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Worst of the 21st: Sweet 16—Morton Regional

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Two SRS’s worse than -10.00 and a last place offense. And last year’s Northwestern, who somehow didn’t hit either measure.

Only one team here averaged more than 17 PPG! Where are Uncle Rico’s QB skills when you need them?

The late 1980s gave us plenty of bad B1G football, almost all of it coming from Evanston or Madison. Today’s honorees reflect this.

It is tempting to give Northwestern insufficient attention given that they’ve already had their late 70s/early 80s achievements amply documented. However, the Wildcats continued to set the pace in term of both quantity and quality. In six of the seven seasons from 1982-1988, Northwestern won 3 or fewer games and posted an SRS of -7.50 or worse (the 4-7 campaign in 1986 being the exception).

Still, it was easy to overlook the consistent futility of Northwestern given the historical wretchedness of 1981.

Then came 1989.

The ‘89 Wildcats (-14.37 SRS) came with .02 of matching the ‘81 team’s SRS. Even this isn’t fully appreciated, as the offensive production (21.9 PPG...a 1,000 yard rusher in Bob Christian...a 1,000 yard receiver in Richard Buchanan) is enough to fool some people into thinking this team was merely bad. However, they earned their 11-0 record by giving up 45.2 PPG (105th of 106 teams) and being outscored by 23.3 PPG (a margin exceeded only by 2019 Rutgers of teams in our field). Perhaps no team mentioned at any point in this series closed their season worse than this squad, dropping their final two games 76-14 (@ MSU) and 63-14 (vs. Illinois).

Still, head north a couple of hours, and late 80s Wisconsin was doing its best to keep up. the 1987 team (2-9/1-7) actually beat out Northwestern for the Big Ten cellar by virtue of a 27-24 home loss to the Wildcats. [Amazingly, the lone conference win was a 26-24 upset of Ohio State. Of course Earle Bruce was fired before the season ended.] And the 1989 squad (2-9/1-7) needed everything they had to sneak out a 35-31 home win over the aforementioned ‘89 Northwestern disaster.

But the 1988 Badgers (1-10//1-7) deserve special attention for a number of reasons. First, the -12.99 SRS is worse than any team in our field, and is the worst in the last 40 years of any non-NW B1G school. Second, the offense was dead last in the country, averaging only 9.6 PPG. Their best scoring output for the season came in a 19-17 loss to Northern Illinois. They lost by 21 to a Northwestern team that finished 2-8-1.

Wait, if they beat NW, then how did they get a conference victory?

Axe.

In perhaps the most depressing iteration of FBS’s oldest rivalry, the 0-9 Badgers hosted the 2-5-2 Golden Gophers (whose wins were Miami (OH)—who finished 0-10-1—and Northern Illinois). Minnesota’s offense only averaged 17.7 PPG (this was the only year Darrell Thompson did NOT rush for 1,000 yards), and Wisconsin was able to escape with what was had to be an opposite-of-scintillating 14-7 victory.

If you think all three TDs were scored by the offenses, you just haven’t been paying attention.

As you noticed, Minnesota had two ties. [Until 1996, they had those in CFB.] 1988 was a bizarre year in the Big Ten. Eight of the ten schools had a tie, seven in conference games. The end-of-season Floyd of Rosedale game pitted 2-6-2/0-5-2 Minnesota vs. 5-3-3/3-1-3 Iowa. [Those are records, not soccer formations.] The standard way of counting ties in conference standings is half-win, half-loss. Which means...

1988 Minnesota, with a 0-6-2 conference record, ends up 1-7, and tied with Wisconsin for last. Since Wisconsin won the tiebreaker—a head-to-head victory—despite the worst non-NW SRS in at least 40 years, that means the ‘88 Gophers deserve to be honored here as well. Great work Minnesota!

___________

Okay, our last set of regional semis. And, omigod, look at these terrible offenses. Don Morton, head coach of the ‘88 Badgers, is undoubtedly proud.

[capsules can be found here: https://www.offtackleempire.com/2020/5/2/21244761/worst-big-ten-football-teams-2019-northwestern-2018-rutgers-2012-2016-illinois-2015-purdue-indiana]

(3) 2002 Indiana Hoosiers 3-9/1-7 (2-9 vs. FBS)

SRS -10.42: #97 of 117 (B1G ranked #4 conference)
21.5 PPG: #955 of 117 (21.2 vs. FBS)
37.1 Opp. PPG: #109 of 117 (38.9 vs FBS)

(2) 2012 Illinois Fighting Illini 2-10/0-8 (1-10 vs. FBS)

SRS -10.35: #107 of 124 (B1G ranked #4 conference)
16.7 PPG: #122 of 124 (14.2 vs. FBS)
32.1 Opp. PPG: #95 of 124 (35 vs FBS)

  • W 24-7 vs. Western Michigan Broncos (finished 4-8)
  • L 14-45 @ Arizona State Sun Devils (8-5, made bowl; 35-7 early in 3rd)
  • 44-0 vs. Charleston Southern Buccaneers (FCS opponent)
  • L 24-52 vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (9-3, no bowl; Illinois trailed 21-7 at half, 52-17 early in 4th)
  • L 7-35 vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (8-4, no bowl, probation)
  • L 24-31 @ Wisconsin Badgers (8-6, made bowl)
  • L 0-45 @ #25 Michigan Wolverines (8-5, #24)
  • L 17-31 vs. Indiana Hoosiers (4-8, 24-17 after 3rd)
  • L 22-52 @ #6 Ohio State Buckeyes (12-0, #3; 38-6 late in 3rd)
  • L 3-17 vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-7, made bowl; 3-3 late in 3rd)
  • L 17-20 vs. Purdue Boilermakers (6-7, made bowl)
  • L 14-50 @ Northwestern Wildcats (10-3, #17; 17-14 midway through 2nd, 41-14 midway through 3rd)

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    2002 Indiana
    (22 votes)
  • 78%
    2012 Illinois
    (79 votes)
101 votes total Vote Now

*****

(5) 2019 Northwestern Wildcats 3-9/1-8

SRS -3.13: #87 of 130 (B1G ranked #2 conference)
16.3 PPG: #126 of 130
23.6 Opp. PPG: #43 of 130

  • L 7-17 @ #25 Stanford Cardinal (finished 4-8)
  • W 30-14 vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (4-8; NW led 16-14 at half)
  • L 10-31 vs. Michigan State Spartans (7-6, made bowl; 31-3 late in 4th)
  • L 15-24 @ #8 Wisconsin Badgers (10-4, #11; 24-3 midway through 4th)
  • L 10-13 @ Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-7; Nebraska wins on walkoff field goal)
  • L 3-52 vs. #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1, #3)
  • L 0-20 vs. #20 Iowa Hawkeyes (10-3, #15)
  • L 3-34 @ Indiana Hoosiers (8-5, made bowl; 24-3 at half)
  • L 22-24 vs. Purdue Boilermakers (4-8; NW led 16-7 at half, Purdue wins on walkoff field goal)
  • W 45-6 vs. UMass Minutemen (1-11; 21-6 late in 3rd)
  • L 22-38 vs. #11 Minnesota Golden Gophers (11-2, #10; Minnesota up 21-0 early in 2nd)
  • W 29-10 @ Illinois Fighting Illini (6-7, made bowl; 17-10 after 3rd)

(1) 2018 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 1-11/0-9

SRS -9.65: #106 of 130 (B1G ranked #3 conference)
13.5 PPG: #130 of 130
31.4 Opp. PPG: #89 of 130

  • W 35-7 vs. Texas State Bobcats (finished 3-9)
  • L 3-52 @ #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (13-1, #3)
  • L 14-55 @ Kansas Jayhawks (3-9; 24-14 late in 2nd)
  • L 13-42 vs. Buffalo Bulls (10-4, made bowl; 35-6 at half)
  • L 17-24 vs. Indiana Hoosiers (5-7; 24-7 at half, and after 3rd)
  • L 17-38 vs. Illinois Fighting Illini (4-8; 24-14 at half, and after 3rd)
  • L 7-34 @ Maryland Terrapins (5-7; 34-0 until late 4th)
  • L 15-18 vs. Northwestern Wildcats (9-5, #21; Rutgers led 15-10 after 3rd)
  • L 17-31 @ Wisconsin Badgers (8-5, made bowl; 24-3 after 3rd)
  • L 7-42 vs. #4 Michigan Wolverines (10-3, #14)
  • L 7-20 vs. #16 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-4, #17)
  • L 10-14 @ Michigan State Spartans (7-6, made bowl; Rutgers led 10-7 in 4th quarter)

Poll

Who was worse?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    2019 Northwestern
    (14 votes)
  • 87%
    2018 Rutgers
    (101 votes)
115 votes total Vote Now