(6) 2015 Maryland Terrapins 3-9/1-7 (2-9 vs. FBS) vs. (3) 2017 Illinois Fighting Illini 2-10/0-9
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 ppg. 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.
Illinois faked it for about 2.5 games, then the floodgates opened. Honestly, that’s not true. They were never fooling anybody. But this was workmanlike, salt-of-the-earth incompetence. No long scoreless streak, but a very bad offense. No getting lit up for 60 or 70 points, but a defense that does no favors. This is futility set to a metronome.
Why they were better than you think: The defense only allowed 31.5 ppg. Not great, but, in this field? Respectable. And again, the 2-0 start, and scoring late in the 1st half to trail #22 South Florida 16-9 in a Friday night road game. With a break here or there, maybe Illinois could pull off the upset and hit the B1G season 3-0 with momentum.
Why they were worse than you imagine: Reader, they could not. And did not. USF scored a TD on the last play of the first half and won by 24. Illinois wouldn’t sniff victory the rest of the year. They were never shutout and only gave up 50+ once, but consistently losing by two or three scores still makes you a very bad team. The most indicative non-conference evidence was needing a 4th quarter TD to beat Ball State—who would finish 2-10—at home. For a closing argument, let’s just note that Rutgers’s only road B1G win since 2015 came against this team.
Who was worse?
This poll is closed
(10) 2008 Michigan Wolverines 3-9/2-6 vs. (2) 2011 Indiana Hoosiers 1-11/0-8 (0-11 vs. FBS)
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 the Penn State Nittany Lions and Ohio State Buckeyes 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.
Kevin Wilson’s first Indiana team didn’t give up 83 points to anybody, by they did give up a lot to almost everybody. And the offense production took a step back, scoring 5.8 ppg less than the 2010 Indiana entrant did. The Hoosiers have the most entrants in this tournament, and this may well be their strongest contender.
Why they were better than you think: Virginia went 8-5 and, but for Frank Beamer’s last 10-win Virginia Tech Hokies squad, would have won their division. The Hoosiers came back from 23-3 down vs. the Cavs to take a 31-23 lead. They were competitive for 30-45 minutes against several B1G opponents, including trailing Ohio State by only a TD entering the 4th quarter.
Why they were worse than you imagine: They blew the Virginia game by giving up 11 points in the last 2:00. 2011 Ohio State is a fellow entrant, and probably the worst OSU team since 1987 (Indiana’s last victory over the Buckeyes). Five B1G losses came by 21 or more, including losses to the divisional winners—the Wisconsin Badgers and Michigan State Spartans—by a combined 114-10. Neither Ball State nor North Texas were horrible teams, but if you go 0-2 against them, it’s probably not bad luck that you’re 1-11, beating only FCS South Carolina State.
Who was worse?
This poll is closed
(5) 2002 Northwestern Wildcats 3-9/1-7 vs. (4) 2019 Maryland Terrapins 3-9/1-8 (2-9 vs FBS)
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 best 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.
This was just last year. You all remember this (even if you’d rather not). Rarely has a 2-0 (79-0! Over Howard. 63-20 over #21 Syracuse! Who ended 5-7.) been such fool’s gold. [If only they still got to play Texas…] Still, we have a job to do here. So, let’s document the atrocities.
Why they were better than you think: No matter that Syracuse had a disappointing season, that’s still a 43 point win over a Power 5 foe. No team in America turns that down. And the loss to Temple was a really funky game that they very well could’ve/should’ve won. Plus 48-7 over Rutgers indicates that while Maryland was bad, they weren’t quite “contender for title” bad. And, hey, they showed some spunk in the season finale, leading Sparty entering the 4th quarter.
Why they were worse than you imagine: They had a bye week to prepare for Penn State. It was a Friday night game. They cancelled classes. It was all set. And they lost 59-0 while surrendering 622 yards of offense. The turd they laid on the field was so large the coaches couldn’t shake hands after the game. The rest of the season was a postscript. But, lost in the hilarity of the Penn State blowout—and in consecutive losses of 42, 31, and 59 points—let’s not overlook Maryland’s final home game, where they trailed the bowl-less Nebraska Cornhuskers 54-0 until a late TD put them on the board.
Who was worse?
This poll is closed
(9) 2009 Illinois Fighting Illini 3-9/2-6 (2-9 vs. FBS) vs. (1) 2013 Purdue Boilermakers 1-11/0-8 (0-11 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.
The 1-seed swaggers into this matchup knowing that it is bad at every phase of the game and that it will take quite the performance to upset them. Still, even the worst teams have strengths (somewhere…I meant there has to be something), and Purdue won’t advance just by showing up. They’ll have to prove they’re the worse team here (and they probably will).
Why they were better than you think: 17-10 vs. Notre Dame entering the 4th quarter. The Fighting Irish would go 9-4 on the year, so this is a fine performance for the Boilers. Further, it’s worth pointing out that for the season, Purdue was only -2 in turnover margin. Purdue didn’t give games away. You had to take it from them.
Why they were worse than you imagine: Everybody other than FCS Indiana State (who, again, went 1-11 on the season themselves, and only lost to Purdue by 6) did take it from—and to—Purdue. They led fellow entrant 2013 Illinois a couple of times before falling, but that was the only B1G game they led all year. And don’t be fooled by the 56-36 loss to Indiana in the Old Oaken Bucket game. That was 49-9 late in the 3rd. Even leaving in the FCS opponent, Purdue was outscored by an average of 23.1 ppg, the worst margin in the B1G over a 30-year stretch.
Who was worse?
This poll is closed