Hawkeyes’ ability to win could help at Neb.

Published 11:46 am Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Michigan State can go to the Big Ten championship game with a win over Penn State on Saturday. Ohio State and Michigan meet in “The Game,” with the winner representing the East Division in the title game if the Spartans slip up.

Then there are Nebraska, Illinois, Minnesota and Indiana, all getting their last chances to gain bowl eligibility.

But it’s third-ranked Iowa (11-0, 7-0 Big Ten), maybe college football’s biggest surprise, that will command the nation’s attention this week when it tries to close out a perfect regular season on the road against improving Nebraska (5-6, 3-4).

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Iowa already has locked up the West title, and the Hawkeyes moved up to No. 4 in this week’s College Football rankings.

They’ll go before a national television audience Friday and once again try to convince doubters that they’re legitimate, not the beneficiary of a soft schedule.

To get to 12-0, Iowa might have to win another close game. Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday his team is comfortable in tight contests. The Hawks have won games by 3, 4 and 5 points, and five of their wins have been by 9 or less.

“When we have a good team, typically we find a way to win close games,” Ferentz said. “We don’t lead the country in five- and four-star recruits. We typically don’t blow folks out. That’s not our DNA, typically. When you play here, it’s more like being in the NFL. You’re going to be involved in a lot of close games and you have to find a way to be successful in those games.”

The Hawkeyes have made a four-win improvement so far after losing five of its last seven to finish 7-6 in 2014. Ferentz has gone from the hot seat to candidate for national coach of the year.

“I think what’s unique to college football — I’m not so sure it’s new today  — there are always opportunities for stories to emerge,” he said on the Big Ten coaches’ call.