I've written a lot about some bad football teams this week, from the worst Ohio State non-conference opponents, to the worst Big Ten teams ever. After gazing at hapless stat sheet after hapless stat sheet, I became morbidly curious. Sure, Rutgers and Northwestern have been terrible, but not the most terrible ever, right? Who was the worst college football team of all time?
To get the answer, we're using the SRS rankings again, which provide a numerical value based on margin of victory and SOS. Zero means an average team, so all of these will be hefty negative numbers. I only looked at teams currently in the FBS, though some since-defunct or demoted teams had awful numbers; 1884 Lehigh's -36.08 is the lowest Sports-Reference records.
With that in mind, here are the 10 worst FBS teams of all time, per SRS:
1973 Louisiana-Lafayette (0-10, -28.52)
The Ragin' Cajuns finished within a score of an opponent just once, and it was against a 5-5-1 Xavier that would drop football due to budget concerns months later. ULL was shut out four times, never scored more than 22 points, and lost 37-0 against then-rival McNeese State.
1995 UNLV (2-9, -28.69)
Playing in the now defunct Big West, the Runnin' Rebels boasted a historically terrible defense, giving up over 47 points a game, by far the worst in the country. While they were able to squeak out close victories over North Texas and Arkansas state, UNLV gave up huge scores to crummy teams (62 points to a 3-8 NIU team, 58 to a four win Hawaii squad, etc), torching their computer ranking. Add that to a QB rotation that didn't boast a single tosser with a 50% completion percentage, and you have a horrible football team.
1994 Ohio (0-11, -28.78)
The Bobcats actually had non-terrible defense that year, but they had the worst offense in the country (7.5 ppg), while playing one of the 10 worst schedules in the country. Ohio never scored more than 16 points, managed to lose a game 5-0 (to Utah State), and didn't score two touchdowns in a game after September. Woof.
1942 New Mexico State (1-8, -28.90)
So, this isn't the first time you're going to see NMSU on these sorts of lists. Playing in the Border Intercollegiate Athletic Association, NMSU scored only six points against a "major" team all season (they beat 'non-major' Western New Mexico 27-6 in their opener). Arizona and UTEP outscored them 114-6, and the Aggies were even shut out by something called Kirtland Field. Sports-Reference lists the BIAA as the worst conference in the country that season to boot, leaving a historically awful year on the books.
1954 New Mexico State (0-9,-29.05)
Things did not improve for the Aggies! Without Western New Mexico to kick around, NMSU went winless, losing to four different non-major programs, including "San Diego Marines", and "Howard Payne". Arizona beat them 58-0. The Aggies averaged less than 10 points a game, played one of the worst schedules in the country, and were barely competitive against teams that weren't even pretending to play high level college football. WELP.
1999 Buffalo (0-11, -29.23)
The Bulls played two non-major teams in 1999, including Hofstra, who doesn't even have a team anymore. They lost them both. They had the fourth lowest ranked SOS in the entire country, and still managed to lose every game. They never scored more than 21 points, gave up nearly 40 a game (and 59 to Marshall), and kept it to single digits against just one FBS team. Buffalo was horrible.
1989 Kent State (0-11, -29.75)
Their leading rusher barely hit over 300 yards, and their starting QB threw twice as many picks as touchdowns. They played one of the ten easiest schedules in the country, and lost every game. They scored more than 21 points just twice. Perhaps the only especially notable thing from this otherwise highly forgettable (and terrible) season was that Kent State managed to score 4 points in a game, in a 26-4 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan.
1976 Northern Illinois (1-10, -29.78)
Football fans now recognize NIU as one of the premier mid-major programs in the country, but back in 1976, the Huskies were a hot garbage tire fire. NIU lost badly to Wichita State and Long Beach State, which would be defensible if this was basketball (it isn't), and scored double digits exactly twice all season. Somehow, they managed to beat Illinois State 7-3, in what I can only imagine was a throughly unwatchable slogfest. NIU averaged a ridiculous 5.1 points per game for the year.
1994 Akron (1-10, -31.17)
If you're looking for the worst team in a more "modern" era, this is it. Akron's QBs combined for five touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Their leading passer threw for just 501 yards...on the season. They held an opponent below 32 points just twice, for crushed by FCS Youngstown State (41-7!), as well as any other team with a pulse, which wasn't many, since they played the 3rd worst schedule in all of college football. And yet, they still somehow won a game, beating Ohio 24-10 in the season finale. College football is weird.
1951 New Mexico State (1-9, -33.16)
It seems funny that the worst college football team in history actually won a game (they beat Northern Arizona 48-12), but the rest of their ineptitude makes up for it. NMSU lost to three different "non-major" programs, including a 33-14 beatdown by McMurry, and a 27-7 loss to Stephen F. Austin. They averaged only 11.5 points a game, and gave up over 33. They had the second worst strength of schedule in the whole country. You may find teams that had more eye-popping box score failures, but when you adjust for the quality of opponent, nobody was as bad as New Mexico State.
So the ten worst teams, as you'd probably expect, were all teams from smaller conferences. What about the worst squads from Power 5 caliber teams? Here's the five worst from teams currently in P5 conferences, Notre Dame, Boise State, and BYU:
Worst current Power 5 teams
Including only teams that played eight or more games, since several schools had terrible years back when seasons were only a few games long (1904 Florida, 1905 Baylor, and 1918 Stanford would've made this list).
1960 Virginia (0-10 23.05)
No QBs that threw for 400 yards on the season. No wins. Only four games that hit double digit scoring, and only two where the Cavaliers scored more than 20. A loss to Virginia Military Institute. 30+ point drubbings to only average Maryland and Virginia Tech seasons. Add all of that up, and what do you get? A horrid football team.
1902 Boston College (0-9, -24.97)
Take box scores from the early 1900s and all with a grain of salt, but the math shows that the 1902 BC season was historically dreadful. The Eagles only scored 17 points all season, and lost to Exeter, which I think is a high school.
1950 Virginia Tech (0-10, -26.12)
Playing in the Southern Conference, Tech was not just obliterated by everybody in conference play (lost 63-7 to Maryland, 54-0 to William & Mary, etc), but the Hokies also lost 61-21 to the Quantico Marines. Giving up 43 points a game while failing to score more than 12 against anybody other than a group of marines you also can't beat at football seems like a terrible combo to me.
1942 Arizona State (2-8, -26.40)
ASU somehow managed to win two games despite averaging only five points per game themselves. Getting to play 1942 New Mexico State, the 7th worst team ever, probably helped though. The Sun Devils lost to two non-major teams (including 40-0 to 'Santa Ana Field'), and did not score double digits in any of their eight losses. Seems bad, imo
1949 BYU (0-11, -27.97)
While not technically a current power-conference school, BYU's 1949 squad lost to three non-major programs, including "Pacific Fleet", and lost by double digits in every game but one. They also averaged less than 10 points a game. The history of BYU football before the 1970s is a story of anguish and woe.