The Masked Rider strikes again

Originally Published: October 17, 2012
By Conor Nevins | ESPN.com

WEEK: Preseason | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | BYE | 11 | 12 | 13

The Bottom 10 inspirational thought of the week:


"We know that some of the ideas we try are, frankly, ridiculous. I'll put it this way: Sometimes, you have to try things that are completely wrongheaded than be overly cautious. That's one of the problems with programming -- that people try and remake past success."

-- Mike Lazzo, senior executive VP of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, as told to Variety

Cartoon Network celebrated its 20th anniversary this month. It was a bold experiment: a cable network dedicated entirely to animated programming, challenging industry assumptions that cartoons were the domain of the Saturday morning cereal crowd.

The network thought differently, empowering creative minds to think outside the box. The Bottom 10, a lover of all animation from Looney Tunes to Adult Swim, is sure glad it did.

A bold experiment in college football, the spread offense, attracts its own brand of unorthodox thinkers, intent on redrawing established lines of play calling and game management.

As Cartoon Network was blowing out the candles in celebration of its sustained success, the spread offense, rarely taken seriously as a championship-winning formula, was toasting its newest champion.

After six weeks, West Virginia had added its name to the list of national championship contenders. Coach Dana Holgorsen's spread had the potency of a creation cooked up in Dexter's Laboratory with the beefed-up bravado of Johnny Bravo.

The Mountaineers were putting up numbers that were, frankly, cartoonish, and many wondered if they could ride their offensive animation to the BCS title game.

In Week 7, West Virginia met the villain that would prove to be its undoing: the Masked Rider. It's an episode the Bottom 10 (and Texas fans) have seen before. Texas Tech stymied the Mountaineers' offense and, with no defense to fall back on, they fell 49-14 in Lubbock, earning the coveted No. 5 spot.

Southern Miss would probably prefer to spend Saturdays watching cartoons these days; the Golden Eagles' season is providing gallows humor at best. As one of the three remaining winless FBS teams, they take their turn at No. 1 in the Bottom 10 this week.

The Pillow fight of the week is Eastern Michigan versus Army.

With apologies to Steve Harvey and cartoon enthusiasts everywhere, here is this week's Bottom 10:

ESPN.com's Bottom 10
RANK TEAM 2012 RECORD COMMENT
1. Southern Miss 0-6 "The Flintstones": Not since 1976 has Southern Miss lost six consecutive games in a single season. To find the last time the Golden Eagles went winless, you'd have to go all the way back to 1925. Go back any further and you'll hit the Stone Age. Cave drawings might serve them better than the offensive plays they've been drawing up.
2. Eastern Michigan 0-6 "King of the Hill": Bronson Hill's 283 rushing yards and four touchdowns against Toledo was a performance worthy of royalty. Unfortunately for the Eagles, it wasn't worth a win.
3. UMass 0-6 "Doug": It's hard to fit in and make friends when thrown in a new environment. Unlike Doug Funnie, the Minutemen don't have Porkchop or Skeeter Valentine to keep them company during their FBS transition.
4. New Mexico State 1-5 "Rocky and Bullwinkle": New Mexico State's adventures on the Bottom 10 usually involve its trusted sidekick, New Mexico. But the Lobos' resurgence this season has made the Aggies' travails all the more lonely.
5. West Virginia 5-1 "Captain Planet and the Planeteers": Geno Smith couldn't provide the heroics and his Mountaineers couldn't summon their powers to avert disaster in Lubbock. It wasn't earth, fire, water, or heart that undid West Virginia, but wind.
6. Idaho 1-6 "Mr. Magoo": A bit of blind luck might be the best the Vandals can hope for in Week 8. They visit the highest-scoring team in the nation, Louisiana Tech.
7. Kansas 1-5 "Rugrats": Coach Charlie Weis is turning the team over to Kansas youngsters to build for the future. Considering what's left on the Jayhawks' schedule, his seniors might consider it a courtesy.
8. Akron 1-6 "Inspector Gadget": Go-Go-Gadget defense? Coach Terry Bowden has added some bells and whistles to the Zips' offense, but wins will be hard to come by as long as they're allowing almost 38 points a game.
9. F_U 2-11 "The Proud Family": United F_U stands through a combined 10-game losing streak. Pride might the only thing the FIU Panthers and FAU Owls have left to play for. At least one of them will be guaranteed a win when the teams meet Nov. 16.
10. UNLV 1-6 "TaleSpin": UNLV scored the game's first three touchdowns and led Nevada 31-14 at halftime. But the Rebels couldn't avoid being sent into a tailspin in the second half, allowing the Wolf Pack 21:07 of possession and crashing and burning in a 42-37 loss.

Waiting list: Army (1-5); Auburn (1-5); Beating the traffic in Shreveport, La.; Buffalo (1-5); Boston College (1-5); Colorado (1-5); Colorado State (1-6); Hawaii (1-5); Illinois' offense; Kansas media relations; Kentucky (1-6); Memphis (1-5); South Alabama (1-5); Texas defense; Texas offense; Texas special teams; UAB (1-5); UTEP (1-6); Wyoming-Air Force exchange of pleasantries.

Conor Nevins is a college football editor for ESPN.com.