Every year people love to focus on the teams that will go undefeated, teams that will win their league and teams that will compete for the national championship.
However, there is another end of the spectrum that people don’t like to focus on. In order for teams to have great seasons, other teams have to have poor seasons.
Five teams failed to win a league game in 2011. Akron, Florida Atlantic, Indiana, Kansas and Mississippi each managed to pull off the feat.
With spring football in full swing, it’s time to take a look at the 12 teams who might not win a league game in 2012.
League Schedule: at Alabama, vs. Texas A&M, vs. Auburn, at Arkansas, at Georgia, vs. Vanderbilt, at LSU, vs. Mississippi State
The first two years of Houston Nutt’s tenure in Oxford went very well. Both 2008 and 2009 were nine win seasons capped off by wins in the Cotton Bowl.
Years three and four were quite the opposite. The Rebels won only six games combined over the last two seasons, including just two wins in 2011.
Now, Houston Nutt is out and in steps Hugh Freeze.
Freeze isn’t inheriting a ton of talent, but questions first begin with his ability to coach on the biggest stage. Freeze has just three years of head coaching experience under his belt, two of which came at an NAIA school. He coached Arkansas State to a 10-2 record in 2011, but winning in the Sun Belt and winning in the SEC are obviously very different tasks.
Ole Miss was dead last in the SEC in 2011, in total and scoring defense, and ranked ahead of only Kentucky on offense. Needless to say, there’s a lot of work to be done on both sides of the ball.
The Rebels didn’t win a league game in 2011, and the schedule in 2012 is tougher. Gone from the schedule is a road game at Kentucky, which is replaced by a home game against SEC newcomer Texas A&M.
A visit from Vanderbilt in November will be Mississippi’s best shot at a win, but James Franklin has his squad improving, and a win by the Rebels will not be expected.
League Schedule: at Northwestern, vs. Michigan State, vs. Ohio State, at Illinois, vs. Iowa, vs. Wisconsin, at Penn State, at Purdue
Kevin Wilson’s first season at Indiana was one he’d like to forget. His Hoosiers failed to beat an FBS opponent, with the lone win coming against FCS South Carolina State.
Generally, 1-11 teams don’t make a lot of noise on the recruiting trail. However, Indiana came very close to landing 5-star quarterback Gunner Kiel, who was committed to the Hoosiers for three months. Kiel ultimately chose to stay in state and enroll at Notre Dame.
Kiel would have been a great addition for Indiana, but there are many other needs that must be addressed.
Indiana had a horrific time in 2011 trying to stop opposing offenses, finishing last in the Big Ten in total defense, scoring defense and run defense. Middle linebacker and leading tackler Jeff Thomas is out of eligibility, but nine defensive starters are back in 2012.
The Big Ten figures to be strong at the top once again in 2012. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, three of their four league home games come against Michigan State, Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Indiana's best opportunity for a victory appears to be a home date with the Iowa Hawkeyes, but Indiana won’t be favored.
League Schedule: vs. TCU, at Kansas State, vs. Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma, vs. Texas, at Baylor, at Texas Tech, vs. Iowa State, at West Virginia
Kansas parted ways with head coach Turner Gill after just two seasons on the job in Lawrence. Gill was one of the hottest commodities when he was hired away from Buffalo, but the honeymoon came to a quick end after five wins over two seasons.
As surprising as it may have been for some that Kansas elected to change coaches, the biggest surprise was still to come. The Jayhawks made headlines two weeks later when they announced Charlie Weis as their next head coach.
Weis won 35 games over five seasons as the head coach at Notre Dame, but the reviews were not overwhelmingly positive. His most recent stop found him as the offensive coordinator at the University of Florida.
Offense has always been the strong point for Weis, but it’s the Kansas defense that needs the most work. The Jayhawks finished dead last in the country in total and scoring defense in 2011.
With all the explosive offenses in the Big 12, major improvements on the defensive side of the ball are a necessity.
Back-to-back games in November at Texas Tech and at home against Iowa State offer the best chance at a league victory. However, don’t look for the Jayhawks to be favored in either matchup.
League Schedule: at Wake Forest, vs. Virginia, at Virginia Tech, vs. North Carolina, at Florida State, vs. Clemson, at Georgia Tech, vs. Miami
Duke football has been an afterthought in the ACC, and on the Duke campus for that matter. However, when David Cutcliffe was hired in 2008 from the University of Tennessee, many people thought Duke football could gain respectable status. After all, Cutcliffe did coach both of the Manning brothers.
Things haven’t gone according to plan though during Cutcliffe’s four seasons. A 5-7 record in 2009 stands as his best finish, and it was the only year during that span Duke has won more than one league game.
In 2012, the Blue Devils return 16 starters, including nine on the defensive side of the ball. Before you get too excited, that defense finished near the bottom of the conference in every statistical category in 2011 (notice a trend here among the teams on this list).
Duke won its first league game of 2011 on the road at Boston College, and it may have to have a repeat performance to avoid a winless season in the ACC. The Blue Devils open league play on the road at Wake Forest, and the schedule makers didn’t do them any favors with the games that follow.
The rest of the schedule includes trips to Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech—arguably the three best ACC teams heading into 2012. If a loss happens in Winston-Salem, it looks like all losses to finish out the season.
League Schedule: vs. Boise State, at Hawaii, at Air Force, vs. Fresno State, at UNLV, vs. Wyoming, vs. Nevada, at Colorado State
The state of New Mexico has been the laughing stock of college football over the last few seasons. The Lobos have greatly contributed with three straight 1-11 seasons.
Mike Locksley didn’t work out as the New Mexico coach and was let go after just four games in 2011. His first stint as a collegiate head coach was less than stellar with two wins in a little over two seasons.
In steps former Notre Dame head coach and ESPN commentator Bob Davie. Davie won 35 games in five seasons in South Bend but hasn’t been in the coaching world since 2001.
How will he do in his return to coaching with arguably the worst program over the last three seasons? One would imagine it would be a rough year.
The Mountain West isn’t nearly what it used to be with Utah, BY, and TCU all departing over the last few seasons. Boise State will be the next to exit, but the league will have to deal with them for one more season.
Opportunities for league wins exist for the Lobos with games against Colorado State and UNLV. Unfortunately, both of those are on the road, and New Mexico hasn’t won away from home since 2008.
League Schedule: at Tulsa, vs. SMU, at UTEP, vs. UAB, vs. Rice, at Memphis, vs. East Carolina, at Houston
The memories of the perfect season in 1998 are long gone. Recent memories center around the Conference USA basement.
New head coach Curtis Johnson inherits quite a project, as he takes over a team with just five league wins over the last four seasons. Johnson has 25 years of coaching experience under his belt; all of it though has come as a wide receivers coach, most recently with the New Orleans Saints.
As a long-time offensive coach, Johnson needs the most improvement to come on the defensive side of the ball. The Green Wave allowed over 37 points per game in 2011, which ranked them last in the league.
Conference USA doesn’t have a team like Houston in 2011 that will challenge for a BCS spot. It actually has several mediocre to bad teams, but Tulane sits on the bottom along with the Memphis Tigers.
Speaking of the Tigers…
League Schedule: vs. Rice, at East Carolina, vs. Central Florida, at SMU, at Marshall, vs. Tulane, at UAB, vs. Southern Miss
As bad as Tulane has been over the last few seasons, Memphis has actually been worse. The Tigers have managed to win just two league games over the last three seasons.
Tommy West was let go in 2009 after nine seasons at the helm of the Memphis program. Former Tiger great, Larry Porter, was brought in prior to the 2010 season, but like Turner Gill at Kansas, was let go after two very poor years.
Now the program is in the hands of former TCU offensive coordinator Justin Fuente. Fuente was in charge of some potent offenses during his time with the Horned Frogs, but we will have to wait and see whether he can bring it with him east of the Mississippi.
As is the case with most of the teams on this list, the Memphis defense needs lots of work. The Tigers allowed nearly 500 yards and 35 points per game in 2011, while ranking near the bottom in the country in offensive numbers.
Memphis will host Tulane early in November and obviously only one can win the game. The loser will be in prime position to finish 2012 without a league win.
League Schedule: at Middle Tennessee, vs. North Texas, at Louisiana Monroe, at South Alabama, vs. Troy, at Western Kentucky, vs. Florida International, Louisiana
Florida Atlantic began its football program in 2001. The legendary Howard Schnellenberger became the first coach of the program and remained the only coach in Florida Atlantic history until he announced his retirement following the 2011 season.
The program now rests in the hands of Carl Pelini, brother of Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini. It will be Pelini’s first season as a collegiate head coach after spending the last four years as the defensive coordinator for his brother at Nebraska.
Pelini will rely heavily on new offensive coordinator Brian Wright to help turn around one of the worst offenses in the country. Only New Mexico scored fewer points, and no team amassed fewer yards than the Owls in 2011.
Florida Atlantic finished 2011 winless inside the Sun Belt, and 2012 has the chance to be a repeat performance. The best opportunity for a win comes in October with a visit to our next team on the list.
League Schedule: vs. Troy, at Arkansas State, vs. Florida Atlantic, at Louisiana Monroe, vs. Florida International, at North Texas, vs. Middle Tennessee, at Louisiana
The South Alabama football program is just three years old, but it is already working toward full FBS status.
Last season was the beginning of the two-year transition period required to become an FBS program. The Jaguars will make their debut in the Sun Belt in 2012, and play a full league schedule, but they won’t be allowed to compete for the conference title or participate in postseason play.
Joey Jones is in his fourth season as the head coach at South Alabama and brings back a very veteran team in 2012. The Jaguars ranked in the Top 20 defensively in the FCS in 2011, and 10 starters return from that group, which should slightly help ease the difficulty of the transition.
The matchup with Florida Atlantic is the best chance for both to pick up a league win. South Alabama gets the game in Mobile, which should give them a reasonable chance, but the loser will be staring at a winless season within the league.
League Schedule: vs. Idaho, at San Jose State, at Utah State, vs. Louisiana Tech, at UTSA, vs. New Mexico State
Former Alabama and Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione leads the Bobcats in their first season as an FBS member. They join a very depleted WAC with just seven members competing in 2012.
Texas State finished 2011 with a respectable 6-6 record, but 10 of the 12 games came against FCS competition. In the two games against FBS teams, Texas Tech and Wyoming, the Bobcats failed to compete, losing by a combined 95-20 score.
The Bobcats will now try to tackle a full FBS schedule in 2012, including its six league games.
The WAC doesn’t feature much firepower with Boise State, Hawaii and Nevada no longer members. However, the transition from FCS to FBS is generally a tough one to make, and it shouldn’t be any different for the Bobcats.
An opportunity for a league win presents itself Thanksgiving weekend when the Bobcats travel to San Antonio to take on fellow FBS newcomer Texas-San Antonio, which is a perfect lead-in to the next team on our list.
League Schedule: at New Mexico State, vs. San Jose State, vs. Utah State, at Louisiana Tech, at Idaho, vs. Texas State
Like in-state counterpart Texas State, the Roadrunners will be playing their first season as an FBS member in 2012. Also like the Bobcats, UTSA has a former major FBS coach leading its program through the transition.
Former University of Miami coach Larry Coker begins his second season as the head coach in San Antonio. Coker is most famously known for leading the Hurricanes to a BCS Championship during the 2001 season.
The Roadrunners have just one season of competitive football under their belts, with four wins in the inaugural season in 2011. With just one season in the program’s history, the transition could be much more difficult. However, UTSA returns 20 of 22 starters to help soften the blow.
As previously mentioned, the best shot at a league victory comes in the matchup with Texas State. Fortunately for the Roadrunners, the game will be played in San Antonio.
League Schedule: at Miami Ohio, vs. Ohio, at Western Michigan, vs. Bowling Green, at Northern Illinois, at Akron, vs. Buffalo, vs. Central Michigan
UMass is the fourth and final team making the transition from FCS to FBS in 2012 (South Alabama, Texas State, UTSA). As is the case for the other three, the transition is going to be difficult.
The Minutemen struggled down the stretch in 2011 and decided to part ways with head coach Kevin Morris. Leading the way in 2012 will be Charley Molnar. Molnar most recently was the offensive coordinator for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame. During previous stints at Cincinnati and Central Michigan, Molnar helped put together several high-powered offensive attacks.
UMass will join the East division of the MAC in 2012, which isn’t exactly overflowing with great teams. A November date with the Akron Zips offers a decent chance to pick up a league victory. Akron has been one of the country’s worst programs over the last few seasons, but improvement is expected with Terry Bowden now at the helm, and the game is in Akron.