Ask any college football analyst or casual fan who the worst team in Division IA is and the near unanimous answer you’ll get is Temple. Barring a major upset, Temple will go winless for the second season in a row. Does Temple have a prayer of being competitive in the future or should they drop football altogether? To answer that question, it’s a good idea to examine other winless programs. Since 1996, there have been 18 winless Division IA football teams. They are listed below in chronological order along with a few statistics about their winless season and what they did in the following seasons.
Outscored by 19.7 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a one point defeat at Wake Forest
The Blue Devils had a pretty tough schedule in 1996 as three of the also-rans on their schedule (Army, Navy, and Northwestern) all won at least 9 games. Since that season, not a lot has gone right. The Blue Devils have had two more winless seasons and never finished better than 4-7.
Outscored by 22.6 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a 10 point loss to Michigan State
The Illini were not competitive at all. Their closest defeat was 10 points and they lost to a Louisville team that went 1-10. Illinois has had some success since 1997, going to a bowl game in 1999 and winning the Big 10 in 2001. However, now they appear to be back to their low-brow status having not posted a winning record since 2001.
1997 Northern Illinois
Outscored by 23 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a five point home loss to Ohio
The Huskies scored more than 14 points only once, in the aforementioned loss to Ohio. Northern Illinois has been highly successful since 1997 posting 6 winning seasons in a row from 2000-2005 under Joe Novak, including a 10-2 season in 2003.
Outscored by 27.7 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a two point loss at Army
Rutgers did not face a team that won more than 9 games all season and still got waxed by more almost 28 a game. They jumped to a 5-6 record in 1998 before falling back into the gutter. Then Greg Schiano came and slowly but methodically Rutgers began to improve culminating in last season’s bow appearance and this year’s 6-0 start.
Outscored by 22.8 points per game
Closest they came to a victory was a nine point loss at Utah
Hawaii averaged about 12 points per game and never seriously threatened any team they played. Then June Jones arrived. The Warriors more than doubled their offensive output in 1999 and went to a bowl game. Since the lost 1998 season, Hawaii has had 5 winning seasons in 7 years and gone to 4 bowl games.
1998 Kent State
Outscored by 27.7 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a nine point loss to Eastern Michigan
The Golden Flashes lost at home by 14 to Division IAA Youngstown State. Since 1998, Kent State has been pretty awful, although they did post a 6-5 record in 2001. However, they are currently in first place in the MAC at 5-2 overall and 4-0 in MAC play under third coach Doug Martin.
Outscored by 21.2 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a pair of three point losses to Wyoming and at SMU
The Running Rebs lost by 34 to a 3-9 Northwestern team. Since then they have managed a bowl appearance in 2000 and a 6-6 record 2003. Other than that, it’s been slow going. Even Hall of Famer John Robinson couldn’t make the Rebs a consistent winner.
Outscored by 26.9 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a pair of seven point home defeats to Akron and IAA Hofstra
The Bulls lost to a pair on IAA teams in Hofstra and Connecticut. The Bulls have not won more than 3 games since and have finished with 1 win three times.
1999 South Carolina
Outscored by 17.4 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point home loss to Vanderbilt
The Gamecocks had one of the worst offenses in recent memory scoring only 87 points for the entire year. Under Lou Holtz South Carolina would rebound quickly, going to consecutive bowl games in 2000 and 2001 before falling back to mediocrity.
Outscored by 25 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two pint loss at Wake Forest
Duke was bad in 2000 and they have been bad since.
Outscored by 25.4 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two point loss at Rice
Duke’s offense was little better in 2001 and their defense was a little worse. It adds up to pretty much the same season.
Outscored by 22 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point loss at home to Cincinnati
The Cougars only played two teams with losing records in a relatively strong Conference USA. They improved to 5-7 in 2002, went to a bowl in 2003, regressed to 3-8 in 2004, and went to a bowl in 2005.
Outscored by 14.6 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point loss at Toledo.
The Midshipmen actually played a number of close games, losing to Air Force by 6, Rice by 8, Rutgers by 6, Toledo by 1, and Army by 9. They hired Paul Johnson after the season and struggled through a 2-10 season in 2002 before going to 3 (soon to be 4) consecutive bowl games.
Outscored by 20.8 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a four point loss at Cincinnati
The Black Knights have the worst record of any team on this list finishing up at 0-13. They hired Bobby Ross after this debacle and have improved each succeeding season )2-9 in 2004, 4-7 in 2005, and 3-4 so far in 2006).
Outscored by 21 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two point loss at home to UTEP
In 12 games, the Pony Express scored in single digits 5 times. Phil Bennett has improved the Mustangs’ fortunes each season since and they have a chance to finish bowl eligible this year.
2004 Central Florida
Outscored by 17 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a two point loss to Northern Illinois
In George O’leary’s first season, the Golden Knights were a hard luck 0-11. They were 0-4 in games decided by 8 points or less. In 2005, they were 4-1 in such games and finished 8-5. At 2-4 in 2006, a bowl game will be hard to come by, but the Knights are still in much better shape than they were in 2004.
2005 New Mexico State
Outscored by 22.3 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a one point loss to Idaho
In Hal Mumme’s first season, the conversion from option attack to air raid fun n’ gun was tough. The Aggies averaged only 16.5 points per game. Thus far in 2006, the Aggies are only 2-4, but they are averaging 32 points per game and are much more competitive.
Outscored by 35.5 points per game
Closest they came to a win was a three point loss to Western Michigan
Temple was easily the worst winless team in a decade last season. The offense and defense were equally bad
Now, what about this year’s Temple squad? The Owls are 0-7 and have been outscored by 37.9 points per game. Their closest game was a six point OT loss to Buffalo on August 31st. The Owls have been dominated in every game since. So is there any hope for Temple? You bet. The Owls are set to join the MAC next season. The MAC is hardly a BCS conference and has its share of bottom feeders, so Temple won’t have to play Louisville, Minnesota, and Clemson on a regular basis as it has had to do this season. Secondly, the Owls have a new coach in Al Golden. While it remains to be seen how good Golden is, the biggest reason for the Phoenix-like rise of the winless teams on this list is coaches. June Jones, Lou Holtz, George O’Leary, Bobby Ross, Greg Schiano, and Hal Mumme are a few examples of good coaches who helped raise these teams to respectability and more. So while things may look dire this season, especially if Temple continues to be dominated by every team it plays, winless teams have nowhere to go but up, and have proven that a turnaround can happen even in the most unlikeliest of places.