Today, ESPN.com unveiled its toughest FBS jobs in the country. Iowa State is ranked not only as the toughest job in the Big 12 but also as the 64th-toughest job of 65 Power 5 programs in college football.
An argument can be made for Kansas as the toughest job in the Big 12. The Jayhawks are ranked just one spot ahead of the Cyclones and haven't won more than three games in a season in five years. Iowa State, meanwhile, has been to a pair of bowl games during that span. Kansas' recent attendance figures have been embarrassing. Iowa State, meanwhile, is renovating Jack Trice Stadium due in part to ticket demand.
Then again, Iowa State's challenges in recruiting make it a difficult place to win. Kansas has better proximity to the talent hotbed in Texas, which the Jayhawks took full advantage of in their 2015 signing class. Kansas inked 17 Texans this month; Iowa State added only four.
The in-state talent in the Hawkeye State isn't prolific, either. Yet the Cyclones have to share that talent with Iowa. In the likes of wideout Allen Lazard, Iowa State has been able to nab some of the top in-state players in recent years. But the depth isn't there, which has forced the Cyclones to get creative in recruiting. Iowa State signed players from 10 different states this year; the year before, it was 11 states.
Ames itself (though beautiful) is not an easy place to recruit to, either. It's cold. And it's remote, relative to some of the other Big 12 campuses.
The tradition isn't there, either. Iowa State is the only school in the Big 12 never to have a 10-win season.
At one time, the Cyclones at least had the Big 12 North to fall back on. They could avoid Texas and Oklahoma in certain seasons. But that's no longer the case. Now, they have to face budding powers TCU and Baylor every year, too.
At the beginning of his tenure, coach Paul Rhoads proved that it's not impossible to play for bowls at Iowa State. But it's tough. Perhaps as tough as anywhere in the nation.