Ryan McGee, ESPN Senior WriterSep 6, 2023, 07:00 AM ET
CloseSenior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com
2-time Sports Emmy winner
2010, 2014 NMPA Writer of the Year
Inspirational thought of the week:
I can’t see the future but I know it’s coming fast
It’s not that hard to wind up knee deep in the past
It’s come a lot of Mondays
Since the phone booth that first night
Through years and miles and tears and smiles
I want to get it right
From the bottom of my heart
Off the coast of Carolina
After one or two false starts
I believe we found our stride
— “The Coast of Carolina,” Jimmy Buffett
Here at Bottom 10 Headquarters, located at the base of the garbage chute where Pat McAfee throws away all of the sleeves that he cuts off his shirts, we entered Week 1 with our eyes focused on the horizon ahead and our hands firmly wrapped around the ship’s wheel as the wind of actual football filled our sails and pushed into the season. With fins to the left, fins to the right, because yes, it’s been quite a summer with rent-a-cars and westbound trains, and … OK, full disclosure, we don’t listen to a lot of Jimmy Buffett in our HQ. We’re more of a hopeful marching band and drumline descending into a sad country breakup song kind of office.
But Saturday morning, as I took the stage to co-host “Marty & McGee” from Nashville, Tennessee, built squarely in the center of Lower Broadway, a man in a parrot-covered shirt was asleep on the sidewalk outside Buffett’s Margaritaville. He suddenly jumped up, ran over to the railing and said, “McGee, Jimmy is dead, and I don’t feel so good myself. The last time I saw him was here in Nashville, and that same weekend, I watched Vanderbilt lose by a hundred points to South Carolina. Jimmy loved South Carolina. Not the team. The state. It’s sad.” And he went back to sleep.
At the time, I laughed it off. Then, as I thought about it more, I was sad too. Jimmy Buffett was indeed gone. And he did indeed love South Carolina. He wrote songs about South Carolina. He sailed off the coast of South Carolina. He had played so many sellouts all over South Carolina. Later that night, in Charlotte, North Carolina, I watched South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler spend the evening running for his life as the Gamecocks lost to UNC 31-17. During a second-half timeout, the PA system started blasting “Margaritaville” as the packed stadium sang along.
Another man in a beachy button-down shirt, much more sober than the first — at least at that point in the evening — tapped his baseball cap with a Gamecocks logo and said, “They’re playing the wrong song.” He pointed to Rattler, on the bench as his beleaguered O-line awkwardly sat next to him, silent and embarrassed. “They should be playing, ‘Nobody Speaks to the Captain No More.'”
With apologies to the Oldest Surfer on the Beach, the Son of a Son of a Sailor and Steve Harvey, here’s the 2023 Week 1 Bottom 10.
1. Arkansaw State Fightin’ Butches (0-1)
After allowing Oklahoma to squeak by 73-0, Red Wolves coach Butch Jones said, “I thought they out-athleted us.” He’s not wrong. His team also was outscored, outrushed, outpassed and out-ed as the runaway early favorite to take home the Bottom 10 title.
2. #Kentergy (0-1)
The Golden Flashes opened their season by going down to UCF. Like, literally. They lost 56-6 and had the 35-point spread covered faster than my brother-in-law slathering Country Crock and strawberry jelly on a homemade biscuit. Now they go to Arkansaw Not Arkansaw State, where they are a 38-point underdog and where head hog Sam Pittman (a longtime friend of the Bottom 10, so he knows I say this in jest) probably just ate one of those same biscuits. Or six.
3. North by Northworstern (0-1)
You know when Northwestern put this 2023 schedule together, they thought, “Are you kidding? We get In-A-Rut-gers Week 1 and then Dook Week 3?” Well, they just got Sonny-at-the-toll-booth’ed in New Jersey, 24-7, while Duke did the same to Clemson, 28-7.
4. No-Braska (0-1)
Those same conversations were likely happening in Lincoln, where the Cornhuskers saw season-opening trips to Minnesota and Colorado and thought, “Hey, this isn’t bad. We nearly beat the Gophers last year, and the Buffaloes are the defending Bottom 10 champions!” Then the Cornhuskers blew a second-half lead and lost to Minnesota, just like last year, and the Buffs are led by Deion Sanders, who spent Week 1 being anointed as the greatest coach in the history of football.
5. The Palm(in the face)etto State
There are three FBS schools in the state of South Carolina — Coastal Carolina, South Carolina and Clemson — and they all lost over the weekend. There are five FCS schools in the state of South Carolina. They went 2-3, but one of those wins was by Charleston Southern over North Greenville, one of the Palmetto State’s seven Division II schools — which went 3-4 over the weekend, including in a head-to-head matchup. So your final record for the Sandlapper schools was 5-10, with two of those wins coming head-to-head, capped by Clemson’s orange crush of a loss at Duke. I immediately texted my best friend from high school, now a highly decorated high school history teacher in Lexington, South Carolina, to make sure the following tweet (or X or whatever we’re calling it) was OK. He hung up on me. He’s a South Carolina alum. #toosoon
N Greenville L
The Citadel L
Coastal Carolina L
SC State Lx2
The last time the state of South Carolina had a weekend this bad was because of Sherman.
— Ryan McGee (@ESPNMcGee) September 5, 2023
6. San No-sé State (0-2)
Much is being made of the fact that the ragtag fugitive fleet known as the Pac-12, soon to be the 2Pac, has yet to lose a game. It hasn’t hurt that two of the league’s best teams have played San José State, with USC and Caleb Williams winning the Trojan-Spartan War 56-28 and Oregon State rolling 42-17. The magically and creepily accurate FPI tells us the Spartans should be 1-4 entering mid-October when they visit …
7. Whew Mexico (0-1)
The No-Bos opened the season with a brutal yet financially worthwhile trip to College Station, Texas, where they surrendered so many points and yards that they asked new A&M offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino if they could borrow his neck brace for their trip back to Albuquerque. After hosting Tennessee Tech in Week 2, the No-Bos remain at University Stadium to welcome in …
8. Whew Mexico State (1-1)
The Other Aggies shocked the Week 0 world when they were run over by the preseason top/bottom-ranked UMess Minutemen like they were the Redcoats retreating on the road back to Boston. Sure, the Other Aggies rebounded with a 58-21 win over the FCS Western Illinois Leathernecks. But now they make a pilgrimage to Jamey Chadwell’s Liberty before heading up Interstate 25 to visit the No-Bos — one week before traveling to current 0-2 Huh-Why-Yuh.
9. My Hammy of Ohio (0-1)
Despite losing 38-3 to the Hurricanes in the Battle of My-Hammys, the RedHawks are a touchdown favorite this weekend as — speaking of UMass — they make the trip east to face …
10. UMess (1-1)
Yes, our old friends from the Revolutionary War reenactment camp started the year 1-0, but they followed their triumph on Lexington Green with a Bunker Hill-like effort on The Plains, blindsided 59-14 by Hugh Freeze and Auburn. After a pair of #MACtion dates with My Hammy of Ohio and Eastern not Western Michigan, UMass closes out September with visits from Whew Mexico and … yes … wait for it … this is awesome … full circle moment … Arkansaw State! Week 0 glory be damned; all Bottom 10 roads still run through Massachusetts. And like a salt and brine mix on the Mass Turnpike, it’s going to rust out the undercarriage of the 2023 college football season.
Waiting List: Huh-Why-Yuh, LS-Who, Flori-duh, No-vada, Central Not Western or Eastern Michigan, Muddled Tennessee State, TC-Who Just Played For The Natty And Then Lost To The Bottom 10 Champs?