The Illinois Fighting Illini are 0-4 in a very weak Big Ten and 2-6 overall, and lost 31-17 last Saturday to an Indiana team that was previously winless in the conference. Illinois' performance thus far in the 2012 season led a fan to ask Illini blog The Champaign Room whether this is "the worst Big Ten team ever?"
Brian Cook at MGOBlog came through with the nerd work to spare Illinois partisans the pain of doing that research. It turns out that the 2012 Illinois squad still has lots of bad losing to do to "achieve" the dubious distinction of worst team in Big Ten history. Cook took all the winless teams in conference history and applied "scoring ratio" to their records – that's just a fancy term for taking the points a team scored and dividing them by the points the team both scored and allowed.
If Illinois remains winless in conference and finishes with a scoring ratio of 21 percent or above, it will join 1997 and 2005 Illinois as bad, but not the very worst. Finishing with a scoring ratio below 21 percent would put 2012 Illinois in company with 1981's Northwestern squad, which scored 75 points in nine conference games and allowed 425 to opponents.
The worst team in Big Ten history, by Cook's method? Michigan, 1934, which finished its year with a scoring ratio below 8.7 percent.