This is just an thought exercise that might give one a chance to evaluate their expectations.
First, saying South Carolina isn't quite accurate. "Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks" might be more accurate. But really LSU and South Carolina are short-hand for asking about more teams in general. The SEC and the B1G are the two best conferences in the NCAA Div-I (I don't recognize this "FBS/FCS" euphemisms as I think they're just an evil ploy of the powers that be of ingraining the Bowl concept in our brains so that we don't ask for change, and then... Whoa, I digress). I think it's interesting to think of the two and comparing their them in terms of "tiers." +
There are those in the lower tier: Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Miss. St., Ole Miss, Arkansas and Northwestern, Indiana, Purdue, Minnesota. These teams may have been great at some point, may have had a good season somewhat recently, but from what little I know, it seems as though they haven't been legitimate conference contenders more than once, if that, in the recent past.
There are those that are pretty inarguably the top tier: Florida, LSU, Alabama and Ohio State, Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan. This could be in terms of "perception" and national recognition or in terms of performance. I don't know enough about the SEC to say whether Auburn is in that category nor to know if Tennessee is just down or whether they've returned to their "normal" spot since Fullmer ha`s gone. Auburn has been undefeated 3 times in the past 20 years, but only claims one other Nat'l Championship in its history - 1957. (See why playoffs would rock?)
Then, in the middle tier are the teams that occasionally win the conference, rarely contend, but have contended, for a national championship. They rarely, if ever, have winless seasons or those with 1 or 2 wins. In this tier: Illinois, Michigan St, and Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn.
These tiers are imperfect at best, and just wrong at worst. Tennesse won a few nat'l championships and a lot of SEC conf titles. Georgia seems to get an unusual amount of attention despite their non-factor on the nat'l stage. Miss. State and South Carolina have been good under their current coaches. But the history and tradition of repeated above-average caliber is not there.
So it seems pretty obvious to me that Iowa is currently in the middle tier and before Ferentz one might say they were on the cusp of the bottom tier. If I remember the Director's (right? I can change this to whom it was if this is wrong) history correctly. Iowa had a really good team in the 30s and 40s and then a great team under Forest Evashevski before he unfortunately quit coaching. (It seems that one great run in the late 50s & 60s could have cemented Iowa on a nat'l stage. After all, Nebraska did it in the late-60s & 70s. Does Gayle Sayers go to Nebraska if Iowa is a repeated Nat'l Title contender? ::sigh::) After that is was a bad team followed by a great season or two under Fry with a number of above-average teams, but then sliding back to its badness of the 70s until the 3rd year of Ferentz.
So, are we satisfied with that? With mostly 7-6, 8-5, 9-4 seasons mixed in with an occasional 66 and occasional 11-2 seasons and, if lucky, once a decade being in the national title discussion? Because that's what Iowa has been under Ferentz, and based on a comparison of histories, that's what they "should be". Or do we want to expect a team that should win double-digit games every year and we're disappointed with anything less... like Nebraska? Because if Brady Hoke can continue to recruit like he has and actually develop the talent, if Ohio State bounces back from these sanctions, if Penn State continues to be good as they have been the past couple of years, if Nebraska is back to its prominence, and Bielema somehow, inexplicably, elevates Wisconsin past what Alvarez started, Iowa is going to consistently be in that middle tier of the conference with the occasional foray into the league elite.
What say you?