Sunday, November 23, 2008

Are the Hoosiers the Big Ten's worst football team?

I began thinking about this yesterday after watching (thankfully only bits and pieces) another IU beating, this time at the hands of Purdue. For a while I thought it was a no-brainer, the Hoosiers and Boilermakers had the worst conference records going into the game, and the Boilers won. So IU clearly was the worst team in the Big Ten. But then I watched Michigan lay another egg against Ohio State and I thought there may be another contender.

Michigan's offensive struggles were legendary, as were IU's defensive struggles. Michigan and Indiana didn't play each other. So I began to wonder who was worse.

Indiana finished 3-9 with one conference win over Northwestern. That included non-conference losses to Ball State and Central Michigan. Michigan also was 3-9, but tallied two conference wins over Wisconsin and Minnesota. Their non-conference losses included Toledo, Utah and Notre Dame.

In terms of quality wins, Michigan gets the nod. One win was on the road and another was against a bowl-bound team. One of IU's wins came against a team with less wins than it (Western Kentucky) and another was against a non-FBS school. The third came against a bowl-bound team.

Offensively, the Hoosiers get the nod. The two teams averaged about 21 points per game, but IU was better in total offense than Michigan, 348 to 291 yards per game. The Hoosiers had almost 40 yards passing per game and 20 yards rushing per game more than Michigan.

Defensively, the Wolverines were much better. Michigan gave up 367 yards per game in total defense, while the Hoosiers gave up 432 yards per game.

According to the statistics compiled at, the Hoosiers were worst in the conference in 12 categories: scoring defense, pass defense, total defense, pass defense efficiency, opponent first downs, fourth down conversions, opponents fourth down conversions, red zone offense, opponents third down conversions, sacks against, field goals, and time of possession.

Michigan was the conference worst in seven categories: scoring offense, pass offense, turnover margin, total offense, pass efficiency, first downs, and third down conversions.

I would say settle this on the field or the XBox, but would you really want to see this game? Unfortunately, I suspect the IU defense would not be able to contain the Rich-Rod spread and the Wolverine defense would keep Kellen Lewis and Co. in check.

My fantasy prediction: Michigan wins 17-14.