The D-List: Iowa and the Big Ten West are in a bad place

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The beauty of college football is that it’s Ground Zero for raw athletes being molded into gems every week before our very eyes. However, pressure doesn’t always make diamonds. Welcome to the D-List, Deadspin Dean’s acknowledgment of college football’s most woeful performances. This is a nod to college football’s unrefined talents, gridiron underachievers, notorious figures, galaxy-brained coaches, canceled Heisman campaigns, and any ugly blemishes on the college football scene.

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The Big Ten West has been in a dire state for more than a decade. On the other side of the Big Ten’s more affluent East division gated community are the West division’s dilapidated programs. The saving grace is that the conference overlords are finally doing something about the competitive inequity by announcing this summer that they’d disband its divisions once they welcome USC and UCLA into the fold for 2024. Thank the greed of college presidents for a reason to get behind college football gentrification.

The difference in money and talent between the divisions was always a running joke. The Big Ten West is akin to Brownsville in the 90s. Corporate sponsors hold their purses tight when they advertise during a Big Ten West matchup this season. The Big Ten West’s best are worlds away from competing with the East division’s Michigan-Ohio State-Penn State triumvirate, but in the NIL age, the disparity would have only widened.

The West-leading Iowa Hawkeyes are representative of everything wrong with the Big Ten’s bottom-feeder division. At 7-2, the Hawkeyes are on the verge of clinching their division despite a host of problems. It’s early November and the Hawkeyes quarterbacks have accumulated fewer than 1000 total yards. Starting quarterback Cade McNamara was lost for the season after tearing his ACL a month ago against Michigan State.

Iowa’s offense ranks last in the entire Big Ten in yardage and 13th out of 14 teams in points, the offensive coordinator is the failson of their beloved head coach, and he’s been kindly asked to leave following the season. Head coach Kirk Ferentz was so committed to the nepotism that Iowa’s athletic director had to install an addendum in Brian Ferentz’s contract that would terminate his employment if the offense didn’t average at least 25 points per game. It was the equivalent of parents grounding their kids or putting them on a TV timeout unless they read a few chapters a day and clean their rooms.

Up until this week, Brian was balancing along the 25 ppg tightrope when the program decided enough was enough. According to the Associated Press’ Josh Dubrow, Iowa is the first Power-Five program to be held to fewer than 250 total yards in at least six of their first nine games since Rutgers during their 1-11 campaign in 2002.

If they can outlast unranked Rutgers, Illinois, and Nebraska, they should be the lamb for slaughter for whoever emerges from the East’s gauntlet. Surprisingly Rutgers is 6-3, but the odds are in their favor. The Scarlet Knights are improving fast, but they’ll always have a ceiling around Michigan, and Ohio State’s knees. The best they can do is occasionally trip up the Big Ten’s kingpins.

Minnesota is the only Big Ten West opponent to get a leg up on Iowa by upsetting the Hawkeyes 12-10 earlier this month. Even if Iowa wins out, they’ll still be de-feathered in the Big Ten Championship Game. Since 2013, the Big Ten East has gone 10-0 in conference title matchups.

Brian’s offense has certainly set football back a century. However, the rot has spread throughout the entire Big Ten West. Brian shouldn’t be the only offensive coordinator canned. In fact, not a single offense in the Big Ten is averaging the 25 points per game Brian needed to keep his job.

Prior to Rutgers’ showdown against Ohio State on Saturday, Greg Schiano resorted to gallows humor when discussing the challenge of facing the Buckeyes’ top-5 defensive unit.

Realignment has ruined a bevy of hallowed college football traditions, but one byproduct the nation should be ecstatic about is that the final act of the Big Ten’s binary East and West tragicomedy is upon us.

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