Remember last year when the Iowa Hawkeyes came out of nowhere and surprised everyone? I know it's harder to picture after Iowa's rough start to the season and dead playoff hopes, but Iowa was good last season.

This got me to thinking: who is this year's Iowa? For me, this year's Iowa, the team that surpasses all expectations and just might run the tables, is in the Big Ten West.

It's the Nebraska Cornhuskers (honorable mention to West Virginia).

1. The defense has been better than you think. Nebraska currently has the 17th-best scoring defense in NCAA Division I (18.3 points per game). With playmakers at several positions, include ballhawks like Sioux Falls native Nate Gerry, the Husker defense has stepped up when needed time after time.

2. Tommy Armstrong has taken care of the football (for the most part). When Nebraska struggles, it's often because of an excess in turnovers. But Armstrong has limited those turnovers this season. Through six games, he's thrown four interceptions and is on pace to throw only eight. That's half of what he threw all of last season (16 INTs).

3. Guys are stepping up and making plays. I'm sure you've seen Brandon Reilly's spectacular concentration and catch--all from his back--at Indiana on Saturday. While this is may be an extreme on the spectrum, players have been stepping up all season for Nebraska.


4. They have @FauxPelini to remind us what's really important.


The tweet obviously came before Ohio State-Wisconsin even kicked off, but nobody was talking about this major storyline breaking out of the Big Ten.

Obviously, the biggest hinderance to Nebraska taking Iowa's surprise role as Big Ten West champion is their schedule. While Iowa had a relatively easy schedule last season, including catching several Big Ten teams on down years, Nebraska plays at Wisconsin, Ohio State and Iowa this season.

Do I think Nebraska will end up undefeated? No, but it is the only team in the Big Ten West still with a shot. And if the Huskers manage to steal a game against either Wisconsin or Ohio State and beat Iowa, they will be playing in Indianapolis on Dec. 3.

And heck, they have a shot to be in Indy even with losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin if they take care of business at Iowa and Wisconsin slips up somewhere.

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