our teams, so Tulsa will have to be careful this week not to become the third team to claim the Cougars.

8. Miami OH 2-9 (9)

Best Win: 42-41 vs. UMass | Worst Loss: 17-10 vs. Eastern Kentucky

Average Score: 22.5-32.5 | This Week: No game

Our defending champs had a close call against Central Michigan over the weekend, but showed that championship resolve to fall 34-27.

7. UConn 2-7 (6)

Best Win: 37-29 vs. UCF | Worst Loss: 35-21 vs. Army

Average Score: 17.3-27.7 | This Week: vs. Cincinnati

The Huskies took the week off and found themselves getting passed by Kent State. That's what you get for beating UCF a few weeks ago, ya jerks.

6. Kent State 1-9 (7)

Best Win: 39-17 vs. Army | Worst Loss: 10-3 at Miami (OH)

Average Score: 15.3-29.5 | This Week: at Buffalo

Kent State may not be in the Bottom Five, but they're still one of my darkhorses here. Should the teams ahead of them screw up, a 1-11 team whose lone win came against Army will have a legitimate shot at the title. So there's a lot left to lose for here.

5. UNLV 2-9 (5)

Best Win: 30-27 vs. Fresno State | Worst Loss: 31-28 vs. New Mexico

Average Score: 20.3-37.6 | This Week: at Hawaii

The Rebels have now lost four straight following that win over Fresno in October, but will face a tough test this week when they travel to Hawaii for The Bottom 25 Game of the Century in this Particular Week of This Here Year.

SMU did what it could to hang on to the No. 1 spot this week. ( Graphic)
SMU did what it could to hang on to the No. 1 spot this week. Graphic

4. Idaho 1-9 (4)

Best Win: 29-17 vs. New Mexico State | Worst Loss: 34-17 vs. Troy

Average Score: 24.7-36.5 | This Week: No game

Idaho picked up a huge loss against Troy over the weekend, but it wasn't enough to climb in the rankings as all three teams ahead of it lost as well. Though Idaho did creep closer.

3. Eastern Michigan 2-8 (3)

Best Win: 37-27 vs. Buffalo | Worst Loss: 36-14 at UMass

Average Score: 13.6-39.4 | This Week: at Ball State

The Eagles have one truly difficult test left this year, and it's this Saturday against Ball State. A loss there would just about clinch a spot in our Bottom Three.

2. Georgia State 1-9 (2)

Best Win: 38-37 vs. Abilene Christian | Worst Loss: 45-21 at Troy

Average Score: 24.1-43.8 | This Week: at Clemson

Georgia State came so close to moving to No. 1 this week while sitting home on the couch. So close.

1. SMU 0-9 (1)

Best Win: None | Worst Loss: 38-28 at Tulsa

Average Score: 10.0-43.1 | This Week: at UCF

Just for kicks I ran the math to see what would have happened had SMU actually hung on to beat South Florida last week, and it's a good thing they didn't. The Mustangs would have fallen to No. 2 by an incredibly slim margin. How slim? They'd be 0.12 points behind Georgia State in my rankings, and it would be largely due to the fact their win came against South Florida while Georgia State's only win is a one-point victory over Abilene Christian.

No Longer Ranked: South Florida, UMass, Buffalo

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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