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Thursday, November 21, 2013
The worst of the worst in the Big Ten

By Brian Bennett

Tim Beckman and Darrell Hazell were on the same Ohio State staffs in 2005 and 2006.

Hazell coached the receivers while Beckman coached the defensive backs, so they saw a lot of tremendous daily battles between guys like Donte Whitner and Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn and Malcolm Jenkins, etc. They were part of a program that won a pair of Big Ten titles and played for the national title after the 2006 season.

Beckman and Hazell have something else in common as they meet again this week. They both have giant rebuilding projects on their hands, so much so that they have each coached two of the worst Big Ten teams in recent history.

"Darrell is trying to instill the same things we're all trying to instill when we're coming into a new program," Beckman said. "We're playing this week, so other than that, I wish him the best."

Beckman, the second-year coach at Illinois, might need to beat Purdue to save his job. Hazell might have his last best shot to beat an FBS team this season. The loser is likely headed for an 0-8 Big Ten conference mark (Northwestern also has a shot at going 0-fer in the league).

Only seven teams in the past 15 years have failed to win a single conference game, including Beckman's Illini in 2012. With the Basement Bowl on tap at Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday, we decided to take a look at the worst Big Ten teams since 1998 to see where 2013 Purdue and 2012 Illinois stack up -- or, uh, down:

Illinois 2012

Record: 2-10 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 24.6 ppg

Lowlights: Losing 52-24 at home to Louisiana Tech, 35-0 at Michigan and 50-14 at Northwestern.

FBS victory: Western Michigan

Sorry stat: The '12 Illini were the second-lowest scoring team in the FBS, averaging just 16.7 ppg.

Indiana 2011

Record: 1-11 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 20.8 ppg

Lowlights: Losing at home to Ball State and on the road to North Texas. Losing 59-7 to Wisconsin and 55-3 to Michigan State.

FBS victories: 0

Sorry stat: The '11 Hoosiers defense allowed 37.3 points per game -- 42.8 ppg in conference play.

Minnesota 2007

Record: 1-11 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 12.5 ppg

Lowlights: Losing at home to Bowling Green and on the road to Florida Atlantic. Blowing a 21-point second-half lead over Northwestern to lose in OT.

FBS victory:  Miami (Ohio) in triple OT.

Sorry stat: The '07 Gophers had a minus-15 turnover margin.

Illinois 2005

Record: 2-9 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 30.2 ppg

Lowlights: Losing to Michigan State 61-14, Penn State 40-2 and Purdue 37-3.

FBS victories: Rutgers, San Jose State

Sorry stat: The '05 Illini allowed 234 rushing yards per game.

Illinois 2003

Record: 1-11 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 21.3 ppg

Lowlights: Losing to Michigan State 61-14 and Michigan 56-14 in back-to-back weeks.

FBS victories: 0

Sorry stat: The '03 Illini allowed did not have a player accumulate 600 yards in either rushing or receiving.

Iowa 1999

Record: 1-11 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 19.0 ppg

Lowlights: Losing to Nebraska 42-7, Michigan State 49-3, Ohio State 41-11 and Wisconsin 41-3

FBS victory: Northern Illinois

Sorry stat: The '99 Hawkeyes threw a total of six touchdowns, with eight interceptions.

Northwestern 1998

Record: 3-9 (0-8 Big Ten)

Average margin of defeat: 21.3 ppg

Lowlights: Losing 44-10 to Duke and 41-10 to Penn State.

FBS victories: UNLV, Rice, Hawaii

Sorry stat: The '98 Wildcats converted just 26 percent of their third downs for the season.

So far, Purdue's only win was in a nailbaiter at home against FCS Indiana State. The Boilermakers were blown out by Cincinnati (by 35), Northern Illinois (by 31), Nebraska (37) and Ohio State (by 56) among others. Their current average margin of defeat is 28.8 ppg, which is second-worst only to that 2005 Illinois team. And at least those Illini managed to find two FBS wins on the schedule.

The Boilers have only played one FBS team to within 14 points; oddly, that came against Notre Dame in by far the team's best performance. If things continue as they have for Hazell's team in the last two weeks, the 2013 Purdue squad has a case for being considered the worst Big Ten team of the past 15 years.

If there's any good news here, it's that Hazell would have some company with other first-year coaches. Iowa was in its first year under Kirk Ferentz in 1999. Same for 2005 Illinois with Ron Zook, 2007 Minnesota with Tim Brewster and 2011 Indiana with Kevin Wilson. And, of course, Illinois' brutal 2012 came in the first season at the helm for Beckman.

So there's hope for Beckman and Hazell to turn things around. The best news is, one of them will finally get a conference win on Saturday.