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IT'S NOT PLAGIARISM IF YOU LINK TO IT DEFENDS THE COOKIES

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#Narrative is everywhere.

Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

After the Skeptics Come the Articles About Defying the Skeptics. The national narrative on Iowa's still-undefeated season is as predictable as an outside zone from that two-tight end formation with two receivers to the field side.  In the last two weeks, we had general skepticism centered on Iowa's schedule.  Those are being followed by the inevitable articles on how (1) the schedule isn't as bad as the pundits said, and (2) the Hawkeyes are taking it one game at a time and not looking ahead.

From the first category, I give you Matt Brown at Sports on Earth:

Iowa finds itself in a strange position. It is much better than expected, already matching last season's win total. Unlike the other undefeated teams, it doesn't have another undefeated team on the rest of the schedule, at least until the Big Ten title game. And yet nobody believes the Hawkeyes have beat anyone either, because their schedule can be spun however you'd like ... to this point.

The teams @HawkeyeFootball has beat this year have combined to win 59% of their games. This is the highest % of any undefeated team.

— SportSourceAnalytics (@SportSourceA) October 27, 2015

This is technically true. Among Iowa's wins are Pittsburgh, whose only loss was to Iowa on a 57-yard field goal as time expired; Wisconsin, whose only other loss was to Alabama; and Northwestern, who beat Stanford and has only one other loss, to Michigan. But Iowa also beat North Texas -- arguably the nation's worst team -- a downtrodden Iowa State that just fired its offensive coordinator, an FCS team (a good one, but still an FCS team) and a mediocre Illinois. That's fine and all ... but the best remaining team on Iowa's schedule is Nebraska or Minnesota, both of whom are firmly on the bowl bubble. If Pitt stumbles down the stretch and Wisconsin and Northwestern drop another game, there's a chance that Iowa will go through the regular season having played zero teams that finish in the top 25. (Northwestern and Wisconsin were both ranked at the time of their games.)

There's also Football Study Hall's schematic breakdown, which again falls back to the narrative that Iowa is on the upswing of a five-year cycle (something we've proposed in the past).

On the other side, the Des Moines Register's Rick Brown:

Right now, Iowa is undefeated and in the bull's-eye on the dartboard of skeptics who say they're not that good, not playoff worthy and winning because of a weak schedule.

"That's fine," Iowa safety Jordan Lomax said. "Outside noise. The way Iowa football is built, we don't really care about outside opinion. We try and do what we can to get better every week."

Talk until you're blue in the face, cynics. It doesn't really matter.

And it doesn't matter where the Hawkeyes land in the first College Football Playoff poll when it's released Tuesday night on ESPN.

There's also Mitch Sherman at ESPN.

Iowa faces perhaps the easiest November schedule of the eight remaining Power-5 unbeatens.

And, in case you forget -- or never knew, in the case of many Hawkeyes -- the initial College Football Playoff rankings are set for release Tuesday. Iowa's inclusion among the contenders for a spot in the coveted top four might provoke a collective eye roll from the college football audience at large, but as long as the Hawkeyes continue to win, though, they believe they belong.

The great irony is that the two play into each other.  If what the committee did last year is any indication, Iowa could be placed higher in the playoff rankings than it is in either poll, because the playoff rankings are based on the objective data before the committee and not the implicit agenda of defending preseason predictions to show how smart the pollster is.  Iowa's schedule-to-date is just about as difficult as any other undefeated team's slate, and they've handled it with relative ease.  This team is in much better shape than the 2009 Cardiac Hawks were, except for the fact that nobody wants to believe in them.

"And Death Followed with Him" Is More a Fullback Thing. Iowa's running backs, three of which scored touchdowns against Maryland, have broken the basic rules of nicknaming by giving themselves a new nickname.  We would not endorse this based solely on process were it not kickass.

"The Four Deadly Horsemen, that's Jordan Canzeri," sophomore RB Akrum Wadley said. "He wanted me to say that. He wanted us to say that today, so shout out to Jordan Canzeri."

OK remember, college kids play college football. College kids like to have fun. They have creative minds and enjoy a good laugh. So, you now have "The Four Deadly Horsemen."

"This was Jordan's thing, but we all agreed with it," junior LeShun Daniels said. "It was kind of like, ‘Man, that's kind of legit,' so we just rolled with it."

And we now know why Iowa's halfbacks have not been smoted by AIRBHG yet (yes, two of them have missed time with injuries, but nothing more significant than an ankle sprain): AIRBHG is clearly an Old Testament God, given his righteous anger and love of irony.  But the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (which is presumably Canzeri's inspiration) are decidedly New Testament.  They're playing in different Testaments for once.  Let's go with that.

I'll Grant You My Trusty Steen. Iowa forced two three-and-outs from Maryland's offense in one first-half possession, when defensive back Miles Taylor picked off a deflected Terrapins pass, then fumbled it back to Maryland during the return.

Steenplay

Seasoned Iowa football observers immediately recognized this as "The Grant Steen Play," an interception-fumbleback on third down that extended an opponent's drive in the 2001 Iowa State game

Iowa has managed to exorcise the demons of AIRBHG and The Grant Steen Play so far this season, which should be the real story of the year.  We're one week away from C.J. Beathard driving into Kinnick in Steve Alford's company car.

OTHER STUFF

Kirk Herbstreit screamed in terror at the most horrifying thing in the world while calling the Notre Dame-Temple game Saturday night:

Iowa women's basketball held Media Day last week.  it's an interesting season, with a bunch of seniors (including Samantha Logic) leaving due to graduation and unknown replacements on the way.

Northwestern practiced in Halloween costumes.  Pat Fitzgerald coached as a turd sandwich Northwestern mascot Willie the Wildcat.

After a loss to Purdue, Nebraska is in full-on meltdown.  And while many are asking where the athletic director is (I'll give you a hint: It's Grand Cayman with all your money), it was Omaha World-Herald staff writer Sam McKewon who cut to the bone.  The basic premise: Nebraska's being run like a youth soccer league where trying hard is the most important thing, and everyone gets their juice box after the game.

No sunshine here. Gray skies, all day, and not long after Banderas was done talking, it began to steadily rain, which put at some peril the postgame feast put before the Nebraska players, coaches and staff members.

There were chicken sandwiches in boxes and bags, and there were platters of cookies. Plump and studded with chocolate chunks, the cookies for these Huskers, who took typically two or three as they passed. As it began to rain, one thing became clear: The cookies couldn't get wet. Staff members quickly found lids for the platters.

It was the best Husker coverage all day, and it all seemed comfortably numb.

Nebraska football: Never mind the football. Save the cookies.