Monday on Twitter I was asked this question.
@champaign_room Thing is the Big 10 is historically bad this year & Illini the worst team. Does that make it the worst Big Ten team ever?— Jim Eken (@eeks63) October 29, 2012
My reply was that I highly doubted it, but there was no way in hell I was about to go through the process of actually finding out by comparing this team to every terrible Big Ten team in history. I try to enjoy life, and such an undertaking would greatly diminish my chances of ever being able to do so again.
No, in order to know the answer to this question, you'd need somebody without the emotional attachment to the program to sift through all the dead bodies.
And that's where Brian Cook comes in wearing a cape. Or maybe that's just his hair blowing in the breeze, I don't know. The point is he did the research.
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.
And what did Brian find through his research?
Well, for starters, at the moment the Illini are not the worst Big Ten football team of all time. Right now they're just the worst team since the 2005 Illini team that went 2-9 on the season and 0-8 in the Big Ten. So at least this program is consistent.
Of course, 2005 was Ron Zook's first year in Champaign too. In 2006 the Illini would go 2-10, but did managed to win one Big Ten game finishing 1-7.
Then 2007 came and the Illini were in the Rose Bowl. All of which means that the Illini will be going to the Rose Bowl after the 2014 season.
Though that's only if they stay the course. Right now Illinois is the worst team since 2005 Illinois, but their scoring ratio as defined by MGoBlog is at 21%. Should that fall further in the final four games the Illini will become the worst team since the 1981 Northwestern team.
That team finished 0-11 and was outscored 505-82.
Holy shit that's terrible.
That Northwestern team was actually shut out five times in a six game span. So, you know, things could be a lot worse.