NCAA Football: Kent State at Arkansas

It's been a long race to the bottom, but with college football's regular season complete and bowl games ahead, it's time to determine the worst team of the 2023 season. This is the only tournament in sports where you advance by losing, and there are 12 teams in the field who have proven excellent at losing in recent months.

In our bracket, the lousiest teams in the country have been seeded with No. 1 belonging to the worst team in the Bottom 25 (Kent State). Teams seeded 1-4 get a first-round bye due to their excellence in chasing futility while 5-12 battle it out to see who advances to the quarterfinals.

Here are the four teams receiving byes based on their rankings in the Bottom 25:

No. 1 Kent State (1-11)
No. 2 Nevada (2-10)
No. 3 Louisiana-Monroe (2-10)
No. 4 Akron (2-10)

The following eight teams square off in the first round with the loser of each matchup advancing: 

No. 5 Southern Miss (3-9) at No. 12 Buffalo (3-9)
No. 6 UMass (3-9) at No. 11 UConn (3-9)
No. 7 Vanderbilt (2-10) at No. 10 Temple (3-9)
No. 8 East Carolina (2-10) at No. 9 Charlotte (3-9)

The rules are straightforward. The Bottom 25 rankings are based on Tom Fornelli's formula used to determine how likely each team is to lose a matchup with the other. Fornelli then consults the magical powers of an online number generator and asks it to pick a number between 1 and 100. This is our only option until these teams agree to square off in an actual Bottom 25 Playoff.

Let's get to the playoff!

First Round

No. 5 Southern Miss 17, No. 12 Buffalo 16
No. 11 UConn 31, No. 6 UMass 18
No. 7 Vanderbilt 41, No. 10 Temple 28
No. 8 East Carolina 10, No. 9 Charlotte 3

The first round produced an upset with No. 12 seed Buffalo losing to No. 5 seed Southern Miss, which mercifully eliminated the Golden Eagles from Bottom 25 title contention after they started 1-7. A 2-2 November helped Southern Miss avoid an even worse seeding. There were also a couple of regular-season rematches in the first round. UConn beat UMass 31-18 to close the regular season on Nov. 25, and our simulation upheld that result. In real life, Charlotte beat East Carolina 10-7 on Oct. 21, but the simulation produced a different result. The first round also saw the tournament's lone Power Five participant, Vanderbilt, win and escape title contention. 


No. 12 Buffalo 13, No. 4 Akron 10
No. 6 UMass 27, No. 3 Louisiana-Monroe 10
No. 10 Temple 31, No. 2 Nevada 20
No. 9 Charlotte 6, No. 1 Kent State 3

It was all chalk in the quarterfinals as the bottom four teams separated themselves from the field by carrying their regular-season struggles over into the simulation. This round featured yet another rematch: Buffalo outlasted Akron just like it did on Sept. 30 in a Bottom 25 Battle Royale. The simulation upheld that result.


No. 2 Nevada 14, No. 3 Louisiana-Monroe 10
No. 4 Akron 31, No. 1 Kent State 27

The best part of the semifinal rematch between Kent State and Akron is that the first game on Nov. 1 was actually a banger. Akron scored 21 unanswered points over the final 10 minutes and rallied for a 31-27 victory. Shockingly, there were no turnovers and only nine penalties in what turned out to be an evenly matched game. The simulation upheld that result and sent Louisiana-Monroe marching onward as the Warhawks fell to Nevada.

The Bottom 25 Championship Game

No. 3 Louisiana-Monroe 33, No. 1 Kent State 28

Last season, Colorado won the Bottom 25 championship and proceeded to become the sport's biggest offseason story with the hiring of Deion Sanders and his headline-generating behavior. Unfortunately for Kent State, there are no former multi-sport stars and cultural phenomenons like Sanders out there waiting to jump at the opportunity to coach the Golden Flashes. In fact, Kent State lost coach Sean Lewis to Colorado's staff after last season, leaving the program in the hands of first-time head coach Kenni Burns. Year 1 of the new regime featured a lone victory (vs. Central Connecticut State of the FCS), and the only loss within 10 points came against Akron (when the Golden Flashes blew a 17-point fourth-quarter lead). This is a worthy champion.

Tom Fornelli

Bottom 25 title history

2023: Kent State
: Colorado
2021: UMass
2020: COVID-19
2019: UMass
2018: UTEP
2017: UTEP
2016: Texas State
2015: UCF
2014: SMU
2013: Miami (Ohio)