NCF Nation: bad-teams-112812

SEC seasons that weren't so memorable

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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Everybody remembers the championship seasons.

But what about those seasons when everything goes wrong? You know, the seasons that fans scratch completely from their memory banks ... or at least try to.

Here's a look at three seasons in the SEC during the past 20 years that were utterly forgettable:

South Carolina 1999: The Gamecocks didn't win a game and suffered through an 0-11 season in Lou Holtz's first year as coach. Holtz inherited a program that had gone 1-10 the season before, and the Gamecocks went 21 straight games without a win. Their offense was woeful. In nine of the Gamecocks' 11 games, they scored 10 or fewer points, and scored more than 14 only once. They were held without a touchdown in four games. In SEC play, the Gamecocks were outscored 216-72. It's the last time an SEC team has gone winless in a season.

Alabama 2000: Coming off an SEC championship in 1999, it all crumbled for Alabama the season afterward. The Crimson Tide started the season ranked No. 3 in the polls, and there was talk of a national championship. That talk quickly dissipated, and what followed was a nightmarish 3-8 season and the ouster of Mike Dubose as coach. Alabama lost to Southern Miss and Central Florida and ended the season with five straight defeats. The worst was yet to come. The Crimson Tide were hit with NCAA sanctions stemming from Dubose's tenure and the Albert Means scandal. They lost 21 scholarships, received a two-year bowl ban and nearly got the "death penalty."

Tennessee 2005: The Vols went into the season ranked No. 3 in the polls but fell flat on their faces in a 5-6 disaster that was the first losing season of Phillip Fulmer's Hall of Fame coaching career. Fulmer was fired three years later after going 5-7 in 2008. The offense was a train wreck as the Vols played musical quarterbacks all season. It could have been a lot worse, too, if the defense hadn't been so good and kept Tennessee in games. There were several dubious firsts for the Vols along the way. They lost to Vanderbilt 28-24 at home, breaking a 22-game winning streak against the Commodores, and also had their streak of 16 straight bowl appearances snapped.

Considering the Pac-12's worst teams

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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Colorado was one of the all-time bad teams in Pac-12/10/8 history this season, but were the Buffaloes the worst? Hard to say, as different decades bring different levels of awful.

The case for Colorado is this: The Buffs this season went 1-11 overall and 1-8 in Pac-12 play. They were outscored 552 to 214. They ranked last in the conference in scoring offense and scoring defense. They were 116th in the nation in scoring offense and 120th (last) in scoring defense.

That's pretty darn bad.

But there's some pretty darn good/bad competition.

Oregon State put together an epic level of awfulness in the 1980s. The Beavers didn't win a conference game in 1980, 1981 and 1982.

While the Beavers were winless in 1980, the best worst team of that three-year run was probably 1981. That team opened with a win over Fresno State and then nearly beat LSU in Baton Rouge. Then everything went bad.

The Beavers were outscored 330 to 75 in conference play and 469 to 145 overall. They scored fewer than 10 points in five games. They lost the Civil War to 2-9 Oregon 47-17.

My personal favorite, however, is a Pac-10 rivalry pair -- A Dismal Duo! -- mostly because I witnessed it: The Year of the Crapple Cup.

That was 2008. Washington went 0-12, and Washington State went 2-11.

In terms of statistical awfulness, the Cougars were worse. They were outscored 570 to 165 overall and 453 to 77 in conference play. They were shut out three times and scored a single field goal twice.

One of their wins was over a Football Championship Subdivision team. The other ... was over Washington in the Crapple Cup, 16-13 in double overtime.

Not unlike this season's Apple Cup, the Huskies lost after a massive fourth-quarter choke, not to mention superior field goal kicking from the Cougars.

The Huskies, who were outscored 463 to 159 overall and 347 to 111 in conference play, were the nation's only winless team that season, and coach Tyrone Willingham was given the boot at season's end.

The Cougars finished that season ranked 118th in the nation -- second to last -- in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Huskies were 117th in scoring offense and 116th in scoring defense.

But the Cougs did have the Crapple Cup victory to salve the wounds suffered during a rotten season.

So, to steal an old term from former Washington State coach Mike Price, they became the kings of Poop Island, while the Huskies were merely Poop Island citizens.
Hey, I see you Big 12 fans with your recency bias.

"Kansas! Turner Gill's team last season was the worst in the history of the Big 12!"

Yes, those Jayhawks were one of only six teams in Big 12 history to go winless in conference play, and this year's Jayhawks have a chance to make it seven if they don't beat West Virginia on Saturday.

The 2011 team lost six games by at least 30 points and the historically bad defense gave up at least 59 points on four separate occasions. However, those same Jayhawks led a 10-win Baylor team led by Heisman winner Robert Griffin III by 21 points early in the fourth quarter and ran up a 20-point lead on Texas Tech early in the season. They also lost to Iowa State by only three points and beat the MAC champion, Northern Illinois.

Still, I hate to break it to you. Do the research, and you'll find that KU team was probably the best winless team in Big 12 history. Not exactly an accomplishment that will do much except get the coach fired, but on ESPN.com today, we're taking a look at some of the worst teams in the history of the game. Here's how I'd rank the worst teams in the history of the Big 12:

1. 1999 Baylor (1-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Kevin Steele
Win: 23-10 vs. North Texas
Lowlights: The Bears were in Year 1 of Steele's four-year tenure that peaked with a three-win campaign in 2002. I give these Bears my seal of approval as the worst team in Big 12 history. They lost to Boston College and UNLV in nonconference, and the closest they got to any Big 12 team all season was 20 points, and even that game was in the season finale against Oklahoma State. Along the way, they suffered losses of 62-0 (Texas), 37-0 (Colorado) and 48-7 (Nebraska).

2. 2003 Iowa State (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Dan McCarney
Wins: Northern Iowa, Ohio
Lowlights: This was an oddly awful season sandwiched between four seven-win seasons for McCarney, the best coach in Iowa State history before Paul Rhoads arrived in 2009. ISU lost to Northern Illinois out of conference and had by far the worst finish of any team on this list. In its final five games, it scored seven points twice in blowout losses to KU and Mizzou, and was shut out by Nebraska and K-State. It did score 10 points in a 34-point loss to Colorado, though! ISU came within 21 points of only one Big 12 team that season, losing 40-19 to Texas.

3. 1997 Iowa State (1-10, 1-7 Big 12)
Coach: Dan McCarney
Win: 24-17 vs. Baylor
Lowlights: These Cyclones are the only team on this list with a conference win, but they're a team that deserved special consideration. They went winless in nonconference play with losses to Wyoming (46 points!!), Minnesota (34 points) and Iowa (43 points). They came within seven points in the season opener against Oklahoma State, but suffered a handful of humiliating losses, including a 77-14 beatdown against Nebraska. Missouri (24 points), Texas A&M (39 points) and Kansas State (25 points) all continued the parade.

4. 2002 Kansas (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Mark Mangino
Wins: Southwest Missouri State, Tulsa
Lowlights: This was the first season on the road to an eventual BCS bowl for Mangino. The former OU offensive coordinator had a tough start, getting blasted by Iowa State by 42 points to kick off the season. They also suffered losses to UNLV and Bowling Green. The Jayhawks came within three points of Baylor, but no other Big 12 game was decided by fewer than 24 points. They also suffered a 64-0 loss to K-State and a 45-7 loss to Nebraska.

5. 2007 Baylor (3-9, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Guy Morriss
Wins: Rice, Texas State, Buffalo
Lowlights: This was the final season for Morriss at Baylor, and the Bears didn't come within 20 points of winning a Big 12 game. BU kicked off the season with a 27-0 loss to TCU but suffered 31-point losses to Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma to close the year and the Morriss era, ushering in the Art Briles era in Waco. The Bears lost to BCS-bound KU by 48 points that year and suffered a 38-point loss to a Ron Prince-coached Kansas State team.

6. 2008 Iowa State (2-10, 0-8 Big 12)
Coach: Gene Chizik
Wins: South Dakota State, Kent State
Lowlights: Chizik parlayed his 5-19 career record into a head job at Auburn and a national title before being fired earlier this week after a winless season in SEC play. The Cyclones were bad, but far from hopeless. ISU lost its final 10 games, including a loss to UNLV, but also had three Big 12 losses decided by a single possession. It did lose games by 42 (Oklahoma State), 32 (Mizzou) and 28 (Nebraska and Baylor).

Historically bad: Georgia Tech in 1994

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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There is bad, and then there is historically bad.

ESPN.com today is interested in the latter, and the 1994 1-10 Georgia Tech team fits the bill, as it hit rock bottom with an 0-8 record in conference play that resulted in the firing of Bill Lewis with three games left in the regular season.

Georgia Tech was only four years removed from its 1990 national title and the program had fallen quickly. The Jackets suffered through back-to-back 5-6 seasons before plummeting to one win in 1994. Everything Bobby Ross had built up came crashing down that year. Georgia Tech’s only win was against Western Carolina in the second week of the season, and defensive coordinator George O’Leary was named interim head coach heading into the Nov. 12 game against Clemson. Many agree this team woefully underachieved, but expectations were also too high because of the national title under Ross.

“It was a rough year all around,” said ESPN.com's Tom Luginbill, who was the quarterback of the team that year. “The expectations were to be much better than that, but I don’t think we had the right recipe for success when it came to personalities and things of that nature as a whole.”

Despite its abysmal record, Georgia Tech set five school passing records that year and Luginbill was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year. He still ranks among the school’s best signal-callers, even though he only played there one season. Luginbill had transferred in from a junior college and won the starting job.

“In my opinion, our losses had more to do with internal dynamics and lack of team chemistry and camaraderie than it did talent,” said Luginbill, now the senior national recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. “We weren’t a very good team, but we weren’t 1-10. We were talented enough to be a .500 team, maybe even better. We were more talented than what our record was, but in the intangibles, we were exactly what our record was.”

The Big Ten's historically bad teams

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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ESPN.com is taking a look at historically bad teams today, and unfortunately for the Big Ten, it hasn't been immune from them.

We're not talking about what Illinois did this season or what Indiana did last season or even what Northwestern did season after season in the late '70s and '80s. From time to time, good programs, even great programs, have a season that makes you go, "Huh?" Nearly every college football blue blood has had one of these seasons in the past 20 years, and we'll look back at two in the Big Ten.

Michigan, 2008

Rich Rodriguez's arrival as coach represented a new era of Michigan football, but the program sunk to historic depths in his first season and never truly recovered, leading to his dismissal after Year 3.

Michigan's streak of 33 consecutive bowl appearances ended, and the Wolverines suffered their first losing season since 1967. The team dropped nine games, the most it ever had in a single season, and finished the season with a team-record fifth consecutive loss to archrival Ohio State.

The season had several potential low points, but a Week 6 loss to Toledo, Michigan's first to a Mid-American Conference team in 25 appearances, likely earns the label. Michigan finished 109th nationally in total offense, 108th in passing and 104th in turnover margin. While Rodriguez's offense sputtered with the wrong types of players, the defense wasn't much better. Michigan surrendered 45 points in a home loss to Illinois -- the most it had allowed at the Big House since 1991 -- while Illini quarterback Juice Williams set a Michigan Stadium record with 431 yards of offense. Purdue later racked up 48 points and 522 yards against the Wolverines.

"Hopefully [we will] remember it as a blip on the screen, a one-time happening," Rodriguez said of the season.

It's one Michigan fans would just as soon forget.

Penn State, 2003

The Nittany Lions had lost momentum since the middle of the 1999 season, enduring back-to-back losing campaigns in 2000 and 2001 before rebounding behind star running back Larry Johnson in 2002. But things took a sour turn again in 2003, as Penn State tumbled to a 3-9 record (wins were later vacated as part of NCAA sanctions).

After losing Larry Johnson, star receiver Bryant Johnson and most of the starting offensive line, Penn State struggled to produce, finishing 103rd nationally in total offense -- last in the Big Ten -- and 99th in scoring. Perhaps more surprisingly, Penn State couldn't stop the run on defense, finishing 104th nationally.

Penn State had never lost nine games in a season before 2003 and hadn't won fewer than four games since 1931. Coach Joe Paterno had endured only three other losing seasons in his 38 seasons at the helm.

The Lions had a six-game losing streak to begin Big Ten play, their longest slide with Paterno on staff as either an assistant or a head coach. The season ended with a 41-10 loss at Michigan State. Paterno had to fend off repeated retirement questions and replaced longtime offensive coordinator Fran Ganter following the season.

"A season like this -- you can't forget this," quarterback Michael Robinson said after the Michigan State loss. "I'm exhausted -- physically, mentally and emotionally."

Fortunately for Robinson and Penn State, there would be better days ahead in 2005.

The Big East's historically bad teams

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
10:00
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Every now and then solid football programs have bad seasons.

It happens.

Currently, USF is in the midst of a doozy, as the first team in school history with eight losses in a season.

So what have been the worst of the worst among winning programs, the historically bad seasons in Big East play? Rutgers in 1997 takes the cake.

Rutgers, 0-11, 1997: Rutgers has a proud tradition as the birthplace of college football. Though the perception is that only Greg Schiano had success here, that is not the case. Rutgers has had more seasons at .500 or better than losing seasons, going back to 1900. But it is true that this program fell on hard times between the 1980s and early 2000s. In fact, Rutgers had a losing record 18 times between 1980-2004 -- including a string of 10 straight between 1995-2004. The low point came in 1997, when the Scarlet Knights failed to win a game for just the second time since 1900. The other was in 1901, when Rutgers went 0-7. The 1997 season featured seven games in which the opposition scored 48 points or more, and Rutgers was outscored by an average of 45-17. Quarterback Mike McMahon threw six touchdown passes to 12 interceptions, and Rutgers ended up ranking No. 109 in total defense, No. 108 in rushing defense, No. 110 in rushing offense, No. 100 in scoring offense and No. 99 in total offense. Out of 112 teams. Coach Terry Shea ended up lasting three more seasons in Piscataway, but never posted a winning record. Schiano replaced Shea and turned the program around. The Scarlet Knights have had winning seasons in seven of the past eight years, and just clinched at least a share of their first Big East title. That 1997 Rutgers team remains the only one in Big East history to go an entire season without a victory. Not even historically bad Temple -- which has never had a winning season in Big East play -- can match that.

Here are a few others:

Syracuse, 1-10, 2005: Sorry, Orange fans, I know none of you want to be reminded of the Greg Robinson error. Hard to believe this team started the season with a near-upset of West Virginia, which ended up going 11-1 with a Big East title. Syracuse lost eight straight to finish off the worst season in school history. Just the year before, the Orange went 6-6 but earned a share of the Big East title with a 4-2 league mark. Paul Pasqualoni was shown the door the following season, and Robinson ended up winning 10 games in his four-year tenure. Doug Marrone is still cleaning up the mess.

Pitt, 4-7, 1996: The Panthers had worse records, going 2-9 in 1995 and 1998. But Pitt observers will tell you the 4-7 team in 1996 was actually worse. Talk about uncompetitive. Take a look at some of these scores: lost to West Virginia 34-0; lost at Ohio State 72-0; lost at Miami 45-0; lost at Syracuse 55-7; lost at Notre Dame 60-6. The worst Pitt team, though, was the group that went 1-10 in 1972. Johnny Majors was hired the year after, and the Panthers had a Heisman winner and national championship within four seasons.

For Irish, '07 seems a lifetime ago

November, 28, 2012
11/28/12
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One does not need to look too far back to find perhaps the worst team in Notre Dame history.

"I was talking to [Robby] Toma about this earlier," fifth-year senior receiver John Goodman said recently. "Coming back from Notre Dame being the worst it's ever been to being maybe the best it's ever been -- maybe starting a little franchise here with a bunch of wins in a row, a bunch of good seasons in a row -- it's really special to be able to be the beginning of that."

Goodman and five other players on Notre Dame's current roster had committed to the school following a 3-9 mark in 2007, the program's most losses ever. They will cap their college careers in the national title game, either as the national champion or runner-up.

The Irish have come a long way in a short time, with even athletic director Jack Swarbrick saying that the program is a year ahead of schedule. In 2007, they did not score an offensive touchdown in their first three games, getting outscored 102-13. They lost their first six games.

They lost to Michigan and USC by identical 38-0 scores, lost to Michigan State by 17, to Purdue by two touchdowns, to Boston College by 13 and to Navy in triple overtime, giving up 46 points.

One head coach and five years later en route to a perfect regular season, Notre Dame swept those six opponents, allowing them just four total touchdowns.

It's been a long five years in between, but the Irish are finally seeing the payoff now, and memories of such hard times have made reaching the heights even sweeter for them.

"In any program, whether you're at Notre Dame or for me at Grand Valley State when we built national championship programs, there's going to be a core guy, core group of guys that have to go through those tough times," coach Brian Kelly said last week. "Every group that I've had that have gone through those tough times, they're stronger for it. So I think there's no question that this group is stronger because of the experiences that they've had along the way.

"And that's what makes this team such a good football team, because they've had the down times and they know what that end looks like, and they don't like it very much. And so that's where you really feel good about your football team, if they've had those kind of experiences."

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