In a recent mailbag we, the “writers” were asked if this was the worst the B1G West has ever been. (Thanks for the question Free Beer Tomorrow! Yes, I do love wallowing in misery.) Unfortunately, we all grievously failed you. Every respondent either said “no” or “not any worse than some other year.” Even I equivocated, throwing out 2018 as a possibility. But we were all wrong. This is, DEFINITELY, BY FAR, the worst division in the 12 year history of divisional football in the B1G. With the rest of the article, I will methodically, clinically detail why that is (until I get bored). At the end, you will be left with two choices: acknowledge I’m right or continue to be wrong.
Opening list RE: West’s 2022 suckitude
- With only two weeks left to play, five teams are still alive for the divisional title (admittedly, Wisconsin’s path is very narrow). There not only is no elite team. There’s no very good team. There is, at best, a few slightly above average teams.
- With only two weeks to play, no team can even say that it controls its own destiny.
- Iowa might be the favorite right now, and they lost to the last-place team in the Big 12. Honestly, we need to stop beating Iowa up about the South Dakota State game (not really), and spend more time pointing this out.
- If Iowa loses to Minnesota, the division winner will probably be Purdue, but right now they have a negative point differential in B1G play and are a couple of missed 2-pt conversions away from being 4-6.
- For Illinois to win the division, they’ll need to upset Michigan, and the reason that is required is because they couldn’t handle the worst team in the East, Indiana. (Or because Illinois decided to lose consecutive home games in November to teams that are a combined 9-9 in games played outside of Champaign, IL)
- Minnesota would need to win out and have Purdue lose to either Northwestern or Indiana. Which is probably for the best, given that, even among these four jokers, Minnesota stands out.
That’s Right: A Wisconsin fan’s special section of hate on Minnesota!!!
We need to take a minute to talk about just how fucking embarrassing Minnesota’s 7-3 record really is. Yeah, I’m a Wisconsin fan, so just look at Minnesota’s wins and judge for yourself.
- 34-7, @ Michigan State (5-5/3-4, 66 of 131 in SRS): A thrashing (in September, when Maryland is still good, but still) of a team almost in the top half of FBS. No apologies needed here, other than that this is, far and away, Minnesota’s best win on the year.
- 20-13, @ Nebraska (3-7/2-5, 89 of 131): A seven point road win over a team that had already fired its head coach, and didn’t have its starting QB. This, THIS, is Minnesota’s second best win of the year.
- 31-0, vs. Rutgers (4-6/1-6, 90 of 131): A home rout of Rutgers. And somehow in the top half of Gopher victories this year.
- 31-3, vs. Northwestern (1-9/1-6, 109 of 131): Going by SRS, this is the second worst P5 team in the nation this year, yet Minnesota still has THREE worse victories?!?
- 49-7, vs. Colorado (1-9, 121 of 131): Yes, Minnesota also beat the WORST P5 team in the nation this year.
- 38-0, vs. New Mexico State (4-5, 122 of 131). Wait, that record looks respectable, why is NMSU so bad? The Aggies’ victories? Hawaii (2-9, 1 FBS win); New Mexico (2-8, 1 FBS win); UMass (1-9, no FBS wins), Lamar (1-9 in FCS).
- 62-10, vs. Western Illinois. Like South Dakota State, the Leathernecks play in FCS’s Missouri Valley Conference. They are 0-10 on the year. And Iowa gets shit for the South Dakota State game?
Other seasons suggested as being worse for the West
This is comical for a number of reasons. First, while Iowa was very lucky to go 12-0, they were miles better than any West team this year. Compared to Spencer Petras, C.J. Beathard is Patrick Mahomes. Iowa hung right with a playoff-bound MSU in the B1G title game. Wisconsin and Northwestern each won ten games, and the division went 3-2 in bowl games with three teams finishing the season ranked. Overall, the West was four games below .500 against the East. This year, the West is five games below .500 (with Illinois @ Michigan, and Purdue @ Indiana remaining).
There is a certain elegance in Northwestern winning the division while going 0-3 in non-conference play, but they ruined it by only being a score down to Ohio State in the 4th quarter of the B1G title game and then beating a ranked Utah (Pac 12 South champs) in their bowl game. They also only lost to a very good Michigan (10-3) team by three. We’ll see if Illinois can match that. Iowa was actually very good according to the advanced numbers, and but for a garbage time TD by UW, they Hawkeyes’ four losses would’ve been by a combined 16 points. They beat a ranked Mississippi Sate in a Jan. 1 bowl game. Wisconsin, Purdue, and Minnesota all went to bowl games too, with the Badgers and Gophers both winning, to cap a 4-1 bowl performance by the West (though let’s not forget Purdue losing 63-14 to Auburn). As a whole, the West was only one game under .500 against the East (again, five games under .500 this year)
Covid robs us of the hilarious non-conference losses that would allow for a fuller comparison. However, I don’t see this year’s B1G West champ being as competitive in the B1G title game as Northwestern was against OSU two years ago. And ‘20 Iowa, after dropping their first two games by 4 @ Purdue and 1 vs. NW, tore off six straight wins, scoring no fewer than 26 points in any of those games (I can’t believe it either). But for cancellation of the season finale vs. Michigan and the bowl game against Missouri, Iowa might have been looking at a top 10 ranking to end the season. The rest of the division was mediocre, but everybody won at least two conference games, and nobody was as bad as Northwestern is this year. Finally, while a grain of salt is necessary, the West went exactly .500 against the East in 2020.