[NOTE: Just to be clear, you should vote for the team you think was WORSE. We’re trying to figure out the worst of the worst. Better team gets to go home. Worse team has to stay and keep playing.]
(11) 2001 Northwestern Wildcats 4-7/2-6 vs. (6) 2015 Maryland Terrapins 3-9/1-7 (2-9 vs. FBS)
Like their 2013 school counterpart in the Peay regional, this version of the Wildcats entered the regular season ranked, started fast, and then quickly played down to a more historically expected standard of play. Unlike that team, the defense was the main culprit as Zak Kustok and Sam Simmons had themselves fine seasons.
Why they were better than you think: Four of the losses were by six points or less, and they were reliably entertaining. The 27-26 win over #23 (and bowl bound) Michigan State is nothing to scoff at. Overall, the offense proved it was more than just a one-year wonder, and would present a handful for any opponent here.
Why they were worse than you imagine: The defense was 103rd (out of 117 teams), and the season got worse as it went on as the Wildcats slid from 4-1 to 4-7, giving up 43.7 ppg in the process. November saw 56-21 and 59-16 losses in back-to-back weeks vs. Indiana and Iowa squads that combined to go .500 in the regular season. The 43-42 loss to Bowling Green gave rookie head coach Urban Meyer his first signature win, so they have that going against them too.
The Edsall-Locksley hybrid produced exactly the results you would expect. Before being cashiered, Edsall led his charges to a win over a South Florida crew that ended up 8-5. That he didn’t make it past the halfway point of the season tells you all you need to know about how the rest of Maryland’s season went.
Why they were better than you think: Besides beating USF, the Terps showed spunk in a one-point loss vs. Penn State and made Wisconsin sweat a bit in a 31-24 loss. Plus, Maryland did end the season in style, with a 46-41 road win over Rutgers, where the Terps erased a 31-10 first half deficit, outscoring Rutgers 19-3 in the 4th quarter. That’s the kind of performance that proves…you might not be the very worst team.
Why they were worse than you imagine: How about the team 47.2% completion rate? Or the 15:29 TD:INT ratio? Stop Maryland’s run, and there’s no plan B. They followed up the USF win with a 45-6 loss to West Virginia and a 28-0 loss to Michigan. The defense surrendered 34.4/game. There are worse teams in the field, but there’s no team that, on the wrong day, they can’t be worse than. Again, 29 interceptions. Stack the box and anything can happen.
Who was WORSE?
This poll is closed
(10) 2008 Michigan Wolverines 3-9/2-6 vs. (7) 2006 Michigan State Spartans 4-8/1-7
To think, Rich Rodriguez could have brought his offensive genius to Tuscaloosa the previous year instead. To have been deprived of this season…I shudder at what would’ve been lost. While anti-Michigan hate may lead to an overstatement of how bad this team really was, there is plenty of evidence they belong in the field and could, in the right situation, make a deep run.
Why they were better than you think: If the upset win over then #8 Wisconsin is a bit overrated since the Badgers crashed and burned, then the 25-23 opening day loss to Utah is underrated as the Utes went unbeaten on the season and finished #2. Either way, that is two showings of a higher level of competence than would be expected of a team in this field.
Why they were worse than you imagine: Both of those performances were in September, and there were still eight games remaining. 35+ point losses to Penn State and Ohio State get all the attention, but, really what says “This team truly sucked” more than a 13-10 home loss to a Toledo team that went 3-9? The only time Michigan scored 30+ on the season, they lost. To a 4-8 Purdue team. Just because everybody else took disproportionate glee in Michigan’s failings doesn’t mean they didn’t suck. They did. Just ask Toledo.
[Insert gif of John L. Smith slapping himself.]
Oh, you need more? The greatest comeback in CFB history was wasted on this team. It is only fitting that they have drawn the Wolverines in the first round. This team requires bizarreness, and that rivalry should be able to provide it.
Why they were better than you think: They defeated a team coached by a two-time national champion, and they defeated a team whose head coach won both a national championship and a Super Bowl as a defensive coordinator. The QB tandem of Stanton and Hoyer has had more pro success than almost any team in the field. Four losses by four or fewer points means that this team was very close to bowl eligibility. They led #12 Notre Dame by 16 or 17 points four different times.
Why they were worse than you imagine: Beating Dennis Erickson is more impressive when he’s coaching anywhere other than Idaho. Beating Dave Wannstedt is…beating Dave Wannstedt. Other than the epic comeback vs. Northwestern, the Spartans went the entire Big Ten season without scoring more than 21 points in a game. They closed the season on a 0-4 slide where they scored 67 points total. They lost to #12 Notre Dame because they were outscored 19-0 in the 4th quarter.
Who was WORSE?
This poll is closed
2006 Michigan State
(12) 2011 Ohio State Buckeyes 7-6/3-5 vs. (5) 2002 Northwestern 3-9/1-7
Yes, the Buckeyes have regularly been great, so, yes, this auto-bid is awkward. However, is it more awkward than being just good enough to persuade your AD a division title is in the cards, so he delays the 1-year probation until the next year when you’re unbeaten and could’ve played Notre Dame for a national title? Not so arrogant now, are you Buckeye fans? The 2012 Crimson Tide natty is blood on your hands. Therefore you deserve to be here.
Why they were better than you think: They made a bowl. Five of the six losses were by a TD or less. They beat the Big Ten champion. In the right light, this is a nine or ten win team. The defense was good, only allowing 21.0 ppg. Say what you will about the notorious “eye test,” but even if they borrowed another team’s uniforms, it would be clear they are among the better teams in the field.
Why they were worse than you imagine: You are the only Ohio State team in the last 16 years to lose to Michigan. It’s not 1988., so losing by 18 to Miami (FL) is not good. Congrats on being the only team to lose to post-scandal Penn State and giving Tom Bradley his lone coaching victory. You can say you “beat #16 Illinois” but that’s not fooling anybody. You blew a 21 point lead to Nebraska. There’s enough inconsistency here to stick around in the bracket for a while. You are the only Ohio State team in the last 16 years to lose to Michigan.
Just because the late 70’s and 80’s Wildcats were awful doesn’t mean that this team was anywhere near good. Randy Walker’s last three years as head coach were steady and fine, but this may be the worst Wildcat squad of the last 30 years.
Why they were better than you think: Northwestern has had a pretty good RB history over the last 25 years, but Jason Wright gets lost in the shuffle. His 1,200 yard, 12 TD season (with 5.6 ypc) is about as good as you can expect to find in this field. Given the number of teams with two or fewer wins, three FBS wins count for something.
Why they were worse than you imagine: But maybe not too much. The three vanquished foes—Duke, Navy, and Indiana—combined to go 7-29. Further, this is statistically the worst defense in the entire field. The Wildcats allowed 41.1 ppg, and 313.6 rush ypg. Air Force ran for 476 yards. Minnesota was able to win a 45-42 shootout while only throwing 9 passes. Larry Johnson had 257 yds and 11.2 ypc. Antoineo Harris had 44 carries for Illinois. PURDUE had 407 yards rushing and only threw 10 passes! This was a relentlessly bad defense.
Who was WORSE?
This poll is closed
2011 Ohio State
(9) 2009 Illinois Fighting Illini 3-9/2-6 (2-9 vs. FBS) vs. (8) 2005 Indiana Hoosiers 4-7/1-7 (3-7 vs. FBS)
Sitting at 1-6/0-5 (with the win over FCS Illinois State), this was shaping up to be a truly horrible team. But not even Ron Zook could keep Juice Williams down for a full season, and the Illini registered back-to-back wins over Michigan and Minnesota to raise their profile to “just bad.”
Why they were better than you think: Their last seven losses were all 14 points or closer at some point in the 4th quarter. The three non-conference losses were all to bowl-bound teams, including #5 Cincinnati. The 53-52 season-ending loss to Fresno State was one of the more fun games you’ll come across in perusing the field’s records (if you’re dumb enough to do such a thing).
Why they were worse than you imagine: If you have a senior QB who started a Rose Bowl, and your median scoring output is 16.5, something is wrong and you are a bad team. Illinois was in shouting distance in many games, but it’s not as if they left wins on the table. Had they finished blowing an 18-point 4th quarter lead @ Minnesota, you’re looking at a possible first-round bye.
Terry Hoeppner’s first season in Bloomington started 4-1 and sowed the seeds for Indiana’s only bowl appearance from 1994-2014, though he tragically did not live to see that moment. However, the rest of that season is better forgotten, unless you want to remove all doubt that the 2005 Hoosiers belong here in the field.
Why they were better than you think: 2005 Illinois is also in the field, so beating them doesn’t necessarily move the needle. However, it was a 36-13 thumping, which does count form something. For the season, they were outscored by an average of 10.3 ppg, which makes them mediocre, not atrocious. Again, this is Indiana, coming off of the DiNardo era. This was progress.
Why they were worse than you imagine: It’s amazing the average margin is only 10.3 given that all seven losses were by 17 or more, and the last five went -31, -31, -21, -27, and -27. Indiana gave up 40+ in each of those games. Nobody waxed them for more than 50, so the overall defensive numbers aren’t as bad as they could have been, but they consistently got scored on. They trailed in the 4th quarter of their victory over FCS Nicholls State.
Who was WORSE?
This poll is closed