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Worst of the 21st: Sweet 16—Salem Regional

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Can Nebraska continue their “miracle” run, or is Minnesota too “cold-blooded”? (And another in a seemingly endless series of Indiana/Illinois matchups.)

No unity here

Today’s honorees prove that while nothing good lasts forever, nothing bad does either...but there’s always something else bad to replace it.

Thus, while Northwestern had the Big Ten cellar to themselves for six consecutive seasons (1976-1981), in 1982, they managed a tie for 8th, finishing ahead of Minnesota, who pulled off the impressive feat of being ranked (#19 when they were 3-0/1-0) the same season they finished last in the Big Ten (they finished 3-8/1-8...see previous parenthetical).

Still, our first honoree today is not the 1982 Golden Gophers, but their 1983 successor. The ‘83 squad, Joe Salem’s last, went 1-10/0-9 with a -12.14 SRS (good for #101 of 112). This already screams “terrible team,” but what makes them transcendent is the defense giving up 47.1 PPG (#112/112). Going by PPG/A, this is the worst B1G defense of at least the last forty years. Further, I believe that they gave up more overall points in 11 games than any recent team has given up in 12.

To be fair, 84 of those points came in a non-conference game vs. 1983 Nebraska, one of the highest-scoring offenses ever. Still, they also surrendered 69 (nice) to Ohio State, 61 to Iowa, 58 to Michigan, 56 to Wisconsin, and 50 to Illinois. Northwestern was back to their old tricks in 1983, averaging less than 10 PPG. They still beat Minnesota 19-8.

Joining the ‘83 Gophers today is the 1984 Indiana Hoosiers. While the SRS is a comparatively modest -8.52, the Hoosiers are one of only two non-Northwestern B1G teams to go completely winless in the last 45 years (don’t worry, the other one will be honored too). The Hoosiers had seven losses by 8 points or fewer, so there was some bad luck involved in going winless. Still, the season began with a loss to a Duke team that went 2-9, and Northwestern averaged fewer than 10.0 PPG in their other 10 games, but dropped 40 on Indiana, so save your sympathy.

Still, the lesson to draw from today’s honorees may be “fear not.” Following their season, Minnesota was able to land Lou Holtz, and Minnesota was in a bowl by 1986. The 1984 Hoosiers were Bill Mallory’s first Indiana team, and also made a bowl by 1986. Then, in 1987, they beat Michigan and Ohio State in the same season and were playing for a Rose Bowl birth in mid-November.

*****

Today’s matchups:

[capsules can be found here: https://www.offtackleempire.com/2020/5/1/21242843/worst-big-ten-football-teams-2007-2011-minnesota-2016-rutgers-2005-2006-illinois-2009-michigan]

(6) 2004 Indiana Hoosiers 3-8/1-7

-4.98 SRS: #81 of 120 (B1G #4 ranked conference)
23.8 PPG: #78 of 120
31.2 Opp. PPG: #89 of 120

(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

  • W 33-30 vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (finished 7-5, made bowl; Rutgers led 27-7 midway through 3rd, lost in OT)
  • W 40-19 vs. San Jose State Spartans (finished 3-8; Illinois led 40-7 early in 4th)
  • L 20-35 @ #15 California Golden Bears (8-4, made bowl; Illinois led 17-7 at half and 17-14 after 3rd)
  • L 14-61 vs. #17 Michigan State Spartans (5-6; 38-7 at half, 59-7 with 10:00 to play)
  • L 7-35 @ Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, made bowl)
  • L 13-36 @ Indiana Hoosiers (4-7; was 8-seed in field, 21-13 after 3rd)
  • L 10-63 vs. #12 Penn State Nittany Lions (11-1, #3; 56-3 at half)
  • L 24-41 vs. #15 Wisconsin Badgers (10-3, #15; 34-24 late in 4th)
  • L 2-40 @ #12 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-2, #4; 160 yards of offense)
  • L 3-37 @ Purdue Boilermakers (5-6; 17-0 after 3rd)
  • L 21-38 vs. Northwestern Wildcats (7-5, made bowl; 24-21 at half)

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 15%
    2004 Indiana
    (19 votes)
  • 84%
    2005 Illinois
    (106 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now

*****

(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)

(1) 2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers 1-11/0-8 (1-10 vs. FBS)

SRS -11.69: #104 of 120 (B1G #6 ranked conference)
26.2 PPG: #68 of 120 (26.7 vs. FBS)
36.7 Opp. PPG: #110 of 120 (37.6 vs. FBS)

  • L 31-32 vs. Bowling Green Falcons (finished 8-5, made bowl; BGSU led 21-0 at half, trailed 24-21 until last second FG, won in OT)
  • W 41-35 vs. Miami (OH) RedHawks (6-7, no bowl; Minnesota led 28-12 midway through 4th, won in 2 OT)
  • L 39-42 @ Florida Atlantic Owls (8-5, made bowl; FAU led 35-14 at half, 42-24 early in 4th)
  • L 31-45 vs. Purdue Boilermakers (8-5, made bowl)
  • L 7-30 vs. #8 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-2, #5)
  • L 20-40 @ Indiana Hoosiers (7-6, made bowl)
  • L 48-49 @ Northwestern Wildcats (6-6, no bowl; NW trailed 35-14 late in 3rd, won in 2 OT)
  • L 21-27 vs. North Dakota State Bison (Minnesota led 21-17 after 3rd)
  • L 10-34 @ #19 Michigan Wolverines (9-4, #18; Minnesota led 10-0 early in 2nd)
  • L 17-44 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (9-4, #20)
  • L 16-21 @ Iowa Hawkeyes (6-6, no bowl)
  • L 34-41 vs. #24 Wisconsin Badgers (9-4, #24; Minnesota led 13-3 late in 2nd, tied 20-20 after 3rd)

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 51%
    2018 Nebraska
    (124 votes)
  • 48%
    2007 Minnesota
    (117 votes)
241 votes total Vote Now