GopherQuest: Will Minnesota Be The Worst Big Ten Team Ever?

Submitted by Brian on October 10th, 2011 at 2:43 PM


Worst mascot ever for worst team ever

In the aftermath of a 45-17 stomping that wasn't even that close at the hands of Purdue, which lost to Rice, the question must be asked: is Minnesota the worst Big Ten team of all time? There are still six games left in conference for the Gophers, so we're a long way off from a conclusion. All they have to do is win one game and they'll escape the basement.

But they totally aren't going to, so let's look at the most awful Big Ten teams chronologically.


The worst team in Big Ten history has no wins and no ties; nonconference doesn't matter; 1930 is the cutoff since before that teams played highly variable schedules. Teams from WWII are included. We are going on a straight ranking by scoring ratio, which is:

point scored / (points scored + opponent points scored)

This should help normalize for the fact that football has gotten progressively higher scoring as the years have progressed.

Minnesota will be the worst Big Ten team since X if they do Y…

2005: Lose all their games

The last winless Big Ten team was 2005 Illinois.

1981: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 21%

2005 Illinois managed 21% and their 1997 team matched that. The 1981 Northwestern Wildcats scored 75 points in nine league games but gave up 425 for a scoring ratio of 15%.

1961: Lose and finish with scoring ratio below 15%

1961 Illlinois never reached double digits or came within two touchdowns of an opponent (23-9 versus Purdue was their closest game) and had a scoring ratio of 12.3%.

1960: Lose, scoring ratio below 12.3%

1960 Indiana managed just 11.8.

1957: Lose, scoring ratio below 11.5%

1957 Indiana.

1944: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.9%

Iowa 1944 set a low bar, and then they lost to Iowa Pre-Flight, though Iowa Pre-Flight was 10-1 that year.

Pretty Much Ever: Lose, scoring ratio below 8.7%

Harry Kipke's 1934 Wolverines managed this.


Minnesota is currently on pace to be the worst Big Ten team since…


Minnesota's scoring percentage stands at 14.1% thanks to a kick return touchdown and a garbage-time drive.

NEXT WEEK: Minnesota takes on 5-1 Nebraska.



October 10th, 2011 at 2:53 PM ^

was "good" to the negative quadbillionth power under Rick Venturi. (0-10-1).

They're disqualified from consideration because of a 0-0 tie at Illinois (Gary Moeller, 1-8-2 team).  The closest game they played that year was a 17 point road dismantling by arguably one of the worst Iowa football team ever (2-9) coached by Bobby Comings (his last hurrah), 3-20.

Of course it didn't help that Venturi's "Mildcats" had to play 9 Big Ten games that year, while Michigan played just 8.

The Wildcats did score 20 on Ohio State (7-3-1) in Columbus, but gave up 63 pts (20-63 loss).

The 1981 team (0-11-0) was shutout 5 times, so I guess they were far worse.



October 10th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

They aren't the worst team ever.  And I don't think that it's very close. Northwestern had some unbelievably bad teams back in the day.  Their 1981 team got shutout five times and got outscored on the season 505-82.  In the pre-85 scholarship days, NW was probably the equivalent of modern day Eastern Michigan or Akron.  Minnehaha won one game and they came within 2 points of USC. 


October 10th, 2011 at 3:15 PM ^

That's the year NU set the record for most consecutive losses and fans stormed the field chanting "We're the worst...We're the worst." After they beat Northern Illinois the next year, fans tore down the goal posts, carried them to Lake Michigan, and threw them in.


October 10th, 2011 at 2:54 PM ^

Behind Coach Kill shows a full Minnesota stadium, therefore, photoshopped!

Also, I'm a 25 year old man, and that old Gopher mascot is giving me the jitters. I'm quite sure the kiddos of the day were NOT on the minds of whomever designed that subject of terrifying, cold-sweat-inducing, scream-in-my-sleep nightmares.


October 10th, 2011 at 5:50 PM ^

boy am i glad nobody responded to this.


1960 Indiana managed just 11.8.

1957: Lose, scoring ratio below 11.5%

I wasn't completely wrong.


October 10th, 2011 at 3:22 PM ^

That 1934 Michigan team scored 21 points the entire season!, but at least they got a nonconference win over Georgia Tech, 9-2.

EDIT: The 1932 and 1933 teams were undefeated and won national titles.  How do you go from back to back national championships to arguably worst team in a century?  Where was the senior leadership, Gerald Ford?


October 10th, 2011 at 3:31 PM ^

Yost was under a lot of heat for this as well, and the Grand Rapids Alumni Association was rallying to have him fired, stating that, although his past teams had found success, the game of football had progressed so far that it had passed by the stagnant Yost (sound familiar?).

However, Yost retaliated (with help from the Michigan Daily) by stating that there weren't enough young, strapping and able men from the intra-fraternities on campus stepping up to become a part of the team, even if it was on the "reserves" team. In Yost's eyes, his team was just as good as any, but didn't have the roster deep enough to provide them some practice-in-competition in preparation for games.

One of my favorite Yost quotes came from this time period, when he said:


Talk accomplishes nothing — work beats Ohio State.


October 10th, 2011 at 5:14 PM ^

Except Yost was the AD in '34, not the coach. I believe many of the teams struggles were related to the decision not to play Willis Ward, our lone African American player at the time, in the Georgia Tech game. That decision caused a lot of turmoil in the locker room and on campus.


October 10th, 2011 at 3:38 PM ^

Illinois 1997 team that went 0-11 stayed close with Michigan State, Indiana and Louisville.  Their 2003 team, whose only win was over Illinois State, was outscored by a larger margin.  I went to the big house for the Illinois game that year and we scored 56 points by doing nothing but running Chris Perry up the middle all day and a few short passes.  Breaston had a great punt return as well.  But we easily could have scored more points if we tried.



8/30 vs. Missouri (8-5) L 15 22 @ St. Louis, MO
9/6 vs. Illinois State (non-IA) W 49 22
9/13 @ UCLA (6-7) L 3 6
9/20 vs. California (8-6) L 24 31
9/27 vs. *Wisconsin (7-6) L 20 38
10/4 @ *Purdue (9-4) L 10 43
10/11 vs. *Michigan State (8-5) L 14 49
10/18 @ *Michigan (10-3) L 14 56
10/25 vs. *Minnesota (10-3) L 10 36
11/1 @ *Iowa (10-3) L 10 41
11/8 @ *Indiana (2-10) L 14 17
11/22 vs. *Northwestern (6-7) L 20 37


  203 398

But the winner has to be Northwestern's 1981 squad, who went winless and was shut out 5 times.  They gave up 505 points on defense.  Although they lost a 1 point heartbreaker to Indiana in their first game.


Northwestern (1981)

9/12 vs. *Indiana (3-8) L 20 21
9/19 vs. Arkansas (8-4) L 7 38 @ Little Rock, AR
9/26 vs. Utah (8-2-1) L 0 42
10/3 vs. *Iowa (8-4) L 0 64
10/10 @ *Minnesota (6-5) L 23 35
10/17 vs. *Purdue (5-6) L 0 35
10/24 @ *Michigan (9-3) L 0 38
10/31 @ *Wisconsin (7-5) L 0 52
11/7 vs. *Michigan State (5-6) L 14 61
11/14 @ *Ohio State (9-3) L 6 70
11/21 vs. *Illinois (7-4) L 12 49


  82 505



October 11th, 2011 at 9:09 AM ^

They calculate SRS back through 1953, and the worst Big Ten team in that period was the 1981 Wildcats, -14.39, just a touch "ahead" of the '89 Wildcats (-14.37). Minnesota, for comparison purposes, is currently at -14.07.

1997 Illinois was -12.97, 1988 Wisconsin (Wisconsin?) at -12.99. The only teams at or below -13, though, are Northwestern teams (the two above plus 1980, -13.3, and 1978, -13.6).

Surprisingly, the weakest schedule in the group is currently Minnesota's, at -0.29. Minnesota's 2007 team (-11.69 SRS) had a 0.87 SRS ... the Venturi (and '81) Wildcats had schedule strength in the 7s.


October 10th, 2011 at 3:48 PM ^

I started at UofM in 2007 and bad football ensued for four years. Now I start grad school at Minne (the other UofM) and they're on track to be the worst Big Ten team in a real long time. I'm sensing a trend.. will reluctantly move to Ohio soon


October 10th, 2011 at 3:48 PM ^

I started at UofM in 2007 and bad football ensued for four years. Now I start grad school at Minne (the other UofM) and they're on track to be the worst Big Ten team in a real long time. I'm sensing a trend.. will reluctantly move to Ohio soon


October 10th, 2011 at 4:15 PM ^

... but I think Coach Kill's seizure episode has taken something out of the team.

I only watched the video of the end of the NM State game once.  It was terrifying.  He had 20 more before he was cleared to coach on the field against Michigan.

Coach Kill shows a lot of courage; you just have to wonder how the players feel when they make bonehead plays and then quickly look over at the sideline...

By all accounts he is a great coach, and has had success before.  I hope he finishes the season healthy.  


Blue Durham

October 10th, 2011 at 7:23 PM ^

I realize that the out-of-conference games are not applicable under Brian's criteria, but I think by totally ingoring them you miss stuff.  Minnesota is not the same team that played USC so well, both due to coach Kill's siezure as well as key injuries to the team. 

As mentioned above, Northwestern went through a horrendous stretch that ranked them amongst the worse teams in Division 1A year after year after year.  The 1981 team was probably the nadir.  In short, that Northwestern team could not beat anyone (Minnesota has) and would not have been able to play USC (of just about any vintage) close like Minnesota did.

Minnesota is a bad team, maybe the worse of this now 11-year old century, but they are not historically bad.

Blue Durham

October 10th, 2011 at 10:10 PM ^

If your are as senile as your posts, say about 90, then no.

But if you look back at the past in the Big Ten's worse teams; Northwestern of the '70's and early '80's; Indiana of the same time period, etc... uh, yeah, things just stayed the same, now didn't they.  Northwestern sucked for the next 15 years and never beat anybody, and weather was never a factor in any game in the Midwest in the fall and Indiana was not able to ever Michigan. 

Oklahoma never lost after they won 565 straight games.  UCLA basketball won a million straight games after 12 straight NCAA championships.  The University of Virginia, considered the worse program in D1A back in the early '80's would never win the ACC, let alone beat Florida State, etc., etc., etc.

Yeah, the way things are will never change.  That is why we are all speaking Latin and bowing down to Rome.