Non-BCS conferences have mixed success over last decade

Originally Published: July 24, 2007
ESPN.com

What are the top programs of the last decade? That's the question ESPN.com has attempted to answer this week. Fifteen college football experts and analysts ranked all 119 Division I-A programs, taking into account record, traditions, recruiting, facilities, coaches, attendance and support, among other criteria.

Editor's note: Each day, one writer will attempt to explain why these teams were ranked in this order. The rankings reflect the average from the 15 ballots cast and are not the writer's individual ballot. Todd McShay breaks down Nos. 76 to 100 below.

Ladder 119: Nos. 76-100 (from 1997 to 2006)
RANK TEAM RECORD WIN % TITLES BOWL RECORD
76 Western Michigan 61-55 .526 0 0-1
Bill Cubit is 15-9 during his two seasons as head coach and has the Broncos heading in the right direction. Western Michigan's trip to the International Bowl was the program's first bowl berth in the last 10 years. Despite a respectable winning percentage (.526), the Broncos failed to win the MAC during that same 10-year period.
77 Connecticut 37-44 .457 0 1-0
UConn won the Motor City Bowl as a first-year member of the Big East in 2004. Since then, Randy Edsall has experienced more headaches than victories. Poor recruiting classes, injuries and off the field issues have led to consecutive losing seasons.
78 Central Florida 53-62 .461 0 0-1
There is enough talent in the state of Florida for UCF to contend consistently for Conference USA titles. Coach George O'Leary proved that point in 2005, when the Golden Knights won the East Division with a 7-1 conference record. However, it's tough to get excited about such an inconsistent program. Remember, UCF isn't far removed from a 17-game losing streak and it's coming off a four-win season under O'Leary in 2006.
79 Nevada 52-65 .444 1 conf. 1-1
Chris Ault returned as Nevada's coach for the third time in 2003. Since then, the Wolf Pack program has been on the rise since. This fall, Ault's club will be looking for its third consecutive bowl berth and its second WAC title in three years.
80 Memphis 49-67 .422 0 2-1
In 2001, Tommy West took over a program that hadn't seen a winning season since 1994 and led the Tigers to three consecutive bowl games between 2003-2005. But all momentum came to a screeching halt in 2006, when a two-win season led to the revamping of his coaching staff.
81 Houston 47-70 .402 1 conf. 1-1
Houston is a program on the rise following a 10-4 overall record and a C-USA title in 2006. The Cougars will miss four-year starting quarterback Kevin Kolb (Philadelphia's second-round draft pick in 2007). However, coach Art Briles has enough returning talent and the unconventional offensive scheme to maintain recent success.
82 Stanford 46-67 .407 1 conf. 0-2
Jim Harbaugh is Stanford's third coach since Ty Willingham left for Notre Dame following the 2001 season. Harbaugh inherits a Cardinal program that has won just 29 percent of its games the past five seasons.
83 Kansas 47-69 .405 0 1-1
The Jayhawks have pulled off some impressive upsets during Mark Mangino's five-year tenure. They also have been bowl eligible three times in the last four years. However, the team's overall record under Mangino is 25-35, which is only a slight improvement over the previous five seasons (22-34).
84 Illinois 39-76 .339 1 conf. 1-1
Ron Zook's recruiting classes have been extraordinary during his two-year tenure at Illinois. While there's a good deal of hope for the Champaign faithful, the team has won just two games in each of the past two seasons. In fact, Illini fans haven't had much to cheer about since QB Kurt Kittner took the team to the 2002 Sugar Bowl.
85 Troy 36-35 .507 1 conf. 1-1
Troy is one of the nation's fast-rising programs. Coach Larry Blakeney has led the Trojans to two bowl appearances since moving up to Division I-A in 2002, including an impressive blowout victory over Rice in last year's New Orleans Bowl.
86 Tulsa 44-75 .370 1 conf. 1-2
Steve Kragthorpe took a previously incompetent Tulsa program to new heights during his four seasons (2003-'06) as head coach. The bad news is that Kragthorpe bolted for greener pastures at Louisville. The good news is that Todd Graham (former defensive coordinator under Kragthorpe) takes over after performing miracles as Rice's head coach in 2006.
87 Louisiana Tech 58-60 .492 1 conf. 0-1
Jack Bicknell was fired in 2006 after leading the Bulldogs to just one winning season (2005) since 2001. Bicknell's teams enjoyed some high-powered offensive units over the years. Unfortunately for Bulldog fans, a non-existent defense has led to a sub-.500 winning percentage and just one bowl bid (49-24 loss to Clemson in the Humanitarian Bowl) the past 10 years.
88 UTEP 47-71 .398 1 conf. 0-3
The program seemed to be ascending under Mike Price, who led the Miners to a 16-8 record and consecutive bowl berths during his first two years (2004-'05). However, a five-win season with a veteran team in 2006 proved to be an unexpected disappointment for the El Paso faithful. UTEP has now won fewer than 40 percent of its games over the course of the last 10 years.
89 Tulane 55-61 .474 1 conf. 1-0
Despite grooming a couple NFL first-round draft picks in Patrick Ramsey (2002) and J.P. Losman (2004), coach Chris Scelfo enjoyed just two winning seasons during his eight-year tenure, which ended in his firing following a four-win campaign in 2006. Tulane endured unprecedented trials following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But even with that season excluded, the Green Wave have been a non-factor for a while now.
90 Akron 52-64 .448 1 conf. 0-1
J.D. Brookhart has Akron on the rise thanks to an effective wide-open spread offense. Since he took over three seasons ago, the Zips have enjoyed two winning records and notched the program's first MAC title in 2005.
T-91 UAB 52-62 .456 0 0-1
Watson Brown is a good coach who might have maximized UAB's potential during his 12-year stint, which ended last season. With that in mind, the Blazers have been a sub-.500 program with only one bowl berth (2004) in the past decade.
T-91 Wyoming 49-67 .422 0 1-0
Coach Joe Glenn injected some much needed life into this program when he took over four seasons ago. Wyoming peaked with an upset victory over UCLA in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl. Sustaining that success has proven to be a much tougher task, as the Cowboys have sputtered to a 10-13 record the past two seasons.
93 Middle Tennessee 41-51 .446 2 conf. 0-1
Middle Tennessee has won a respectable 45 percent of its games over the last 10 years and tied Troy for the Sun Belt title in 2006.
94 Indiana 35-78 .310 0 0-0
The tragic passing of coach Terry Hoeppner has rocked a Hoosiers program that finally was making progress."Coach Hep" had Indiana headed in the right direction and gave this year's team a legitimate shot to end the Big Ten's longest bowl drought (13 years).
T-95 North Texas 46-71 .393 4 conf. 1-3
The Mean Green won four straight Sun Belt titles and went to the New Orleans Bowl every year from 2001-04 under former coach Darrell Dickey. However, Dickey's final two seasons produced just five wins and led to his dismissal. Former assistant Todd Dodge is left picking up the pieces as North Texas' first-year head coach.
T-95 Rice 48-66 .421 0 0-1
After leading Rice to its first bowl appearance since 1961, Todd Graham bolted for the Tulsa opening this offseason. New coach David Bailiff has his work cut out for him attempting to sustain success at a program that has won 42 percent of its games the past 10 years.
97 Ohio 49-66 .426 0 0-1
Ohio has not won a league title since 1968 and its record over the past 10 years is 49-66 (.426). However, the Bobcats won the MAC East in 2006 and are heading in the right direction under head coach Frank Solich.
98 Vanderbilt 30-83 .265 0 0-0
Vanderbilt has no chance of legitimately competing in the SEC. The administration isn't supportive enough from a financial or admissions standpoint, yet it doesn't want to lose out on the paycheck. Thus, the result is Vandy's spot among the least competitive programs within the "Big Six" conferences over the past 10 years.
99 Central Michigan 44-71 .383 1 conf. 1-0
Once considered a doormat in the MAC, Central Michigan defied the odds by claiming the conference title last season and beating Middle Tennessee in the Motor City Bowl. Former coach Brian Kelly took advantage of the opening at Cincinnati, which leaves Butch Jones in the unenviable position of sustaining last year's success.
100 San Diego State 45-72 .384 0 0-1
Long gone are the days of head coach Al Luginbill and star running back Marshall Faulk. In fact, the Aztecs have enjoyed only one winning record (2004) the past four seasons. Chuck Long took over this downtrodden program a year ago and finished with a 3-9 record in 2006. In order to right the ship this fall, Long and his staff need to get offensive with 10 returning starters on that side of the ball.

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