- They can't all be winners, but NC State's sloppy matchup with Notre Dame was the best of the worst in 2016.
They can’t all be well played. After honoring the 10 best games of the season on Tuesday, it’s time to acknowledge the other side of the coin: the biggest duds of the season.
Maybe one team (or both) just didn’t show up ready to play or maybe some poorly timed errors overshadowed any semblance of quality football. Still, while these games may not have left us on the edge of our seats in the same way Ohio State-Michigan did, they were often strangely riveting, if only in the same way you can’t look away from a car accident. Their weird entertainment value makes them worth celebrating. Here are the 10 worst games of the 2016 college football season.
This one cracks the list because of how unlikely the final score was for a game that was expected to be a heated conference matchup. Arkansas’s season was filled with unusual results (routing Florida, losing to Missouri), but none more ignominious than its rout at the hands of a resurgent Auburn side that saw the Hogs surrender 632 yards of total offense (543 on the ground!), muster a mere 215 total yards of offense and allow six touchdowns of 20 yards or more.
Michigan-Rutgers still holds the mantle for season’s biggest blowout (more below), but that result was expected. This, however, was one of the most memorable routs since, well, Arkansas lost to Alabama 52–0 in 2012. — Gabriel Baumgaertner
Trailing by one, Rice completed a pass to the UTSA 27-yard line with one second left. With the clock set to start on the referees’ signal, the game was as good as over. Still, this was probably not how the Owls drew up their no-huddle offense:
My favorite part of this is quarterback Tyler Stehling’s reaction. He hears the collision, looks around and then swings his fist in frustration before deciding maybe he can still get the snap off to spike the ball. Alas, not enough time. — Colin Becht
If you had told Colorado fans before the season they’d beat UCLA, they’d likely have been thrilled regardless of the circumstances. Even now, they’ll still definitely take the victory. But amid the Buffaloes’ breakthrough 10-win season, this one was not pretty. Colorado thoroughly dominated UCLA but kept the game close by turning the ball over four times in the first half. The Bruins failed to capitalize by missing three field goals. The quality of the sportsmanship was no better than the play as the teams combined for 25 penalties for 224 yards, including eight personal fouls by Colorado. — CB
For all the adulation heaped on the Big Ten as it asserted its place atop the Power 5 conference hierarchy this season, this game was a throwback to the days when the league was ridiculed for its plodding style of play and offensive ineptitude. Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard and Minnesota counterpart Mitch Leidner combined for only 308 passing yards, zero passing touchdowns and four interceptions. Neither team reached the end zone until a nine-yard run from Gophers tailback Shannon Brooks late in the third quarter gave Minnesota a one-point lead. But the Hawkeyes pulled ahead for good with 5:28 remaining in the final stanza with a 54-yard touchdown scamper from junior Akrum Wadley. The victory didn’t look like much at the time, but it set off an impressive 5–2 finish to the season for Iowa. — Chris Johnson
The metaphor for this game arrived before the opening kickoff. The Wake Forest Demon Deacon mascot typically rides out on a custom-painted black and gold motorcycle to lead the team out of the gates to the roar of the crowd. As the gates opened, the Demon Deacon revved the ignition to charge out in front of the players, except the motor blew and the bike hitched forward as the players ran past. The bike hiccupped and puttered as players darted to avoid running into the Demon Deacon or the bike’s rear. Once it (somehow) reached the field, it had to be walked off by the Demon Deacon and a team assistant.
Wake Forest would eventually knock off the Green Wave 7–3 despite 175 yards of total offense and just 10 first downs. The bike was merely a signifier of how the offense would play in its season opener. — GB
Poor Rutgers. New coach Chris Ash probably knew his first year in the Big Ten East might get rough, but it was nonetheless jarring to witness such a thorough beatdown in a game between opponents from the same conference. This was the diametric opposite of the taut matchup between Michigan and Ash’s former employer, Ohio State, later this season. Rutgers produced only two first downs and 39 total yards, averaged 0.9 yards per carry and punted 16 times. The final score represented the largest margin of defeat ever in a game between FBS teams. Fortunately for the fans at High Point Solutions Stadium that night, Wolverines star and East Orange, N.J., native Jabrill Peppers put on a show, scoring two rushing touchdowns and delivering a spectacular punt return for a touchdown that was called back for a penalty. So at least there at least there was some stuff worth watching — CJ
Overall this was a pretty good season by Kansas’s standards. The Jayhawks upped their win total from zero in 2015 to two this year and snapped a 19-game conference losing streak by beating Texas for the first time since 1938. Still a Power 5 team losing to a Group of Five foe by 36 points is still pretty humiliating. And even for Kansas, this was a pretty poor showing. The Jayhawks turned the ball over six times, including four fumbles.
In a display of how Kansas was simply unable to do anything right in this game, Memphis, driving for a score before halftime, managed to turn first-and-10 from the Kansas 13 in a turnover-on-downs at the Memphis 38 due to a sack, penalties and a botched punt snap. Kansas promptly threw a pick-six on the first play of its drive. — CB
It was a rough first season for Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall, as the Cavaliers won just two games and got blown out by rival Virginia Tech 52–10 in the season finale. But one loss that may stick with Mendenhall is Virginia’s Sept. 17 defeat to UConn. The Cavaliers blew a 10–0 lead, including a fourth-quarter interception that set up the tying score. However, trailing 13–10 with 1:33 left, they executed a superb late drive, reaching the UConn three-yard line with 20 seconds left. All they needed was a 20-yard field goal from kicker Alex Furbank force overtime.
Welp… — CB
Florida head coach Jim McElwain is usually good for a pithy postgame quote, and his summary of his team’s sluggish victory over Vanderbilt was poetic.
“A wise man once said that ‘you even have to bring your ugly babies home from the hospital,’” the Gators coach said.
This was a game that barely cracked 500 yards of total offense and featured a red-zone fumble, a punter fumble and eight consecutive drives to start the game that ended by punt or interception. The game’s MVP was probably Florida kicker Eddy Pinero, who converted two field goals. The Gators were missing starting QB Luke Del Rio, but even his presence probably wouldn’t have salvaged one of the most unsightly games of the season. — GB
In fairness, this game probably should not have been played. Hurricane Matthew turned Carter-Finley Stadium into a windy swamp, but the Fighting Irish and Wolfpack braved the inclement weather to stage an ugly slop fest. Strangely, Notre Dame insisted on trying to win with its passing attack. Quarterback Deshone Kizer attempted 26 passes but completed only nine of them with an interception and a 2.1 yards per attempt average.
There were no offensive touchdowns in this game, but Notre Dame did convert a 40-yard field goal in the third quarter to tie the score at 3. That wasn’t enough: The Wolfpack blocked a punt and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to take an insurmountable seven-point lead. — CJ