Part of the fun of college football has always been watching the unbeaten teams topple from their perfect perch. But what of the teams at the opposite end of the spectrum? Does anyone root for the winless teams in the hope that they can have at least one moment of joy on the season? No? Here is a list of this season’s winless teams and their odds of breaking their duck the rest of the year. Thanks to a few teams surprising opponents last weekend, the list will be substantially shorter. As always, comments and feedback are welcome. Read on:
Connecticut (0-4), AAC
Last season, the Huskies weren’t a bad team, despite their 5-7 record. The defense was outstanding, ranking 9th in the country in yards allowed and 19th in scoring. The offense was terrible, and a poor turnover margin shows just how good the defensive unit actually was. Throw in a win over Big East champs Louisville, and you have plenty of “what if” moments, such as “what if we beat Western Michigan”. Even so they were rarely beaten badly, and finished a game short of bowl eligibility. So, what’s gone wrong this season? The offense still sucks, with former freshman all-American running back Lyle McCombs gaining just 200 yards and 2 scores behind the Huskies turnstile offensive line. QB Chandler Whitmer was part of the problem last season, but he could take a step forward this season if the Huskies can find someone to block for him. The line has already allowed 20 sacks in 4 games, and Whitmer may not even make it through the season at this rate. The run defense is a pale shadow of its former self, allowing 193 yards per game, although the secondary has been decent.
Should have beaten: Towson, Buffalo
Last chance saloon: South Florida, Temple, Memphis
In all likelihood: UConn won’t go winless. They’ll win at least 2 games, and beat someone they shouldn’t, like they always do. If you’re looking to check out a game, Uconn football tickets are still available.
Georgia State (0-5), Sun Belt
The conference new boys are hardly setting the Sun Belt alight, but after winning 1 game on a predominantly FCS schedule last season, and only coming within 21 points of one other team, did anyone really expect them to be competitive in their first season in the FBS? To be fair, even though they’ve lost to 3 FCS teams this year, they are playing somewhat better. The defense has played better against lesser foes (except Tennessee-Chattanooga), particularly in the run game, and the secondary would probably look a lot better if they didn’t play West Virginia and Alabama. The offense has been a bigger problem. Despite flashing some big play ability with a 65-yard TD run against West Virginia, leading rusher Travis Evans (57-207-1) isn’t getting room to run. Starting QB Ronnie Bell has been sacked 10 times, but hasn’t proven to be accurate, completing just 47.3% of his passes for 920 yards and 5 TDs, with 3 interceptions. This is despite a decent receiver in Albert Wilson, who has 3 100-yards games already, and has caught 26 passes for 517 yards and 4 TDs. Freshman Robert Davis (20-286-1) has been a nice foil. Can the Panthers improve play as they enter league play?
Should have beaten: Samford, Chattanooga, Jacksonville State (you’re an FBS squad now)
Last chance saloon: Texas State, South Alabama
In all likelihood: Everyone in the Sun Belt is light years against of the Panthers. Luck may win them a game, but I don’t see who it will be.
Hawaii (0-5), Mountain West
The Warriors finished strong last season with a couple of decent wins, but on first glance, don’t appear to have built on it this season. Appearances can be deceiving. The early schedule has been tough, and Hawaii are still trying to plug in the right guys for the new system, but they’ve been pretty competitive on defense at least. The run defense is allowing just over 160 yards per game, but only at 3.6 per carry. Throw in 15 sacks and you’ve a front seven to be reckoned with. The secondary needs work, but although it struggled mightily against Oregon State, they held their own in other matchups, as evinced by 26 passes broken up. The offense, head coach Norm Chow’s specialty, has been mediocre at best, with four different QBs seeing playing time. The end result is a 51.2 completion percentage, 9 TDs and 14 interceptions. It certainly doesn’t help that the offensive line has given up 23 sacks. That same offensive line is paving the way for just 73 yards per game rushing, at an average of 2.3 per carry. Want some icing on that cake? How about 17 turnovers – in FIVE games. They need to get this offense going or Chow may be retiring early.
Should have beaten: Fresno State – they had them on the ropes, but a late interception killed it.
Last chance saloon: UNLV, Colorado State, Navy, Wyoming, Army
In all likelihood: Hawaii won’t go undefeated. I wouldn’t be surprised if they won all of the above games – but the offense has to get it going.
Massachusetts (0-5), MAC
Apart from some brief signs of life in a couple of losses, plus a win over equally beleaguered Akron, UMass was out of its depth in the program’s inaugural FBS season. This wasn’t unexpected, as the Minutemen were a former FCS power who had slipped back among the masses, and the roster they brought to the MAC reflected that. This year, things don’t seem to have improved any. Granted they played a tough schedule, and they’ve dropped points allowed down by a TD per game, but the offense has scored 35 points to date. There’s a QB competition between last year’s starter Mike Wegzyn, who was meant to have taken a big leap forward, and AJ Doyle, but neither has stepped forward. RB Travis Wilson had a big game against Bowling Green and could make an impact down the stretch in conference play. The run defense, on the other hand, is awful, allowing 273 yards per game. The pass defense looks better on paper, allowing 211 yards per game, but why would you bother passing? This team has a long way to go.
Should have beaten: Maine
Last chance saloon: Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan, Akron
In all likelihood: Three bad teams left on the schedule, although they all have better rosters. I can see the Minutemen stealing a win though.
Miami (0-5), MAC
Are the Redhawks the worst team in the FBS? Probably not, I’d imagine they’d beat Georgia State, but all bets would be off. Why am I so down on a school that won the MAC title only 4 years ago? Well, where do we start? How about the offense? In 5 games, the Redhawks have managed 992 yards. Not rushing, not passing – total offense. They’ve scored 44 points, managed 51 first downs, and converted 10 of 66 3rd downs. QB Austin Boucher has been running for his life (15 sacks), and the team’s best playmaker is backup QB Austin Gearing, who has run for 248 yards, with 189 in the last 3 games. The defense played tough against Illinois and Central Michigan, but was gutted by the other three opponents. They’re averaging over 240 yards passing and rushing, along with 178 points. The administration couldn’t handle the team’s ridiculous lack of success this season, and let go head coach Don Treadwell this week, along with offensive coordinator John Klacik. Long time Miami assistant coach Mike Bath will take over in the interim. Whether he can coax better play out of this team remains to be seen.
Should have beaten: No one, they’re terrible.
Last chance saloon: Massachusetts, Akron
In all likelihood: Akron are too feisty, but they should take UMass in an ugly battle.
New Mexico State (0-6), Independent
There’s a reason no conference wanted to sign up the Aggies when they were left afloat on the dissolution of the WAC – they bring little value to any league other than likely wins for the other members. How bad are NMSU? Well, they haven’t been to a bowl since 1960 (Sun), and their last winning record was in 2002, in their first stint in the Sun Belt. It’s not all the coaches fault, Las Cruces is a tough place to recruit, and while they pull in some good players, they don’t have the depth to compete regularly. Last season, the Aggies beat Sacramento State in the opener, but an 8-point loss to Idaho was the only other game they came within a score of an opponent. This season looks to be even worse, with a 49-16 average points differential. The offense hasn’t been terrible, particularly through the air, but the running game has been inconsistent. What they do need to work on is turnovers – 14 already – and an abysmal 28% 3rd down conversion rate. The defense hasn’t been good here for years, so it’s no shocker that they don’t cut the mustard this season. The run defense is woeful, allowing 341 yards per game, including 541 to rivals New Mexico in a 66-17 shellacking. The pass defense is allowing 238 yards, and the secondary is in a bind due to having to help with the run defense. A lot.
Should have beaten: San Diego State – blew a 16-point lead.
Last chance saloon: Abilene Christian, Florida Atlantic, Idaho
In all likelihood: The should beat Abilene Christian, but I think FAU and Idaho are better teams right now.
Southern Mississippi (0-5), CUSA
After winning the Conference USA title in 2011, head coach Larry Fedora took the same job at North Carolina. The Southern Miss administration signed respected South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson to take his place. However, despite returning plenty of talent, Johnson’s first (and only) year as HC was an unmitigated disaster, as the Eagles went from 12-2 to 0-12. Equally noted offensive coordinator Todd Monken took over as head coach, but the results don’t look to be any different. Despite the presence of Cal-transfer Allan Bridgford at quarterback, the Eagles have scored just 61 points, no thanks to an ineffective ground attack. Bridgford has thrown 11 interceptions against 6 TDs, but he’s not getting a lot of help from his receivers. The defense has been run over by all 5 opponents, but the secondary has been alright apart from a bad day in Boise. But then, as I like to remind people, why would you bother passing? The Eagles best game was against conference new boys FIU, but allowed the equally beleaguered Panthers to get their first league win, as well as their win of the season. Southern Miss also lost to recent FBS members Texas State to start the season. How the mighty have fallen.
Should have beaten: Florida International, a partially blocked field goal ended their hopes; six turnovers against Texas State.
Last chance saloon: FAU, UAB
In all likelihood: If they can cut down on the turnovers (19), they could beat half the teams left on the schedule. Maybe.
Temple (0-5), AAC
Remember when Temple were the laughing-stock of the Big East and were even booted out of the conference for failing to meet league requirements – like fielding a remotely competitive football team. Are the Owls in danger of slipping back to those dark days? I don’t believe so. They lost somewhat respectably to Notre Dame and Louisville, and the other three losses were by a total of 12 points. However, the losses were to Houston (not so bad), Fordham (eek!) and Idaho (yikes!). The offense is a point of concern, especially the passing game where QB Connor Reilly isn’t getting it done. In his defense, receiver has been an issue here for some time, and the running attack has been inconsistent, even if it has potential. The defense needs to get it’s act together though. Every opponent this season has passed for over 305 yards, with ZERO interceptions, while the run defense is giving up 190 yards per game. The good news is, there are some winnable games left on the schedule. The bad news is, the Owls have a lot of work to do to get there.
Should have beaten: Fordham, Idaho.
Last chance saloon: Army, Connecticut, Memphis.
In all likelihood: The defense is a mess, but so are some of the offenses on the agenda. They should win a couple.
Western Michigan (0-6), MAC
The Broncos administration got tired of Bill Cubit’s inability to get WMU to play to their potential, and replaced him with PJ Fleck. The question so far this season is – was Cubit actually getting the most of the team? The Broncos have certainly looked decent against the pass this season, allowing just 169 yards per game, but the run defense has been poor, giving up 272 yards. The offense, always a Cubit strength, has been the biggest problem, especially with the health of senior quarterback Tyler Van Tubbergen an issue. Surprisingly, the running game has been pretty good, but skewed a little by tough games against Michigan State and Iowa. Brian Fields and Dareyon Chance have a combined 663 yards rushing, but the lack of a passing attack makes for heavy sledding in the redzone. Western Michigan has some promising prospects this season, and the schedule gets markedly easier. I think they’ll win at least 3 games.
Should have beaten: Nicholls State – what the field goals in the redzone make? Close losses to inferior opponents!
Last chance saloon: Massachusetts, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan
In all likelihood: They’ll beat the 3 teams just mentioned, and maybe another (Buffalo?).