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Worst of the 21st: Peay Regional, 2nd Round

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Can Illinois’s three teams hold off the other five? (Those five are basically just Indiana, Purdue, and Rutgers, so this competition is right where it should be.)

They don’t make ‘em like they used to...

Please play this music whilst reading.

(6) 2004 Illinois Fighting Illini 3-8/1-7 (2-8 vs. FBS) vs. (3) 2003 Indiana Hoosiers 2-10/1-7 (1-10 vs. FBS)

ILLINOIS

When your school gets nine bids, it’s hard to distinguish each entrant, but know this: 2004 Illinois was bad. Subtract the win over Florida A&M, and you’re talking a 30-27 fourth quarter comeback win over a Western Michigan team destined to finish 1-10, and a 26-22 fourth quarter comeback win over fellow entrant 2004 Indiana.

Why they were better than you think: They spotted Indiana a 19-0 lead before outscoring them 26-3 the rest of the way. As they prepare for another matchup with a mid-00’s Indiana squad, they might be able to draw on that experience to escape this bracket.

Why they were worse than you imagine: Did you miss the part where you were told they needed a TD with 1:02 to play to win a home game against the last place team in the MAC? The 45-0 loss @ Minnesota (who went 7-5) is further evidence that this squad is just as capable of not showing up as anybody else in the field

INDIANA

As noted in the bracket reveal post, this is a dreadful team. It some ways unusual for an Indiana entrant (the offense sucked), but still a very Indiana entrant overall. Gerry DiNardo sent all three of his Hoosier teams to this field, and this, the middle one, may have what it takes to make the deepest run of any of them.

Why they were better than you think: The 2003 Purdue Boilermakers won nine games, one of only three Tiller teams to record that many wins. Indiana held them to a one-score victory (24-16). The Hoosiers also avoided the Big Ten basement with a last minute 17-14 victory over Peay regional 1-seed 2003 Illinois. FCS wins don’t matter, but Indiana did get theirs by 30 points over Indiana State.

Why they were worse than you imagine: The Hoosiers averaged 13.1 ppg vs. FBS competition and only once exceeded 17 points. They had four different conference losses where they scored 7 or fewer and lost each by at least 28 points. Fresh off their win over Illinois, they played the 2004 Penn State Nittany Lions, who entered 2-8/0-6. Penn State won 52-7.

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    2004 Illinois
    (31 votes)
  • 80%
    2003 Indiana
    (126 votes)
157 votes total Vote Now

*****

(7) 2013 Illinois Fighting Illini 4-8/1-7 (3-8 vs. FBS) vs. (2) 2019 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 2-10/0-9

ILLINOIS

Averaging 29.7 ppg, this is one of the most prolific offenses in the field. Nathan Scheelhaase’s stellar senior campaign saw the Illini break 30 points on seven different occasions (if you include the game against FCS Southern Illinois). It would seem there’s enough firepower to overwhelm hapless Rutgers. But, oh dear, that defense.

Why they were better than you think: Like their opponent, they boast a non-conference victory over a bowl-bound team. They also hung tough with a ranked Washington squad in Soldier Field. Maybe Ohio State was just bored, but Illinois also put up 35 on the #3 Buckeyes, and only trailed 47-35 midway through the 4th quarter.

Why they were worse than you imagine: They went 1-7 in Big Ten play and the victory was over 1-seed 2013 Purdue. You never turn down a road win, but, against one of the very worst teams in this field, the Illini were tied entering the 4th quarter. If Illinois was too good to belong in this field, they could’ve proven it against fellow entrant, the 2013 Northwestern Wildcats, in the season finale. Instead, Northwestern—who entered the game winless in conference play—overcame a 4th quarter deficit to notch the road win. THAT is how you clinch a spot in this field.

RUTGERS

This team made the football world aware of Nunzio Campanile’s existence. Other than that, you’ll have to look pretty hard for bright spots. Still, as a 2-seed, they must have done something right to have been deprived of that top spot. I’m not sure what it is, but if you stare at the data long enough, you can always find a way to politely lie.

Why they were better than you think: Rutgers beat a bowl team. That’s too short of a sentence to be all that tricky or indirect. Rutgers beat a bowl team. [Okay, fine, dammit. It was Liberty, and the Flames entered the game as a road favorite.] They went 2-1 in non-conference play, averaging 36 ppg in the process, and were only a score down to Boston College in the 4th quarter.

Why they were worse than you imagine: That only leaves 51 points for conference play (5.67 ppg!!!). In order: 0, 0, 7, 0, 7, 10, 21 (Ohio State coasting), 0, 6. Five of the six TDs they scored in conference play came after they already trailed by 21+. They only spent 7:18 of Big Ten play tied at anything other than 0-0. In the season finale vs. the Penn State Nittany Lions, Justin Davidovicz hit a FG with 3:32 remaining in the first quarter to put Rutgers up 3-0. The next 3:26 were the only time Rutgers led a Big Ten opponent all year.

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 5%
    2013 Illinois
    (9 votes)
  • 94%
    2019 Rutgers
    (161 votes)
170 votes total Vote Now

*****

(5) 2008 Indiana Hoosiers 3-9/1-7 (2-9 vs. FBS) vs. (4) 2016 Purdue Boilermakers 3-9/1-8 (2-9 vs. FBS)

INDIANA

This is not Antwaan Randle El’s Hoosiers. Take away the 45-3 win over FCS Murray State and you have a team that averaged 18.3 ppg. Indiana just missed a first-round bye, but, make no mistake, this was a bad team. But funny things can happen when the Old Oaken Bucket is at stake. At least let’s hope they’re funny, at least in a “laugh so we don’t have to cry” sort of way.

Why they were better than you think: This Hoosier crew beat the 2008 Northwestern Wildcats, who went 9-2 in their other regular season games. They also took the 2008 Michigan State Spartans, who would finish 9-4, to the 4th quarter trailing only 36-29.

Why they were worse than you imagine: The upset over NW was their only conference win. Among seven losses were defeats by 27, 32, 35, 36, and 52 points. They allowed 47 ppg in their 0-4 November run, and that includes a home loss to Central Michigan. While the 62-10 loss to Purdue was to a hyped-up Boilermaker squad in Joe Tiller’s final game, ANY 52 point loss to a 3-8 opponent is sufficient to demonstrate that you have the makings of a contender in this bracket.

PURDUE

Darrell Hazell’s swan song couldn’t match the futility of previous iterations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a run. Then again, this team gave no evidence of being able to make any sort of run (3.2 ypc, 96.3 ypg) (*ducks tomato*), so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Why they were better than you think: Purdue was 3-3 when Hazell was fired. Is there any chance he was fired too soon? [ed.—No.] There was a win over Nevada, a thrilling 34-31 victory over fellow entrant 2016 Illinois, and…um…a close loss to Indiana. They also led a 9-win Minnesota Golden Gophers team @ TCF at halftime.

Why they were worse than you imagine: Losing 50-7 to the Maryland Terrapins goes some ways toward explaining why a coaching change was made at 3-3. Purdue surrendered 42.6 ppg in conference play, including 50.0 over the four game stretch leading up the Old Oaken Bucket. This despite missing the 2016 Ohio State Buckeyes and the 2016 Michigan Wolverines (the two highest-scoring B1G teams that year) in league play. It was bad. It could have been worse.

Can we just not involve the Old Oaken Bucket in this travesty?

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    2008 Indiana
    (92 votes)
  • 42%
    2016 Purdue
    (69 votes)
161 votes total Vote Now

*****

(8) 2015 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 4-8/1-7 (3-8 vs. FBS) vs. (1) 2003 Illinois Fighting Illini 1-11/0-8 (0-11 vs. FBS)

RUTGERS

The Kyle Flood era looks good in retrospect, but don’t let that fool you. His final team earned its spot here. Rutgers’s wins amount to much less than meets the eye, and include FBS Norfolk State, a 2-10 Army squad, and a 0-12 Kansas team. On the wrong day, this team could definitely out-suck the 1-seeded Illini.

Why they were better than you think: The win I didn’t mention was a 55-52 shootout over Indiana, where the Scarlet Knights overcame a 52-27 deficit. And this was a bowl-bound Indiana team. Add in a 46-41 loss to fellow entrant, 2015 Maryland, and Rutgers is at least more entertaining than the majority of teams in the field.

Why they were worse than you imagine: Plenty of defenses had success shutting this team down as Rutgers was held to 16 points or less five times. And five Big Ten opponents hung 46 or more on the Scarlet Knights…including fellow entrant, 2015 Maryland. If you surrender 46 at home to somebody else in the field, it’s not a fluke that you’re here.

ILLINOIS

Oh boy. 1997 Illinois was the last Big Ten team to go winless, but the 2003 model is one of very few in this bracket to record zero FBS victories. The too young among you were probably wondering “How could anybody beat out 2019 Rutgers for the 1-seed?” So young you are. Deep breath. Take a look.

Why they were better than you think: 49-22 over FCS Illinois State. Look at it! Some of the teams here lost their FCS matchup. Not 2003 Illinois. No sir. The whole non-conference wasn’t bad. They led Missouri (who went 8-5) in the 4th quarter, outgained a bowl-bound UCLA squad, and only lost to Aaron Rodgers and Cal by 7. Cal beat co-national champion USC in 2003, so, by the transitive property…

Why they were worse than you imagine: The Cal game was 31-14 until garbage time, and the UCLA loss was 6-3. In conference play they averaged 14.0 ppg, never scoring fewer than 10 or more than 20. It was a consistent futility, at least. They didn’t hold a lead in a Big Ten game until November and this was the team that gave 3-seed Indiana their conference win. That was the only conference game Illini lost by less than 17 points.

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    2015 Rutgers
    (30 votes)
  • 82%
    2003 Illinois
    (138 votes)
168 votes total Vote Now