Hi everybody. I’m just checking in from therapy. My therapist—who is less hirsute than Robin Williams, I can tell you that much—thinks part of my recovery is getting things off my chest. So, there’s two parts here: first, my subjective (but correct) rankings of the 16 worst teams, and, second, why anybody who didn’t agree with my #1 is wrong.
Teams 9-16. (Open to rearranging these teams somewhat; pretty closely lumped together):
16. 2016 Illinois (lost in round of 32 to 2018 Rutgers): 2016 was a really good year for Big Ten, which made several teams look worse than they were.
15. 2016 Purdue (lost in round of 32 to 2008 Indiana): See previous comment.
14. 2008 Indiana (lost in Elite 8 to 2003 Indiana): Beating a good Northwestern team puts a hard cap on how high they cold finish here.
13. 2002 Indiana (lost in Sweet 16 to 2012 Illinois): Would have been top 6, but for beating 8-6 Wisconsin Badgers team. -10.42 SRS suggests they should be “higher” anyway.
12. 2002 Northwestern Wildcats (lost in Sweet 16 to 2013 Purdue): Three wins, but none good. Their rushing defense may be the single worst thing in the tournament.
11. 2017 Illinois (lost in Sweet 16 to 2011 Indiana): Pretty non-descript bad team...except for losing at home to Rutgers
10. 2005 Illinois (lost in Elite 8 to 2018 Nebraska Cornhuskers): Horrible scoring margin (-22.5, 3rd-worst in field), but ‘05 was really good Big Ten, and played very tough schedule.
9. 2016 Rutgers (lost in round of 32 to 2004 Indiana): Yes, the awful shutouts, but 2016 Big Ten East was loaded. Could talk me into top 8, but not Final Four
Close, but not Final Four worthy
8. 2007 Minnesota Golden Gophers (lost in Sweet 16 to 2018 Nebraska): SRS (—11.69) was second-worst in field, but scoring margin (-10.5) was best of any of these 16 teams. Several close games.
t-6. 2003 Illinois (lost in Sweet 16 to 2008 Indiana): I’m copping out. They lost to ‘03 Indiana by 3. so on a neutral field...?
t-6 2003 Indiana (lost in Final Four to 2012 Illinois): Beat 2003 Illinois, but worse in every other measure. Only team in top 10 with conference win.
5. 2018 Rutgers (lost in Elite 8 to 2012 Illinois): Looked like upset, but actually think this Rutgers squad was not Final Four worthy. Very bad team though, make no mistake.
Final Four, but not ready to play for title
4. 2012 Illinois Fighting Illini (“Champion”): 2018 Nebraska made it all look fishy, but this WAS a horrible team. 2012 Big Ten was a bad league, and they still couldn’t notch conference win.
3. 2019 Rutgers Scarlet Knights (lost in Sweet 16 to 2003 Indiana): Probable people’s choice was really, really bad, but even though Liberty wasn’t that good, beating them still holds Rutgers to #3.
2. 2011 Indiana Hoosiers (lost in Elite 8 to 2013 Purdue): No FBS wins. And 2011 was not a vintage Big Ten year, yet Indiana still gave up 42.8 in conference play (while missing Michigan Wolverines (11 wins) and Nebraska (9 wins).
- 2013 Purdue Boilermakers (lost championship to 2012 Illinois). See below.
Dante had 9 circles of hell, but that’s only because he never attempted the following:
I noted that 2013 Purdue’s only win was over FCS Indiana State, and the fact that it was close (20-14) is especially damning because Indiana State went 1-11, and was one of worst FCS teams. Buckle in.
Indiana State’s only win was over D-II Quincy, who went 2-9
Quincy’s wins were over D-II Kentucky Wesleyan, who went 0-11, and NAIA Lindenwood-Belleville, who went 4-7
Lindenwood-Belleville’s wins were over the aforementioned Kentucky Wesleyan, and three NAIA schools: Culver-Stockton (who went 2-9), Central Methodist (who went 4-7), and Haskell (who went 2-9 and no longer has a football program).
The four schools Lindenwood-Belleville beat combined for 8 wins (but only six new schools added to exercise), none over teams with a winning record. Of note, Graceland, who went 1-10, was victimized by both Culver-Stockton and Central Methodist, and one of Haskell’s wins was by forfeit over a Cole College. Not only does Cole not have a program anymore, they didn’t really have one at the time: https://michigan-football.com/ncaa/f/colecoll.htm.
Graceland, Avila, Bethel (KS), Evangel, Trinity Bible College, and Cole combined for 13 wins. 9 of these wins were against each other, or aforementioned teams. Evangel’s 4-6 record was the best of any of them.
A glimmer of hope! Avila beat Mayville State, who went 7-4 and Evangel beat Peru State, who went 7-4. THESE ARE THE FIRST WINS BY ANY TEAM MENTIONED THUS FAR OVER A TEAM WITH A WINNING RECORD. But, of these two schools’s 14 wins, exactly 0 came against teams who had a winning record themselves. Fool’s gold. Do note Bethany, though. Bethany went 2-9, but their wins were over Tabor College and Southwestern Assemblies of God. Each of these wins merits comment.
I know that Southwestern Assemblies of God (can we call them SWAG, please?) played in 2013, but I cannot find a schedule of their results anywhere. Perhaps that is telling enough. I know that they went 6-4, and they tied for something called the Central States Football League title in 2012 (but only after Langston, who won it on the field, gave it up the next spring and had their conference wins awarded to their opponents as forfeits). However, the league only had six teams, was football only (so not a “conference”), didn’t actually have a football season in 2012, and no longer exists. Also, pre-forfeits, Langston didn’t make the NAIA playoffs, so, I’m just going to say that even though SWAG had a winning record, this was NOT a good win.
But Tabor! Oh glorious Tabor! Tabor College went 10-3 and made the NAIA playoffs in 2013. This is the first “GOOD WIN” I found, even though LEVEL 7 takes me through 27 different schools. Let that sink in. Starting with Purdue, I worked my way down the food chain. After 27 teams, I have found ONE quality win.
Obviously, if I followed Tabor, I would find other good wins. It’s hard to go 10-3 and not beat somebody worthwhile. Heck, Tabor won a game in that NAIA playoffs (over Benedictine (KS), since you asked). So obviously at this point, the flood gates could open, and more quality wins would be found.
At the same time, 2-9 Bethany defeating 10-3 Tabor looks like a fluke (indeed, Bethany finished tied for last, and this win cost Tabor a tie for the conference title). If I ignored Tabor’s season, how far would I have to go to find a second GOOD WIN.
I should have stopped.
Twelve teams—MacMurray (just closed—didn’t drop football, the school just closed recently), Iowa Wesleyan (Hal Mumme, Mike Leach, Air Raid!), Minnesota Morris, Westminster, Crown (yep, just Crown), Hamline, Jamestown, Luther, Waldorf, Oklahoma Baptist, Kansas Wesleyan, and the University of Saint Mary. These 12 teams lost to somebody (other than SWAG or Tabor) in LEVEL 7. So 12 different team each of whom I needed to track down to see if there was a quality win to be found. They combined for 31 wins. The vast majority of these wins were against each other. None had even a .500 record. Nothing in terms of good wins. Just a lot of mediocrity, at best.
St. Olaf (1-9), Loras (1-9), Southwestern University (0-10), Wayland Baptist (1-9), Texas College (1-9). Holy shit. Why. Why am I doing this?
Wait. McPherson (5-6) Maybe...
wins over Graceland (1-10), Bethel (KS) (2-9), Bethany (2-9), Kansas Wesleyan (4-7), and Southwestern College (5-6). DAMMIT! I already encountered all five of these teams earlier. Dead end.
University of Northwestern (MN) went 6-4, but none of the wins were good (see LEVEL 8: Crown, MacMurray, etc.)
Rockford went 1-9 (and I already encountered Marantha Baptist)
Oklahoma Panhandle (4-7). Wait! What’s this? 35-13 over Sterling (KS), who made the NAIA playoffs. THERE IT IS. A SECOND GOOD WIN.
In all, starting with 2013 Purdue, I looked at the season results for 49 schools and only found two good wins, both of which were at the NAIA level.
I did it to myself, but 2013 Purdue made me do it.
They really are the worst.