The Bottom 10 inspirational thought of the week:
Peter Quill: When I look around, you know what I see? Losers.
I mean people who lost stuff.
And man, we all have, a lot.
But now life's given us a chance.
Rocket Raccoon: To do what?
Quill: To give a s---.
-- "Guardians of the Galaxy"
Yes, we've all lost stuff. Just this morning I realized that I've lost my favorite Evel Knievel T-shirt. And I suspect that at this very moment you're beginning to realize that the Bottom 10 has lost its longtime author, Mark Schlabach. No, I don't know where he went. We came into work Monday morning and he was gone, the B10 cubicle vacated except for a couple of Post-its, a Widespread Panic koozie and a framed 8x10 glossy of Ray Goff.
The opening weekend of the college football season always feels much as it did when we started curiously sifting through Schlabach's abandoned belongings. You go in thinking that you know exactly what you're going to find, but what you end up with is something else altogether.
For example, those of us who were seated in the packed press box at South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium last Thursday night. Yes, the game went down much as I expected, watching a somewhat unproven quarterback slice up a defense nearly at will and a team jumping out early and then using its depth to grind through the second half. Only, the team that did what I expected to happen wasn't the team that I expected to do it.
None of us had arrived in Columbia expecting to end the night writing stories about Texas A&M and Kenny Hill. But 52 points and 511 yards passing later, there we were, hammering away as we called our friends who cover Texas high school football, asking, "Who the heck is Kenny Hill?"
A few hours earlier, a scant five minutes into the game, as Steve Spurrier leapt into the air, spun around like Meryl Davis, tossed his headset and nearly hogtied himself with the cord, I couldn't help but think back to the words of Star-Lord.
I was indeed watching a man who was losing something. His everloving mind.
Welcome to opening weekend, HBC. Look on the bright side, you've got some company from the SEC East in the Bottom 10.
What did other teams lose, you know, besides games? Grab your Awesome Mix Tape and read ahead. And no whining about Schlabach. Like Ronan the Accuser, he's gone.
With apologies to Steve Harvey and Peter Quill, here is this week's Bottom 10:
1. Miami (Ohio) (0-1)
So, I take this job and everyone says, "Dude, this is easy. You just plug in all the directional Michigan schools in the MAC West and then fill in the rest." But then Central and Eastern both won their games. Then a little voice whispered in my ear, "Never fear, newbie, the MAC East has still got your back." And indeed it did. There is no doubt that first-year head man Chuck Martin knows how to coach. He won a pair of Division II national titles at Grand Valley State and helped Notre Dame reach the BCS title game. But there's still a lot of work to do. And one of those Post-its I found from Schlabach reminded me that the Redhawks finished the 2013 season at the top of his list, so far be it from me to mess with tradition.
2. Florida International (0-1)
In 2013, the Panthers posted perhaps the worst offensive season by any FBS team in a decade. But with 10 returning offensive starters, there was some preseason optimism that Ron Turner could get something going early. Then they lost to Bethune-Cookman by a thrill-killing score of 14-12. I'm told by inside sources that both schools have agreed to have the game film hard drives erased and publicly blame Edward Snowden.
3. Wake Forest (0-1)
In 2009, I wrote a midseason feature for ESPN The Magazine about Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe and how his mastery of redshirting had created a dynasty of fifth-year players who kept winning at a school that had previously been historically bad. The Demon Deacons then proceeded to lose five of their last six to miss a bowl game, beginning a streak of five consecutive losing seasons that ultimately led to Grobe resigning at the conclusion of last season. The Dave Clawson era began on Saturday with a 17-10 home loss to Louisiana-Monroe. So ... good job out of me.
4. Vanderbilt (0-1)
Your final score from Nashville: Temple 37, Jim Cantore 24, Microsoft Outlook 21, Zebras 17, Vandy 7, Ernest Tubb's Record Shop Sporting Goods & Screen Printing 0. With Ole Miss coming to town this weekend, there's little joy to be found in Music City. But if you had Vanderbilt in the "First To Have A 'Fire Our Coach' Sign Visible In The Background On 'College GameDay'" pool, please report to the alley behind the Tin Roof to collect your prize, a game-worn Anchor Down jersey.
5. South Carolina (0-1)
See above. And oh by the way, East Carolina, South Carolina's next opponent, pretty much runs the same offense as Texas A&M, only the Pirates have a quarterback that's actually played before. I don't know who'll win the game, but I already know who won the tailgate. Eastern North Carolina vinegar-based BBQ > South Carolina mustard-based atrocities.
6. Iowa State (0-1)
Chin up, Cyclones. There's no pride lost in falling to an FCS opponent when that school is also the three-time defending champion and riding a five-game winning streak against FBS opponents. Wait, what's that you say? North Dakota State lost its head coach and a dozen starters from last year? And wait, what was that you just said about Iowa State losing by 20? And what about how it also started last year with an FCS loss to Northern Iowa? OK, nevermind. Put your chins back down.
7. UMass (0-1)
Here's your other representative from the MAC East. UMass started the second Mark Whipple era by welcoming Boston College to Amherst for a sleepy 30-7 loss. In keeping with tradition, the Minutemen's only TD came via pass. Last season they scored only five rushing touchdowns in 12 games. I feel like they should play this game ever year as a Revolutionary War reenactment on Lexington Green and force the team that lost the previous year's contest to dress up as the Redcoats.
8. New Mexico (0-1)
The Lobos came out swinging and slipping like an overserved ice fisherman, falling to fellow perennial Bottom 10 candidate UTEP, 31-24. Meanwhile, New Mexico State outlasted FCS good-but-not-great program Cal Poly to run their record to 1-0 for just the second time in six years. Can't you feel I-25 already vibrating in anticipation of the Sept. 20 Rio Grande Rivalry? No, wait, that's this Eric Zeier special edition massage chair I found in Schlabach's cubicle.
9. Idaho (0-0)
Florida has already leveraged this one-play weather washout to pull off the weakest one-game player suspensions in college football history. I think the Vandals should insist on playing the makeup game in Moscow, Idaho, in mid-December and say, "Sorry, Will, the Kibbie Dome has been rented out for a rodeo, so we have to play outside in a potato field."
10. Troy (0-1)
Entering the season there was some buzz about the Trojans and their juco-bolstered defense slipping into the Sun Belt title fight and sneaking into a bowl game. But that D gave up 48 points to mid-C-USA resident UAB on Saturday while the O managed only 10 points. A question: If Auburn and Alabama play the Iron Bowl, then what do Troy and UAB play? Tweet me your game name suggestions. Or tweet them to Schlabach just to make him have to keep responding, "I don't write this anymore!"
Waiting list: Georgia Southern (0-1), Florida Atlantic (0-1), Miami (0-1), Southern Miss (0-1), Washington State's fourth-quarter lead, Wisconsin's fourth-quarter lead, Louisville stealing the Miami Sharks' unis.