February 09, 2020

College Football Futility Rankings - Week 3 - Musings on Losing

It is still possible to find Ann Arbor, MI on the map. The place does exist and is filled with kind, caring and genuine people who are exceptionally disappointed. Following a 39-7 thrashing to a team called the Ducks, one of American Football's flagship programs is in the dumper.

Losing is not the sole domain of traditional doormat schools. With the Big House feeling like a morgue, the Oregon Ducks completely dominated the proud Wolverines in their own stadium - effectively winning this game in fewer than 30 minutes. Faced with the prospect of achieving 0-3 with a home game next week against a hungry Notre Dame team, the Wolverine faithful are having trouble with their collective digestive system.

Breakfast on Sunday morning in Michigan was a quiet time - filled with reflection and moral questioning of the higher power. Whether forgiveness of past sins was part of the exercise is a matter of personal practice, but after deep spiritual reflection, the healing process began. And it began with the traditional search for a scapegoat.

Scapegoating may be warranted in this case, but the process is worth noting as a treasured American tradition. Amid reports of Ohio State fans purchasing the team gear of Appalachian State, the inhabitants of the Big House are after a big head to stick on the pike of this losing season. The Michigan coaching staff - with necks firmly on the proverbial chopping block - insisted after the Oregon loss that nothing can keep them down. Well. the ire 109,000 people might. A rebound win against surprisingly winless Notre Dame won't quite salve the wounds that have opened in the first two weeks of September. Lengthening the odds for a short term fix, the Blue and Maize have to face the Irish without their starting quarterback, who suffered a leg injury.

So as the Canada Geese begin to think about flying south - or looking for a golf course - to spend the winter, the mighty Michigan Wolverines haven't quite qualified for a place on the Futility Rankings. Last week's loss to a really small school caused Michigan to exit the AP rankings entirely. Saturday's loss finds the Wolverines on a rapid transit decent into college football's third world of teams that want just a taste of what it is to be nationally recognized for football success. One more loss might just find 'em all the way into Futility's top ten.

But for now, here is the Michigan Wolverine-free version of the Futility Rankings for Week 3. And watch the Notre Dame Michigan game this week for the best battle of winless teams in half a century. This is what makes losing as interesting as winning - watching who can come back and who just keeps flailing away in the waters of hopelessness.

1. Duke

Having hit midseason form in it's second game, the Bluish Devils are solidly on their way towards a repeat of last year's perfectly futile (and winless) season. Losing to Virginia 24-13 gets the Devil's ACC season off to a shining start. After clawing to within a couple points at 17-13 in the third quarter, the Devils regrouped to give up a fourth quarter touchdown to seal the loss. The Blew Devils now look forward to a trip to Evanston and a game against Northwestern. The Wildcats handled their early season well earning wins against Northeastern and Nevada, so they are looking for a third tune up game before opening the Big 10 season. Still, Duke has a shot in that the Wildcats might just be looking past 'em to Northwestern's September 22 date at Ohio State. If Duke fails here, it might be another three years before they can post a win over a football school.

2. Iowa State

The big surprise of the 2007 season is the rapid decent of the Iowa State Cyclones into second position. This is really turning into a banner year for the Cyclones and opens up the possibility of two perfect seasons going 1-2 in the final rankings. This is a school from the powerhouse Big 12 that has achieved the impossible by losing to both Kent State and Northern Iowa in consecutive weeks. The best hope for Iowa State rests on September 22 with a game against Toledo. Most schools that find their way into the Futility Rankings are heavily focused on basketball. Iowa State is focused simply on losing.

3. Syracuse

A trip to the heartland brings respect for those that work so hard feed this great nation. Seeing farmers hard at their work inspires the soul and calls all Americans to be better people. If you are a football team, a trip to the heartland can bring about an inspiring and humiliating loss. Syracuse held up it's end of this deal on Saturday by dutifully showing up to get whacked 35-0 by the Iowa Hawkeyes. This game was not as close as that score might indicate. The Hawkeyes walked up and down the field and couldn't even give up a mercy field goal. Are the Hawkeyes that tough?

This does set up an interesting match this Saturday, though as the Orange continue their waltz through the Big 10 by hosting Illinois. In these dances, the other teams usually lead. The Orange lose this one and they stand to challenge for the Futility title.

4. Vanderbilt

The Vanderbilt Commodores were snuffed at home by Alabama this past Saturday, earning them a jump to #4. A trip to play Vandy usually results in a side-trip to one of Nashville's better music establishments and provides much needed 'down-time.' The SEC won't ever bounce Vandy out of the league for not being serious because everyone needs a break now and then. Besides, Hawaii is already in a conference. Up next for Vanderbilt is a home game against Ole Miss. Miss this one and Vandy is solidly entrenched in Futility's worst five.

5. Stanford

In a perfect follow up to their opening day loss to UCLA, the Cardinal gave football fans a break on Saturday by not playing. But look for Stanford to slide down the Futility Rankings should they come out and give - Oregon - a game on the 22nd. The Ducks though, are fresh off skewering once proud Michigan and unfortunately for the Cardinal, should have the sense to take this game seriously.

6. New Mexico State

How does a team score 38 points and still lose? Besides the obvious 'no defense' answer, well.. there is no other answer. The Aggies just ain't 'got it.' After giving up a game's worth of points in the 2nd half, the Aggies were cooked and the University of New Mexico sent it's crowd home happy with a victory over their in-state rival. If they live in Albuquerque, it was the least they could do.

7. Illinois

The whimpering ones managed a resounding 21-0 victory against Western Illinois. When your program is in doubt, the administrative types schedule games against small, in-state schools. Unfortunately, for Illinois, the 'Leathernecks' of Western IU, kept it close for a half. When the Illini found a running game, it was over.

Playing small in-state schools is a disturbing trend. Sort of like NASCAR where a teammate can help you win, Illinois looked for a much weaker opponent to get well. The home state schools help out by sending a bunch of the student body to play football against the bigger school. This is about the only case that can be made for paying players at the college level. If you are going to humiliate yourself in front of your state's football fans, you deserve to be paid. Ohio State opened it's season against superpowers Youngstown State and Akron with the expectation that these games would somehow help. At least the Illini opened against Missouri. The Champaign boys now get a trip up to NY to play Syracuse. After double checking their directions, the blue & orange have a shot if they can find the locker room.

8. Army

Following the opening game loss to supreme power Akron, Army fought back to claim a 14-7 victory over Rhode Island last Saturday. On deck for the Knights is defending ACC Champ Wake Forest who comes off a smarting loss to Nebraska. Playing a hungry team is never a good sign if you are trying to break a losing streak, and Army is playing this one on the road.

9. North Carolina

The Heels pulled off an upset on Saturday with a 34-31 victory over East Carolina. One more win and the Baby Blues are gonna get bounced right out of the top ten. But they have a solid chance to retain their coveted spot with a Saturday date with Virginia. The Cadavaliers swatted down Duke last week and are looking to mop up a win against yet another basketball school.

10. North Carolina State

A warm and hearty greeting and welcome to the Wolfpack of North Carolina State! Welcome to their first appearance in the hallowed pages of futility. Starting the season 0-2 is no dishonor in itself. Michigan and Notre Dame are both 0-2. However the Wolfpack achieved their lofty status, not by virtue of losing to Boston College, but by finding a way to loose to Central Florida as well. The wizards of scheduling are now bringing in Wofford - a school that plays in the same division as Appalachian State and like the Mountaineers are currently 2-0. If this game is at all exciting, then NC State should retain a place in the Futility Rankings and begin making it's run towards a top five finish.

Honorable Mention


With two wins under their belts, there just isn't room on the list for UCONN - especially when NCState is trying to break in. However, this is a perfect example of a marginally successful program trying to shoot itself in the foot. With wins over Duke and Maine, UCONN now faces the Temple Owls before traveling to Pitt for a game against the Panthers. UCONN did an excellent job crafting the schedule to get their program vertical, get fans interested and put a winning record in the books. Why then did the wizards in the Athletic Department schedule Louisville for homecoming? Invite a bunch of alumni and parents for a big celebration against a top tier school? When you set your fans up for your own knock-out, it is tough for them to take you seriously again. In any event, 'Sayonara' for now to the Huskies... we'll be watching!


Jayhawk fans may be delirious over a possible 4-0 start. That is until one looks at the schedule. The Hawks opening schedule began with wins over Central Michigan, SE Louisiana, and are followed by tilts with Toledo and Florida International. Anything other than 4-0 is going to get serious attention.if you would like to know more then leagueoutfitters.com could be the ideal place for you.

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