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Meet the Top 12 Worst College Football Teams in the Power Five Conferences

Aug 29, 2016 | By Danny Sheridan
Meet the Top 12 Worst College Football Teams in the Power Five Conferences
Photo: Cal Sport Media/AP Images
California quarterback Davis Webb during the 2016 season opener against the Hawaii Warriors at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia.

The Declaration of Independence may state that all men are created equal, but bookies disagree. Come this fall, when the alumni pull on those XXL sweatshirts and the band strikes up that horribly off-key version of "Seven Nation Army," we're going to find out just how unequal they are, because college football season is finally here! And take heart, parents. As much money as you are sinking into your entitled spawn's liberal arts degree, it's not nearly as much cash as these universities are burning through to field the worst 12 teams in the Power Five conferences (Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten Conference, Big 12 Conference, Pac-12 Conference, Southeastern Conference).

So difficult is it to make the final cut of this Dow Jones of Miserable Football index that Boston College—a school that did not win a conference game last year—could not earn a repeat trip to the final dirty dozen. So let us all, as Americans, unite and have a moment of silence for the lost seasons of those millennials who are destined to have the crappiest college football experiences that the Power Five conferences can offer. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

12. Vanderbilt

Like Robin Thicke, the Vanderbilt football program will look back wistfully on 2013 and wonder how things fell apart so fast. That was the year that then head coach James Franklin took the Commodores to their third straight bowl game. But once Franklin left for Penn State (with several of his recruits), the Vanderbilt ship began to sink to the bottom of the SEC again. Coming off a 2014 season where the team was winless in conference games, head coach Derek Mason fired both of his coordinators and took over the defense responsibilities. And like a hungover fraternity brother on a late Sunday morning, the team is finally starting to show signs of life. Mason's revamped defense allowed just 21 points per game last season, mostly against tough SEC offenses.

But the end zone still remains as off limits as Area 51 for the Vanderbilt offense. Coach Mason took the redshirt off true freshman Kyle Shurmur and gave him the starting quarterback gig to cut down on turnovers. Shurmur threw fewer interceptions, but he looked shaky at times, completing only 43 percent of his passes. Running back Ralph Webb is the lone bright spot in the offense. As a junior, Webb hopes to improve on his 1,152 yards rushing and 24 receptions from last season. Without him, Vanderbilt's offense would be the saddest thing in Nashville, if it weren't for all of those country singers losing their wives, dogs and pickup trucks and writing songs about it. This year's Vanderbilt team is like a six-year-old whose parents have hidden the cereal—the bowls are out of reach.

11. Virginia

England may have voted this summer to leave the European Union, but after last season, it was Virginia who decided to kick London out—as in head coach Mike London. And though Virginia students like to refer to their university as the “Harvard of the ACC,” you don’t have to be that smart to figure out that a 4-8 season will get your coach fired. Money can't buy you love, but it can certainly buy a top-flight college coach to cross the Mississippi and help you win. BYU's Bronco Mendenhall rides into town with a career 99-43 record to buck the football program's losing trend and bring some law to the Cavaliers' disorder. London didn't leave an empire behind, but he did recruit some pretty good soldiers before his demise.

After 10 different starting quarterbacks in 11 seasons, junior transfer Kurt Benkert hopes to bring some stability to the position. Running back Taquan Mizzell led the team in rushing and receptions last year. But he may need to improve on his all-time, ACC-best 721 yards receiving for a back, as the Virginia receivers are inexperienced. The Cavaliers' leading receiver, Olamide Zaccheaus, is actually a converted tailback. But no matter how many players convert, it likely won't provide the divine intervention necessary to make a bowl game this year.

NCAA Football Preview

10. Rutgers

Fuhgeddaboudit! It hasn't been the best year for New Jersey. Gov. Chris Christie got passed over as a candidate for vice president and is one step closer to becoming a contestant on The Apprentice. Jon Bon Jovi spends more time recording DirecTV commercials than hits, and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Jersey's most beloved college football team, is buried so far down in the Big 10 that even Jimmy Hoffa can't find them. Now that head coach Kyle Flood is gone, Chris Ash, the co-defensive coordinator for Ohio State's elite defenses the last two seasons, is here to mop up the mess.

Ash will look to erase the player behavioral problems and academic scandals that have plagued the team in recent years. Unfortunately, he can't bring any of his Buckeye talent with him to help speed up the process. The Scarlet Knights defense was not quite born to stop the run, giving up 5.7 yards per carry. And opponents cashed in on 64.2 percent of their third downs, odds even the Soprano family bookmakers would love. On top of all that, Rutgers is losing their three leading tacklers on defense—linebackers Steve Longa, Quentin Gause and Kaiwan Lewis. It gets worse on offense, where new coordinator Drew Mehringer is hoping that an up-tempo spread offense will help cure the team's scoring woes. It's going to take a while to recruit the personnel that fits the offense. Until then, the Rutgers' scarlet letter is an L.

9. Maryland

In the early 1930s, Maryland's school newspaper wanted a cool nickname for the university. Head football coach Dr. Harry C. Byrd suggested the name Terrapin after the slow turtles near his home that were such a delicious delicacy, they nearly became extinct. College coaches have been making ridiculous demands ever since. Perhaps former head coach Randy Edsall wasn't demanding enough. After a 45-6 trouncing by West Virginia last season, the athletic department made Edsall extinct. Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin steps in this year to try to bring Maryland some respectability in the Big 10. But after losing by a combined 221-89 against ranked teams in the conference the last two years, this is a full-scale renovation that even HGTV won't touch.

Despite throwing the ball less than 400 times, Maryland quarterbacks only completed 47 percent of their passes while throwing 29 interceptions. That means that only one Maryland receiver caught more passes than Maryland's opponents. Durkin would be wise to keep the ball on the ground, as the team did rush for over 200 yards per game last year, third best in the Big 10. That will also keep a defense that was easier to torch than a well-insured, mob-owned restaurant, giving up 34.4 points and 421.2 yards per game last year. Maryland should swallow up goldfish like Howard, Florida International and Central Florida early in the season, but once they get into the teeth of the Big 10 schedule, expect those delicious Terrapins to get eaten alive.

8. Colorado

Do you remember when Colorado was atop the national rankings winning a national championship? Neither do we. I mean, that was before Justin Bieber was even born. And we're not going to say there is a direct relationship between the team's 6-19 record since the state legalized marijuana in 2014, it's just that the grass was definitely greener before that.

Coach Mike MacIntrye may have begun to find the spark Colorado needs to get lit. A 27-24 loss to USC and a 35-31 loss to UCLA last season showed a competitive side the Buffaloes haven't seen in awhile. This off-season, former Texas Tech quarterback and NFL prospect Davis Webb almost transferred to the school (he even filled out his financial aid forms), but unfortunately, he opted to go to the University of California. The late defection has coach MacIntyre lighting patchouli candles and praying incumbent quarterback Sefo Liufau will return from a Lisfranc foot injury that ended his season last year.

The Buffaloes have 18 starters returning. Unfortunately, none of them are Nelson Spruce, the Pac-12's all-time reception leader. Defensively, Colorado has been pretty strong against the pass, but on the ground, the defense is about as useful as Kanye West at a silent monk's retreat, giving up 198.7 yards per game. With games at Michigan, USC and Oregon, the closest Colorado fans will come to a bowl will be the one they smoke in their dorm room.

NCAA Football Preview

7. California

How do you replace your top six wide receivers and a quarterback that threw for 4,719 yards and 43 touchdowns? You don't, and that's why the Golden Bears make their triumphant return to the Worst 12 list after an entertaining 2015 season. While quarterback Jared Goff moves to Los Angeles a year early, coach Sonny Dykes hopes transfer Davis Webb can replace his marquee star. The running back by committee of Khalfani Muhammad, Tre Watson and Vic Enwere will get to run behind four returning starters on the line. On defense, California can't stop their opponent's manifest destiny to the end zone. Teams ran for over 2,700 yards against the Golden Bears defense. And with leading tackler Hardy Nickerson Jr. defecting to Illinois, the defense looks unstable. It was fun while it lasted, Cal fans, but like decent Al Pacino movies, all good things must come to an end.

6. Purdue

In today's world, there are very few mysteries left. Who really built Stonehenge? What was D.B. Cooper's true identity? And how does Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell still keep his job? The Boilermakers have only managed a 6-30 record the last three seasons, with three of those wins against non-FBS opponents. Since the university wouldn't execute Hazell's exorbitant buyout clause, they decided to execute five assistant coaches instead.

Redshirt freshman David Blough started eight games at quarterback last year. Like the gentleman who operates the freight elevator in your office building, he had a few nice moments in an unremarkable up-and-down year, passing for over 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns. Blough has a decent corps of senior receivers to work with, but it's unlikely he'll have time to find them. Purdue's offensive line managed to avoid involuntary manslaughter charges last season after letting their quarterback get sacked 30 times, and their their two best offensive linemen aren't returning to the scene of the crime. Running back Markell Jones had a solid freshman season with 875 yards rushing (5.2 per carry) and 10 touchdowns.

Purdue would be wise to keep give Jones the ball as much as possible to keep their "Over 40" defense off the field. With an average of 36.5 points per game, Purdue gave up over 40 points in half of their games! Enjoy that Eastern Kentucky home opener, you thirsty Boilermaker fans. You're going to need that shot and a beer soon thereafter.

NCAA Football Preview

5. Illinois

When head coach Tim Beckman was fired before the 2015 season for mistreating his players, one would think the university would complete a thorough search to find a coach that can relate to today's young athlete. That's why the school was proud to announce that for the 2016 season, they would replace interim coach Bill Cubit with... Lovie Smith! Smith, the recently fired head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, last coached at the collegiate level in 1995, approximately the same time you got rid of your AOL email address.

Lovie's ready to give it the old college try again with a talented quarterback in senior Wes Lunt. Lunt may be slower than an airplane WiFi connection, but he protects the ball well with 14 touchdowns to only six interceptions last year. Unfortunately, his star receiver Mikey Dudek is unluckier than every Chicago Cubs fan born after 1908. Dudek will sit out a second straight season with yet another ACL tear. The Illinois defense was decent last year, but with only four starters returning, past results are no guarantee of future performance. Fortunately, talented middle linebacker Hardy Nickerson Jr. has transferred from California. Who knows? Maybe Lovie is what they need to put the fight back into the Fighting Illini. But with road games against Michigan, Wisconsin and Northwestern, there will more likely be plenty of sacred burial grounds throughout the Big 10.

4. Syracuse

After a 7-17 record the last two seasons, the Orange got tired of being in the red. Defensive-minded Scott Shafer is out as head coach. In comes Bowling Green's offensive mastermind Dino Babers to pass first and ask questions later. Babers hopes to get sophomore quarterback Eric Dungey to use his head a little differently in the hurry-up, spread offense the Orange will utilize. Dungey missed the last four games of the 2015 season with a head injury. With only two starters returning on the offensive line, Dungey will need to get rid of the ball faster than shares of Chipotle stock to stay healthy. Syracuse's wide receivers didn't produce huge numbers last year, but they will be busier this season. Expect junior receiver Steve Ishmael to be the prime recipient of the increased attention.

On defense, Syracuse is not so steady, as the Orange gave up 31 points and 438.5 yards of total offense per game last year. As the team switches to a Tampa 2-style defense with their current personnel, you can expect a more coordinated and entertaining effort at your local Civil War re-enactment. Babers will bring some positive momentum, but this year, expect the Carrier Dome to be as quiet as the library at Trump University.

NCAA Football Preview

3. Oregon State

After winning records at Utah State and Wisconsin, Beaver fans were hoping that Gary Andersen would be the second coming as coach. But after a brutal 2-10 first year at Oregon State, fans are still awaiting the program’s resurrection. Oregon State's offense was truly offensive, finishing 115th in the nation after averaging only 19 points per game. Last season, Anderson played Three-card Monte at quarterback using Seth Collins, Nick Mitchell and Marcus McMaryion last season, and none of them turned up a winner. This year, Oregon State hands the ball to Utah State transfer Darell Garretson, who passed for over 2,500 yards and 18 touchdowns in 13 games. Garretson hopes the speedy Collins can catch better than he can throw, as he moves to wide receiver full time. After a 174-yard rushing game against their Oregon rival, Ryan Nall is going to need to run like a Walmart clerk who opens the doors on Black Friday.

But as bad as the offense is, the Beaver defense couldn't give a dam(n). Oregon State will need all the points they can get after registering 17 sacks and allowing opponents to complete nearly 70 percent of their passes last season. The brutal Pac-12 schedule doesn't help with road trips to Stanford, Washington and UCLA. Sorry, Oregon State. Easy dates on the road are for NFL players only.

2. Iowa State

As any Uber driver will tell you, there are some places they just won't go. For college football recruits, that place seems to be Iowa State. No matter how good the head coach is, the Cyclones always seem to come up short to state-rival Iowa in luring the best players. This season, former Toledo head coach Matt Campbell searches for the fool's gold that former coach Paul Rhoads couldn't find after a dismal 3-9 season. Quarterback Joel Lanning showed early promise, completing 55 percent of his passes and running for 330 yards. Lanning may be running more than ever, as the offensive line graduated four starters.

He's also missing some targets at wide receiver: one graduated, one got kicked off the team, and leading receiver Allen Lazard broke his hand. Mike Warren averaged 111.6 yards per game, but like a hedge fund manager who collapses on a pile of money, it just won't be enough. Eight starters are back on defense, including a very good secondary that's harder to get through than War and Peace, led by former Big 12 defensive freshman of the year Kamari Cotton-Moya. But with a schedule that includes West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma State and TCU, expect these Cyclones to be the ones getting blown out.

1. Kansas

As the Golden State Warriors or any man that's been married for 10 years will tell you, it's hard to do something two consecutive times. But once again, the Kansas Jayhawks have descended the ladder of mediocrity to stumble on to the throne of the Worst Team in the Power Five conferences. What other title can you bestow on a program that is still paying Charlie Weis another $5.6 million to sit at home this year and not coach for a third season? It takes the longevity, consistency and perseverance of Cal Ripken to lose 38 straight road games. And with head coach David Beaty returning after his debut 0-12 season, the worst is yet to come. Quarterback Ryan Willis is doing his very best to "contribute"—he hurt his wrist this spring playing pickup basketball. But if the offense can just get the ball close enough to the red zone, the kicking game will take over, as kicker Matthew Wyman converted on 54.5 percent of his field goal tries. At 15.3 points per game, there hasn't been this little scoring in Kansas since Wilt Chamberlain left campus.

On the other side of the ball, the defense rests... often. The Jayhawks' conference opponents averaged nearly 50 points per game. Strong safety Fish Smithson led the nation in tackles last year, but the Fish can't swim alone. Sorry, Dorothy, you're still in Kansas. And in the Big 12, that means it's Rock, Chalk Outline for Jayhawk football.

Dishonorable Mentions

Teams from the Power Five Conferences that will underachieve by winning four to seven games: Arizona, Arizona State, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Indiana, Kansas State, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Texas, South Carolina and Wake Forest.