Sunday, October 30, 2011

A blind Gopher finds a nut

I left this out of the weekly roundup-type thing because it was so nonsensical and inexplicable that it needed its own space: Minnesota beat Iowa on Saturday. Minnesota, a team that lost to North Dakota State by two touchdowns, hadn't come within four touchdowns of a Big Ten team yet this season and seemed by all measures to be the worst BCS-conference team in the country, beat an Iowa team that was 5-2 and tied for first in the division. I simply cannot wrap my head around this.

Bizarre picture goes here:

My reaction was obviously "hur hur Iowa sux," and ... umm ... yeah, pretty much. I mean, 5-3 is swell, but unless we're counting Pitt as a decent team (which seems generous), Iowa hasn't beaten a decent team all year. The schedule has been a joke. Still, a team that can beat Pitt or Northwestern or anybody else shouldn't be losing to Minnesota*. So I dunno. All I can really take away from that game is that Iowa isn't good (Sagarin says Iowa is basically the equivalent of Purdue, which yuck) and Minnesota isn't the worst team in the history of ever.

That last part is relatively noteworthy given Minnesota's mind-bogglingly awful performance through the first eight weeks. It was all of five freakin' days ago that I put up a post declaring Minnesota the worst major-conference team in the country thanks to the following numbers:
  • 110th in scoring offense
  • 115th in scoring defense
  • 105th in FEI offense
  • 110th in FEI defense
  • 17.7 percent scoring ratio in Big Ten play, the worst in the past 30 years and approaching the worst in the past 50 years
  • FEI ranking of 118th (the only teams worse were UNLV and New Mexico)
This week's FEI rankings aren't out yet, but the Sagarin predictor rankings use similar data and have Minnesota all the way up at (drumroll) 117th. Yeesh. I guess that makes sense since their raw numbers barely improved Saturday; their scoring offense actually went down to 112th. Win or not, Minnesota is still pretty awful ... but not the awful-est anymore.

Hello, Kansas.

I could easily slide Kansas into Minnesota's spot by default, but that's not necessary since plenty of statistical proof was offered up Saturday to demonstrate Kansas' complete lack of competence at everything. Interesting (by which I mean pathetic) stats from the 43-0 loss to Texas: Kansas had 46 total yards (!), rushed for -2 yards (!!), had a total of three first downs (!!!) and saw its defensive numbers actually improve (from 50.4 points per game coming in) despite allowing a thoroughly mediocre Texas offense to have its best/easiest day of the season.

The nice stuff I said last week about the Kansas offense not being awful and allowing KU to salvage some respectability goes out the window after whatever that was. Three first downs and 46 total yards?!? Come on, man. That's a mediocre drive for Oregon. And an offense that's 71st in scoring and 87th in yardage isn't even close to good enough to make up for a defense that's so ridiculously terrible** that it's giving up almost two full touchdowns per game more than any other BCS-conference defense in the country.

The one thing Kansas can use to back up its argument for being something other than a complete embarrassment is the schedule: According to Sagarin, it's been the second-toughest in the country. But playing a tough schedule and losing every game by 25 points doesn't make you any less crappy; if you were playing a bunch of average teams, you'd just be losing to a bunch of average teams by 17, which is still terrible.

And again, three first downs and 46 total yards. Texas has a pretty good defense, but seriously.

In short, Kansas is very, very not good and can rightfully stake a claim to Minnesota's now-vacated spot at the bottom of the barrel (even if not historically abysmal enough to inspire things like GopherQuest).

Colorado (you already know about Colorado) and Indiana also deserve mention for their epic suck. I've been intentionally ignoring Indiana, in part because Minnesota seemed to be distinctively worse within the Big Ten and in part because Indiana has actually been relatively competitive in most of its games so far. Losing by a field goal to a decent Virginia team and losing by six to Penn State does not equal awful.

But with the Penn State game fading further into the early-season ether, it's time to acknowledge that Indiana does not have an actual win (South Carolina State doesn't count) and has a handful of pathetic-even-if-they-were-competitive losses. The worst: a home loss to Ball State, a loss to North Texas in which Indiana trailed 24-0 (lol) and a three-touchdown home loss to a Northwestern team that hadn't previously won a Big Ten game this year. The defense is approaching Kansas levels (114th nationally at 36.2 points per game) and the offense isn't a whole lot better (89th at 23.2 points per game). According to Sagarin, Indiana is the 133rd-best team in the country, which means there are 13 FCS teams that are better (including Indiana State, which wwwhheeeee!). You're on notice, Indiana.

*Especially twice in a row; Minnesota was 2-9 through 11 games last year and beat a 7-4 Iowa team 27-24 to end the season. When a bronze pig is on the line, throw out the records, baby!

**A random and semi-rhetorical question popped into my head the other day: How many points would Houston (52.3 per game) score against Kansas? Can we rearrange the schedule so Houston goes to Lawrence instead of Birmingham this week? Mmmkay thanks.


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