Thursday night football had all the joy of Artax sinking into the Swamp of Sadness. Truly, the college football season reached its bottom.
“What went wrong? How’d they get to this point,” color analyst Jay Walker asked the pressing question from ESPNU’s broadcast of Texas State vs. Louisiana-Monroe.
Walker referred specifically to ULM, a program that showed tremendous potential just three seasons ago when it won eight games behind quarterback Kolton Browning.
Louisiana-Monroe fired head coach Todd Berry Saturday, immediately following a 38-point loss to Arkansas State — the Warhawks’ sixth loss by at least 20 points on the season. But Thursday’s 13-point margin against Texas State may have been the nadir (or now. ULM sees Hawaii and New Mexico State to close out the season, so it could get worse).
Texas State limped into Thursday night football fresh off losses of 10 points to New Mexico State, and 22 points to Georgia State.
Yes, that Georgia State. The Georgia State that prior to this season, had never beaten an FBS opponent in its existence.
It’s no wonder rumors of Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione accepting a buyout for the remainder of his contract ran rampant this week.
A third win isn’t likely to save Franchione, even if he didn’t accept his buyout this week as suggested. Like ULM just a few years ago, Texas State showed potential since its move to FBS.
The Bobcats finished last season bowl eligible at 7-5, and returned an experienced roster that, on paper, looked capable of contending for the Sun Belt championship.
Instead, the Bobcats’ regular season neared its conclusion before a lot of empty seats, with a win that only served to ensure they won’t reside in the Sun Belt’s cellar.
But rock-bottom isn’t a 16-3 final between the Sun Belt’s last-placed teams. No, rock-bottom is the 2014 Fiesta Bowl champion falling to 0-11 in a 44-7 drubbing at home against East Carolina.
If ECU scores 50, that would give them more points than UCF has fans in attendance. pic.twitter.com/DvOcC0iFB1
— Troy Ondrizek (@HAOndrizek) November 20, 2015
This was the scene for a program that just 22 months ago, celebrated a lopsided defeat of the Big 12 champion in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
UCF parted ways with George O’Leary in October, opening one of the highest potential yet deepest basement gigs of the hiring cycle. UCF’s very identity was tied to O’Leary, so when his tenured catered, it did the same to the Knights’ aura.
A 0-12 season feels like an inevitability. Rival USF is starting to click under head coach Willie Taggart, just last week locking up bowl eligibility with a blowout of nationally ranked Temple.
The 2015 edition of the War on I-4 falls on Thanksgiving, and it’s not a stretch to suggest some of the CFB Huddle readership will have larger crowds at their home for dinner that night and UCF will have fans at Bright House Networks Stadium.
UCF’s next head coach can take solace from rival USF. Taggart endured two lean years to kickoff his tenure with the Bulls, but the days of cracking the Top 25 (No. 2 in 2007!) no longer feel so foreign.
In the meantime for UCF, the Knights have moved as far from the Top 25 as is possible. Only Kansas can match UCF’s potential 0-for finish.
While the Jayhawks’ Orange Bowl win isn’t exactly ancient history, Kansas reached bottom on a traceable decline. UCF’s didn’t sink like Artax into the Swamp of Sadness; the Knights fell like a penny dropped from a skyscraper.
For that intrepid soul ESPN made meme-famous Thursday, chin up. There’s only one direction UCF can go from here.