The 15 worst college football teams of 2021
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The 15 worst college football teams of 2021

Excitement is high across America as the 2021 college football is nearly upon us. Schools will be set to jockey for the College Football Playoff, rivalries will be on tap and fans will start wondering what bowl their favorite program will play in. After the pandemic-dominated 2020 season, it will be nice to see fans fill stadiums, full schedules played and the great teams battling out on the gridiron.

Then there is the other end of the spectrum.

Every year there are teams that are trying to build something special but are starting at the bottom. Heck, some of these programs are adapting to having an FBS program, while some are just wallowing in the basement of power conferences. Some watched their 2020 season literally waste away as circumstances have them out here flailing away.

So while there are lots of lists of the best teams in the nation, here is our list of the worst teams in college football for 2021.

 
1 of 15

Akron Zips

Akron Zips
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The Zips have been horrible during the Tom Arth era. In two seasons, the Zips have lost 17 of 18 games ... with the only win coming over fellow "worst" team, Bowling Green. The defense has been terrible (allowed 41.3 ppg in 2020) and the offense has been inconsistent (scored 30+ points twice last season; scored 13 or less the other four games). Believe it or not, but the offense is improving and return seven starters, but they are a long way from contending in the MAC.

 
2 of 15

Arizona Wildcats

Arizona Wildcats
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Arizona's offense was pitiful last year (17.4 ppg) as was the defense (39.8 ppg allowed), which reached a new low in their 70-7 finale loss against Arizona State. Head coach Kevin Sumlin was shown the door and gave the job to Jedd Fisch, who's held about every job in football before coming to Tuscon and has been panned as the Wildcats' hire. Recruiting has been bad for years, they are the worst program in the Pac-12 South, and this is a long project that some feel was given to the wrong guy. This should be another long year in Arizona.

 
3 of 15

Bowling Green Falcons

Bowling Green Falcons
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When the MAC finally decided to have a 2020 season, the Falcons had a dreadful five-game run -- all losses. Bowling Green was outscored 225-57 in those games, including giving up 62 points to Kent State. The Falcons threw one touchdown pass last season. Scot Loeffler has been trying to bring the talent level up, but the inexperience should bring about another long season. 

 
Duke Blue Devils
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Duke was awful last season, winning just two games and only one in the ACC. They were dreadful down the stretch, giving up 54 ppg in their final four games, including a putrid 48-0 loss at home to Miami, and their offense led the nation with 39 turnovers. Their quarterback, Gunnar Holmberg, will be starting his first game this year, arguably the best players on a really bad team are all gone, and none of the receivers gained more than 350 yards last year. David Cutliffe has done wonders for this program -- one of the toughest jobs in the country. Getting Duke to an ACC title game in 2013 and six bowl games in a seven-year stretch is simply stunning. But the feeling around coaching circles is that Cutliffe may be reaching the end of his time in Durham. 

 
5 of 15

Florida International Panthers

Florida International Panthers
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To be fair, Florida International was hit hard by COVID last season and was a major reason the Panthers went 0-5 in 2020. The defense does return nine starters, but that was from one of the worst units in Conference USA. FIU does have a running back in D'vonte Price (581 rushing yards in five games) but the quarterback spot is an unknown, with senior Max Bortenschlager using his extra year to be the guy. Butch Davis is a little bit on the hot seat, but he could turn this thing around quickly. That defense needs to make a huge jump, though. 

 
6 of 15

Kansas Jayhawks

Kansas Jayhawks
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

What was once promise in Lawrence, Kansas turned into disappointment, chaos and then back to a new plan. When Les Miles was hired in 2019, the feeling was that he could get the Jayhawks to respectability again. He followed his initial 3-9 season with an 0-9 mark last year, and then parted ways with the school after allegations of sexual harassment arose from his time at LSU (the athletic director also left). Now Kansas is back as square one with a new coach in Lance Leipold, who ran a Division III power at Wisconsin-Whitewater and is coming off a successful six-year stint at Buffalo. Still, this is a program that has lost 54 straight Big 12 road games, finished dead last in the league in 9 of the last 10 seasons, hasn't been to a bowl game since 2008, and is generally regarded as the worst Power 5 football program.  

 
7 of 15

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks
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The other Sun Belt school with Louisiana in its name didn't have quite the 2020 as the Ragin' Cajuns had. Louisiana-Monroe was bad last season -- to the tune of 0-10. ULM was outscored 420-163, never held a lead all season long, and fired coach Matt Viator. In comes Terry Bowden, who we last saw unable to get Akron going, as head coach, and Rich Rodriguez as offensive coordinator. So there are a couple of interesting coaches trying to turn this situation around, and Rodriguez brings his son to start at quarterback. The Sun Belt is getting much better, but ULM isn't yet. 

 
New Mexico State Aggies
Nathan J. Fish/Las Cruces Sun-News via Imagn Content Services, LLC

This program has been in the dumps for about 50 years now, though they did reach their first bowl game ever in 2017. Since then, the Aggies have been 6-20 ... including last year's 1-1 mark. New Mexico State opted out of playing last fall but did play two spring games. Those games? A 26-point loss to Tarleton State and a 7-point win over Dixie State -- not exactly high-level competition. The Aggies return one starter (tackle Sage Doxtater). 

 
Northern Illinois Huskies
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Northern Illinois could be the one team on this list that proves us wrong. After all, the Huskies have been one of the better programs in the MAC over the last decade, having five 11-win or better seasons since 2010. However, the program has taken a step back since Thomas Hammock arrived two years ago. After a 5-7 campaign in 2019, NIU went 0-6 in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. The defense was horrible, allowing 38.6 ppg last season and this year's front line is even younger and less experienced -- the starting front four could all be freshmen. Their hope is Michigan State transfer Rocky Lombardi (that's a great football name) can come in and lead a bland offense into an effective one. If not, it will be another long year in DeKalb. 

 
10 of 15

Old Dominion Monarchs

Old Dominion Monarchs
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Monarchs opted out of last season, which was supposed to be Ricky Rahne's first as head coach. Before that, Old Dominion went 1-11 and had the second-worst FBS offense. That should change with UCF transfer DJ Mack in the fold. Mack, if you remember, took over for McKenzie Milton after he tore up his knee late in the 2018 season and would go on to become the AAC Championship game MVP in a win over Memphis. Still, this is an inexperienced bunch who didn't play last year. This will take time. 

 
11 of 15

UConn Huskies

UConn Huskies
David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

UConn sat out last season, so it will be interesting to see what has become of these Huskies. Since we last saw them, UConn football has left the AAC and become an independent. They've gone 9-39 over the last four seasons (3-21 in the last two) and have been to just one bowl game in the last nine years. This team does have some experience, though, as each side of the ball returns seven starters. The key will be if quarterback Jack Zergiotis can lift up the passing game to match Kevin Mensah and the running game.  

 
12 of 15

UMass Minutemen

UMass Minutemen
Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

It's been a decade since the Minutemen have had a winning season and 2007 was their last bowl season. After a 1-11 season in Walt Bell's first year as head coach, UMass lost all four games last year. Those losses were by a combined score of 161-12. As an independent, UMass' schedule is difficult: traveling to Pitt, Coastal Carolina, Florida State, and Liberty. Their finale against New Mexico State could be for the title of Worst Team of 2021.

 
13 of 15

UNLV Rebels

UNLV Rebels
Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Arroyo's first year at UNLV went about as bad as you could get. As most first-year coaches found out, the pandemic season gave little opportunity to implement your schemes while you are still trying to figure out what you can get out of the players you've inherited. Obviously, quarterback was a huge question mark in 2020 (the Rebels used four different QBs at times during their 0-6 season) and will be unsettled going into this season. And just like most of the teams listed here, the defense needs major improvement. UNLV gave up at least 34 points in every game last year. 

 
Utah State Aggies
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Utah State could be one of the biggest turnarounds from last season ... as things couldn't get much worse than 2020. The Aggies went 1-5, they fired head coach Gary Andersen after three games, COVID ravaged the roster, players quit on the team and a game against Colorado State was canceled due to a player boycott after the university president made controversial remarks. This season brings in a new head coach (former Arkansas State head coach Blake Anderson) and optimism that they can put last season in their rearview mirror. Anderson has done a really good job at adding talent to this roster (including his old Arkansas State QB, Logan Bonner), but it's going to take a season or two to turn this thing back around. 

 
15 of 15

UTEP Miners

UTEP Miners
MARK LAMBIE AND BRIANA SANCHEZ / EL PASO TIMES via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The Miners have gone 5-27 during the Dana Dimel era, but last season they showed some promise. Quarterback Gavin Hardison has a great arm and could be a breakout star in Conference USA if his decision-making improves and the skill players around him are the best UTEP has had in years. Of course, there hasn't been much talent to speak of for quite some time there and the defense still isn't where it needs to be. The Miners are trending upward but they still aren't a team that many should fear. Win some conference games (they're 1-27 in C-USA games over the last four years) and then there may be more faith in what they're building. 

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