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Worst of the 21st: Salem Regional Final

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At least neither team is from Indiana, right?

Makes about as much sense as Nebraska still being in this thing

1995 was a good year for the Big Ten (at least until bowl season). Seven different teams were ranked at one point or another. Five finished ranked. And Northwestern pulled off one of the most storied seasons in B1G history (again, at least until the bowl).

Still, we’re here for the bad teams, not the good ones. While we don’t have a showdown between dueling 0-8 teams, we have something pretty close. And a bonus feature!

Neither the 1995 Indiana Hoosiers nor the 1995 Minnesota Golden Gophers were really that bad, historically. But the Big Ten rated out as the top conference in the nation in 1995, such that Indiana and Minnesota ranked 1st and 7th, respectively, in strength of schedule (out of 108 teams). One way you could tell these teams played tough schedules is by the way each had just given up by the end of the year.

Minnesota (3-8/1-7) started 3-1 and won their B1G opener with a 39-38 win over Purdue. While not quite up to the standards of the 59-56 masterpiece from ‘93, it still saw Chris Darkins rush for nearly 300 yards and Minnesota convert a late 2 pt conversion then watch Purdue miss the game-winning field goal in the closing seconds.

Of course, this means that Minnesota needed a last-second FG attempt to preserve a home win against a Purdue team that finished 4-6-1, so the fast start wasn’t going to last. Losing to Michigan by 35 and Ohio State by 28 is not shameful, but the Gophers ended the season with road blowouts to Illinois (48-14) and Iowa (45-3), neither of whom finished above .500 in conference play.

For their part, Indiana went 2-1 in non-conference play, but couldn’t notch a win once conference season rolled around. Like Minnesota, there was a close loss or two, but the Hoosier offense only averaged 14.5 PPG for the season, and only 12.3 in conference games. You know how Minnesota’s lone conference win was over Purdue? Yeah, well Purdue closed out the season beating Indiana 51-14.

What would have happened had 1-7 Minnesota played 0-8 Indiana? We’ll never know. However, almost as if the football gods realized that Big Ten fans were being deprived of their quota of bad football because this matchup didn’t happen, we were gifted a first ballot Hall-of-Fame bad game elsewhere in conference play that year.

Yep, this was the year Illinois and Wisconsin closed the season playing to a 3-3 tie in Camp Randall stadium, the last tie in NCAA history. Darrell Bevell ended his playing career with a lacerated kidney. Simeon Rice and Kevin Hardy ended theirs missing a bowl because Illinois could only muster a 50 yard FG.

The two worst teams didn’t play, but the year still gave us something to stick in the time capsule of suck-ness, nestled right next to the Illinois-Northwestern 0-0 classic.

*****

YOUR ELITE 8 BREAKDOWN

Nebraska enters this matchup riding a streak of questionable poll results dating back to 1994. Will their luck run out? Give the (lack of) quality on the other side of the field, that seems probable. The Cornhuskers seem completely incapable of playing as poorly as Illinois did through most of their conference season. The -22.5 net scoring margin is bad enough (one of only three teams in the field to be -20.0 or worse), but that becomes -32.1 if you look only at B1G play. Admittedly, 2005 was a great year for the conference. Still, though, even by Illinois standards, this is a bad team.

Nebraska could be up to to the task, though, if the Huskers team that shows up is the one that started their season 0-6. The 56-10 loss to Michigan is on par with almost anything Illinois did, and losing at home to a Colorado team destined to finish under .500 would be enough to end any home sellout streak that wasn’t actually a jury-rigged exercise in myth-building. Of course, it is just that sort of can-do initiative that has sustained Nebraska through this tournament, so only a fool (or person capable of objectivity) would expect the run to end here.

Ron Zook! Scott Frost! Which ace recruiter can do less with more?

(2) 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini 2-9/0-8

-7.54 SRS: #95 of 119 (B1G #1 ranked conference)
17.0 PPG: #108 of 119
39.5 Opp. PPG: #117 of 119

(12) 2018 Nebraska Cornhuskers 4-8/3-6 (3-8 vs. FBS)

SRS +3.48: #52 of 130 (B1G #3 ranked conference)

30.0 PPG: #58 of 130 (28.6 vs. FBS)

31.2 Opp. PPG: #88 of 130 (33.3 vs. FBS)

  • L 28-33 vs. Colorado Buffaloes (finished 5-7; Nebraska led 28-27 in last two minutes)
  • L 19-24 vs. Troy Trojans (10-3, made bowl; Troy led 17-0, and led 24-13 late in 3rd)
  • L 10-56 @ #19 Michigan Wolverines (10-3, #14; 56-3 late in 3rd)
  • L 28-42 vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6-7, made bowl)
  • L 24-41 @ #16 Wisconsin Badgers (8-5, made bowl; UW led 20-3 at half)
  • L 31-34 @ Northwestern Wildcats (9-5, #21; Nebraska led 28-14 early in 4th, and 31-21 late in 4th, lost in OT)
  • W 53-28 vs Minnesota Golden Gophers (7-6, made bowl; Nebraska led 28-0 in late 2nd, was 28-22 midway through 3rd)
  • W 45-9 vs. Bethune-Cookman Wildcats (FBS opponent)
  • L 31-36 @ #8 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1, #3; Nebraska led 21-16 at half)
  • W 54-35 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8; 45-21 after 3rd)
  • W 9-6 vs. Michigan State Spartans (7-6, made bowl; Nebraska trailed 6-0 early in 4th)
  • L 28-31 @ Iowa Hawkeyes (9-4, #25; Iowa led 28-13 after 3rd, won walk-off field goal)

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    2005 Illinois
    (621 votes)
  • 63%
    2018 Nebraska
    (1082 votes)
1703 votes total Vote Now