On Saturday afternoon, a bunch of the Off Tackle Empire staff were on Slack bemoaning the losses, potential upcoming losses, and various historical losses each of their teams had taken this year. In what was the saddest game of one-upsmanship I have ever witnessed, fans of various schools started to make their case for why they were the saddest team in all of football. Obviously this conversation was grounds for a piece on the mainpage, right? Like, what sounds more fun than discussing which team is worst! So that's the premise, let's get on to the candidates.
(In alphabetical order)
Record: 4-4 (1-3)
All things considered, Illinois really does not seem to belong here. They have a conference win, are .500 on the year, and are hoovering right around the middle of the rankings in advanced-ish stats rankings. So, why are they here? Because they have no offense. Like, they really are bad on that side of the ball and the coaching change, injuries, and Illinois having an inept coach before said change is starting to rear its ugly head. Let's hear from the staff on why Illinois is the worst team.
thumpasaurus: As an Illinois fan, I'm almost always looking towards the future, since the present is usually a smoldering crater. Therefore, watching Illinois is usually about asking "what are they building towards?" Well, this year is essentially an audition of the program for a new coach to show what we have to work with, and until the wheels fell off against Wisconsin in the fourth quarter, we had at long last played 11 straight quarters of competitive B1G football! Maybe we were finally a step above rock bottom, and a coach could come here and win quickly with the pieces left behind! Alas. Nope. Our first shutout in three years left us looking totally outclassed, outmotivated and outhustled. Now that it's been shown that we're secretly an utter train wreck with some senior talent on the DL, it's hard to see what a new coach will use to avoid going 1-11 next year. And with every week, another major coaching vacancy appears to give us a tremendous amount of competition. I'm now staring another failed coaching hire in the face, and provided the coach we hire in 2019 is a winner, looking at 2022 before we're competitive again. In the bigger picture, however, my overall view of Illinois Football is changing. My freshman year was 2007, and in my 5 years we won fewer than 5 games only once. We were a legitimate threat to win many of the games in which we played, and that's been the level I've been expecting to return to at some point. However, this debacle is going a long way towards having me come around to the fact that I'm simply a fan of a losing football program whose natural state is to be complete afterthought. A hopeless joke, destined to serve as "the other team" in the narrative for the teams upon which the sun shines, forever condemned to be an embarrassing loss on any resume. It really was a turning point, in that I turned off football with most of a half to go and went to do something productive with a chunk of my life. Perhaps I'm growing up, and part of growing up means living in the real world and leaving behind this fever dream of Illinois having a modestly successful, 5-8 win program that people care about. Maybe I'm already starting to.
And that is why my team is the worst. The Michigans and the Nebraskas and the Penn States...they come back eventually. They're the real football program. Illinois is slowly showing me that their time as a real football program was long before my time as a fan, and that they will never reach that level and nobody will ever understand why I care.
[late add]: Oh, and we've dropped 50 passes in 8 games. 23 for first downs. Six for touchdowns. Source
Record: 4-4 (0-4)
Similar to our friends above, the record shows .500, so how bad can it be? Oh... that's a solid four game losing streak, isn't it. No conference wins, but they've been reeeeeally close. And because my responses were solicited in conversation form, I'll just leave this here:
C4B: [responding to thump's rant from above] So, welcome to Indiana's entire existence, is what you're saying.
thumpasaurus: Imagine starting off with a glimpse of what it would be like to be a real big time college football team.
C4B: Imagine being the third most popular team at your own school at best.
Maybe second if men's soccer is having a truly off year.
No, wait, forget about baseball. Still 3rd at best.
thumpasaurus: Well we're a very distant second to Illinois Basketball, which has begun a slide from which it may never recover and is worse than it's been since the early 70's. A few more years and women's volleyball will outdraw football
C4B: IU Men's Soccer almost has as many National Championships as IU football does bowl appearances. Not bowl wins, bowl appearances.
Like, I'll probably end up ceding "worst team in 2015" to someone eventually, but if you're talking football history, the worst team by most metrics is Indiana. It just is.
thumpasaurus: Absolutely... And this season can't really top 2009 for depression/shattered dreams
I'll never get over 2009 as long as I live
C4B: Whereas the only reason this year would be notable is if we somehow go from 4-0 to anything less than 6 wins, and only because we started 4-0.
thumpasaurus: I dunno. 2011 Illinois. 6-0 to 6-6.
C4B: Right, but this was IU's first 4-0 start since like 1993 (maybe '94).
thumpasaurus: Halfway through: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENING!!!"
End of season: "OH GOD ITS ALL OVER!"
C4B: See, both of those have already happened for us, and we still have 4 games to go.
thumpasaurus: That familiar "fuck it" mentality is there isn't it
C4B: Put it this way: Even though Indiana was keeping it close for most of the game against MSU, 95% of IU Twitter was already talking about Hoosier Hysteria, our first open to the public basketball event, that was being held the same night.
thumpasaurus: Haha we can't really talk about basketball now, coming off the worst two-game stretch anyone can remember us ever playing...
It's time for the season of the sport Illinois is number one in...
C4B: There are three seasons at IU: tailgating season, basketball season, and Little 5 season. All of them are also party season.