Our weekly college football shame index.
The Season in Shame
Not so very long ago, the 2012 season was like a maternity ward with 124 babies, each one full of promise and possibility. What would life hold for wee Auburn, or Pitt, or even poor underfed Maryland? The world was a big place, and they all had the chance to grow into a champion.
But not all of them did, and today, we give them their due.
Obvious disappointment: Boston College
Dear athletic directors currently conducting searches for a new head coach: As much as you'd like to think that one hire cannot make or break a football program that relies on dozens of staff members and scores of players, you absolutely can fuck this up. For proof, look no further than Frank Spaziani, deposed BC coach and the fifth-place trophy winner in the Tom Selleck Lookalike Contest, Northeast Region. Of all the coaches Boston College has had who hung around for at least 50 games, Spaziani is the only one with a record under .500.
And this year was his magnum opus. A five-game streak in which the Eagles allowed opposing offenses to gain at least 550 yards. An offense that scored only 11 touchdowns on the road, worse than all but 12 teams. The school's lowest win total since 1989. And we haven't even discussed the most laughable statistic.
In the entirety of the 2012 season, there were 567 instances in which a team recorded seven sacks or more in a game. The teams that did this ran the gamut, from Florida Atlantic to Notre Dame. Boston College, however, finished with only six sacks—all year.
Shamed in secret: Virginia Tech
A bowl loss to 9-3 Rutgers. That's all it will take to give the Hokies their first losing season in 20 years, and the patterns suggest it will happen, since Virginia Tech beat only one team this year that finished the season with a winning record and recorded only one victory on the road, over lowly Boston College in overtime.
VT also finished with a negative turnover margin for the first time since the 2003 season. "But Logan Thomas is a top NFL prospect!" you insist. Sir and/or ma'am, Logan Thomas wasn't even in the top 100 quarterbacks in completion percentage this year. Please sit down.
Obvious disappointment: West Virginia
Sept. 8, 2012. That's when we were supposed to see reigning Orange Bowl victor West Virginia descend upon Tallahassee to take on Florida State, a game scuttled by WVU's move to the Big 12. Instead, we got the weather-suspended vivisection of Savannah State and a legion of columns decrying FSU's weak schedule. In retrospect, maybe we missed the bigger angle—canceling that game allowed the Mountaineers to avoid its first non-winning season since 2001.
West Virginia's mid-season top-five ranking in the AP poll was its first since Rich Rodriguez blew town, but it was quickly followed by a streak of five straight losses, something the Mountaineers hadn't done in a single season since 1986. The popular explanation for that streak roughly amounts to "THEY AIN'T PLAY NO DAMN DEFENSE," which is not entirely incorrect. WVU did allow 9.6 yards per opposing passing attempt, worst of any team in the nation. Worst of any team from 2007 forward, actually.
But Geno Smith wasn't easy to watch during those five games either, scoring only 12 total touchdowns against five interceptions and three fumbles lost. Compare that with his performance in West Virginia's seven wins: 30 touchdowns, only one interception, and only two fumbles.
Shamed in secret: Texas Tech
29-44. That's the final record of the six FBS teams Tech beat this year. A defense that looked fat and happy on paper after Week 4—opening with Northwestern State, Texas State, and New Mexico is not so much an undercard as it is picking off the weakest and sickest antelopes in the herd—quickly collapsed under the weight of actual competition, allowing every opponent in the last seven games to hit 400 yards or more. Only two teams forced fewer turnovers than Texas Tech's 10. This is the stuff Meineke Car Care Bowl dreams are made of, people! (Consult a doctor immediately if you start having Meineke Car Care Bowl dreams, as this may be a sign of renal failure.)
Obvious disappointment: South Florida
When you're a fairly new team in Division I, phrases like "worst season in team history" don't carry as much as shameful weight as we might like, but it's still something we get to apply to the 2012 Bulls! Let's focus on the USF pass defense, and, oh, what a defense it was: 108th in the nation in passes broken up and dead last in interceptions with two all year. USF also finished at the bottom in opposing pass-completion percentage; over 68 percent of throws attempted against the Bulls were completed. (In fairness, South Florida was forced to face legends like Chris Coyer, Chandler Whitmer, and Brendon Kay. No, you're being sarcastic.)
This was a team that hung with Florida State, Rutgers, Louisville, and Syracuse. This was also a team that had 13 red-zone possessions in its last five games and turned only three of those into touchdowns. The rumor that Ron Zook is in play for this job is just too perfect, because Tampa is good for exactly two things: waterskiing and inevitable failure.
Shamed in secret: Temple
Exiled from the Big East, the most humbling of punishments. Scratched and clawed their way back, refusing to lie down and quit. And then promptly went 4-7. This inspirational sports drama is terrible, even if you get Sgt. Slaughter to play Addazio. This is the first time Temple has seen its win total drop by five games or more from one season to the next since 1991, which is an extremely misleading statistic because there are SOOOOOO many years in that span in which Temple never even got to five wins in the first place.
And it had promise, at points! Five games in, the Owls were 3-2 with two Big East wins. In the next six games, they beat only a terrible Army team and lost the other five games by an average of 25 points.
Obvious disappointment: Iowa
When the Hawkeyes defeated Northern Illinois in Week 1, none of us could have predicted it would be the team's biggest win of the year. People are pointing to NIU's loss here as proof that the Huskies don't belong in the Orange Bowl, which is possibly the cruelest Iowa insult of all.
Essentially, everything about the Iowa offense was terrible. The passing game accounted for only seven touchdowns and didn't break the 250-yard barrier once all year. The rushing attack managed to score some but didn't manage to accumulate 200 yards in a game after Week 4 and was held under four yards a carry in the last seven games. The Hawkeyes ended the year with a six-game losing streak, their first in a single season since 1978.
Here is my theory: The win over Michigan State was a turning point for Kirk Ferentz, because it was his 100th as a head coach. Kirk Ferentz is a man who craves neatness and order, and the thought of having 102 or 117 wins must fill him with the most intense revulsion. This, incidentally, is the same reason why Ferentz spends most of his salary supporting anti-statehood campaigns in Puerto Rico.
Shamed in secret: Purdue
Quick—what's the best bowl-eligible team Purdue beat this year? If your answer was anything other than "NULL SET ERROR," I'm sorry, but you were incorrect. The Boilermakers continue to be a delightful nothing of a team, perfectly .500 in every way. Examples! Purdue tallied 247 first downs in 2012; opponents had 246. Purdue averaged 5.5 yards per offensive play; opponents, 5.6. Purdue put up 29.9 points per game—and allowed 29.0. Purdue Football: Did It Even Happen?
Obvious disappointment: USC
Nearly four million children were born in the United States in 1999. None of them is yet eligible to play college football (though Lane Kiffin has been recruiting most of them since 2008.) But they all saw something for the first time this year—a season in which USC did not beat a ranked opponent. It was not for lack of opportunity, either, as the Trojans had four shots and blew them all, their first time with four such losses since 1993.
Naturally, the solution is to fire Monte Kiffin. This makes sense because it's Monte's fault that USC ranked 113th in the nation in interceptions thrown with 17. Three more against Georgia Tech and the Trojans will have thrown as many this season as they did in the previous two. Much more valuable to keep Lane in place, a head coach with a win-loss percentage worse than Tommy Bowden's.
A final point. The stupidest thing about the 2012 Trojans is not that they were ranked so highly to start the season. The stupidest thing about the 2012 Trojans is that they are STILL RECEIVING VOTES IN THE POLLS.
Shamed in secret: Cal
Jeff Tedford is widely, and correctly, credited with turning Cal from a perennial loser into a legitimate program. But this season was brutal for the Bears, who have finished with a winning percentage lower than this year's .250 in only five seasons since 1968. It was a totally up and down season for the Bears, who gave undefeated Ohio State one of its biggest scares but also got trucked by a seven-loss Utah team.
This year's failure becomes even harder to accept when you recall that Cal returned its 2011 starting quarterback, its top receiver, and its top two rushers—and managed only 13 passing touchdowns and 18 rushing touchdowns. That's the lowest and second lowest, respectively, of any Cal squad Tedford's coached.
Obvious disappointment: Arkansas
Inevitably, people are going to say this spot belonged to Auburn, Kentucky, or Tennessee. But none of those teams was ranked in the AP poll to start the year, much less ranked in the top 10. Arkansas won its first game, 49-24 over Jacksonville State. That would be the only time the Razorbacks were above .500 all year, as Arkansas finished with the most losses in a season since they joined the SEC.
There was one thing this team was great at, however—turning the ball over. Arkansas finished with the second-worst turnover margin in the nation at minus-19, giving up the ball at least twice in every game but one (against Kentucky) and losing the turnover battle in every game but one (against Auburn). The Razorbacks were sloppy and scattered all year and never even hinted at progress. That thing where dogs and their owners look alike? John L. Smith does it to football teams.
Shamed in secret: Mississippi State
Middle Tennessee State. That's the only team the Bulldogs beat to finish the season with a winning record, but we are not putting MSU here simply because its wins were unimpressive. All four of Mississippi State's losses were by at least two touchdowns, and in all four, the Bulldogs failed to run for 100 yards. Dan Mullen's team went 8-for-47 on third down in those four games. Two hundred forty minutes of football were played in those games, and Mississippi State led for only about 38 of them.
Special Award in Non-AQ Disasterchievement
It would be irresponsible not to recognize Southern Miss here, a team that lost 19 games in four seasons under Larry Fedora and 12 in one under Ellis Johnson. Being the only winless team in FBS is a truly magical thing, and we say magical because you really have to be cursed to lose to Marshall, UAB, UTEP, and Memphis all in the same year. Hats off to you, Golden Eagles. (Seriously, take those hats off. We need to sell them thanks to the athletic department's crushing debt.)
Celebrity Hot Tub is a college football fan who lost the ability to truly love thanks to three years of Florida head coach Ron Zook. He writes for Every Day Should Be Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @celebrityhottub.
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