5 worst Power Five programs of BCS, College Football Playoff era

We often praise champions and near-champions. Which Power Five college football programs have been the worst since the advent of the BCS era?

Recently we took a look at the five best FBS programs that failed to capture a national championship over the 16-year run of the BCS and the first three years of the College Football Playoff. When the BCS came online in 1998, it furthered the goals of the Bowl Coalition and Bowl Alliance and created the closest thing possible to a national title game. There have been bumps along the way, and now the system is expanded to a four-team model.

But even with double the access, the system is still rather insular. Only a dozen teams have won the national championship since 1998. Only five others have entered the postseason with a shot at the title. The College Football Playoff has opened the door for teams like Michigan State and Washington to earn a spot at the table in recent years. But Clemson’s CFP title in January was the first time since Auburn in 2010 that a new winner was crowned during this modern era.

That means over 100 FBS programs have effectively been playing for postseason consolation prizes. For the schools on this list, even the expanded number of bowl games on the postseason calendar has often been out of reach. At these programs, it hardly matters whether there are two or four teams in the national championship picture.

Find out which Power Five college football programs have performed the worst over the past two decades.

Oct 15, 2016; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Lorenzo Carter (7) chases Vanderbilt Commodores punter Sam Loy (19) after a fumble during the game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Sanford Stadium. Vanderbilt defeated Georgia 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports


Vanderbilt Commodores

80-147 (.352) since 1998, 5 bowl appearances

The last time Vanderbilt won a conference title, the SEC didn’t even exist. That championship came in the old Southern Conference back in 1923. That finished a three-year run when the Commodores went 20-2-3. Once the days of Dan McGugin and Red Sanders were over, though, Vanderbilt’s fortunes took a nosedive.

Since joining the SEC as a charter member in 1933, the Commodores have a .260 winning percentage in 563 conference games. But if anything the growth of college football has benefitted the team. Bobby Johnson, James Franklin, and Derek Mason have managed to take Vanderbilt bowling.

By the time 1998 rolled around, the Commodores had spent the past decade and a half in the SEC cellar. The BCS changed little about Vanderbilt’s existence, besides making their conference foes and other Power Five teams that much more nationally renowned. Before Franklin left for Penn State, the Commodores finished in the final AP Top 25 in back-to-back years, a big reason they are only fifth on this list.

Nov 26, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers cornerback Rasul Douglas (13) tackles Iowa State Cyclones wide receiver Deshaunte Jones (8) during the second quarter at Jack Trice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports


Iowa State Cyclones

80-147 (.352) since 1998, 8 bowl appearances

Iowa State is stuck in a league that includes teams like BCS-era contenders like Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas State as well as recent additions TCU and West Virginia. That leaves room for the occasional upset, like the Cyclones pulled off against Oklahoma State in 2011. But it also means that Iowa State is a coaches’ graveyard.

The last coach at the school to end his tenure in Ames with a winning record was Earle Bruce. He finished four games above .500 in his six seasons there. Dan McCarney came closest among BCS-era coaches, as he managed to build a nine-win team that finished in the last spot of the AP Top 25 in 2000. He also won the Big 12 North in 2004. Gene Chizik took an Auburn escape valve before the seat got too hot, while Paul Rhoads was given seven fruitless years to fail.

But McCarney did show that Iowa State can at least be a Big 12 and Power Five middleweight. Between 1998 and 2006 he went 50-58 with the team. Their fan base has plenty of reason to be disappointed in the results on the field in recent years, where fortunes have fully plummeted over the past half-decade.

Dec 31, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Texas A&M Aggies defensive back Toney Hurd Jr. (4) returns an interception ahead of Duke Blue Devils wide receiver Johnell Barnes (4) 55 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter in the 2013 Chick-fil-a Bowl at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports


Duke Blue Devils

69-158 (.304) since 1998, 4 bowl appearances

Among Power Five schools, none have won fewer games since 1998 than Duke. The only reason they are not even higher on this list is the fact that they enjoyed a three-year run between 2013 and 2015 that included an ACC Coastal title. If not for that stretch where the Blue Devils went 27-13, their winning percentage would be below .300. In 2013, when Duke played in the ACC championship game, the Blue Devils ended the year with 10 wins and a spot in the final AP Top 25.

Otherwise, the Blue Devils have been abysmal. Looking beyond Power Five teams at all FBS schools, only four other schools have lower winning percentages. Since 1998, Duke has had three winless seasons and two other one-win seasons. Carl Franks went 9-48 in five seasons. Ted Roof went just 4-42 in four seasons.

Those fortunes have been turning under Cutcliffe, but signs indicate that 2013 might have been the best chance at a conference championship that Duke fans will see in a while. A 4-8 downturn in 2016 might be just a blip. But other ACC Coastal schools such as Virginia Tech and Miami are returning to prominence. Even if Duke doesn’t decline in quality, their record could once again fall.

TUSCALOOSA, AL – OCTOBER 01: Tim Williams #56 of the Alabama Crimson Tide strips the ball and forces a fumble by Stephen Johnson #15 of the Kentucky Wildcats at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 1, 2016 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)


Kentucky Wildcats

95-135 (.413) since 1998, 8 bowl appearances

Kentucky has been good but not great, both within the SEC and more broadly among Power Five schools. The Wildcats have been in bowl games in 42 percent of the seasons since 1998. Hal Mumme took the team to back-to-back bowls in 1998 and 1999. Tim Couch finished fourth in the 1998 Heisman voting. Rich Brooks got Kentucky into the postseason four straight years from 2006 to 2009. Joker Phillips and Mark Stoops have each taken the Wildcats to one bowl apiece.

But in relation to their rivals in the SEC East, Kentucky has woefully underachieved. Luckily Wildcats fans have had basketball to fall back on over the years. That said, gridiron relevance is always going to be king in the SEC. Kentucky’s issue as a basketball-focused Power Five school has always been consistency in its football program.

2017 will be a pivotal year for Stoops. Having steadily improved the team’s record over his first four years, season five is critical for the coach. A veteran team returns having finished .500 in conference play last year. The Wildcats have the potential to break through and finally end some of the suffering of the pigskin fans in Lexington.

COLUMBUS, OH – OCTOBER 8: Malik Hooker #24 of the Ohio State Buckeyes intercepts a pass intended for Mitchell Paige #87 of the Indiana Hoosiers in the fourth quarter at Ohio Stadium on October 8, 2016 in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Indiana 38-17. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)


Indiana Hoosiers

78-147 (.347) since 1998, 3 bowl appearances

The Power Five team that has posted the worst performance during the BCS and College Football Playoff eras is Indiana. The Hoosiers posted a winning percentage just nine games better than Duke. But they did so in the Big Ten, where after divisional alignment they have always been paired in the same division as Ohio State and Penn State. Put into context, the Hoosiers have never had a winning season in conference play over the past two decades.

The closest they came was in 2001, when Indiana went 4-4 over their Big Ten schedule. The result wasn’t enough to save the job of head coach and alumnus Cam Cameron. Since that time, the Hoosiers have gone bowling just three times. Misfortune has struck all around over the past two decades, most notably when Terry Hoeppner went on leave and soon succumbed to brain cancer in 2007.

Since then there has been a slight surge of hope. Bill Lynch, the assistant coach who stepped in for Hoeppner, led Indiana to its first bowl game in 14 years in 2007. The Hoosiers also made it to bowl games in 2015 and 2016 under Kevin Wilson. Wilson, however, did not stick around to coach the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl. Indiana starts 2017 with yet another new head coach, Tom Allen.

This article originally appeared on