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Resilient Iowa somehow atop Legends Division

Associated Press Modified: October 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm •  Published: October 16, 2012

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — There isn't much evidence to suggest that Iowa is all that good this season.

The Hawkeyes are resilient, though, and in the Big Ten in 2012, that might be enough.

An Iowa team that has looked awful at times is tied for first place in the Legends Division heading into Saturday night's home game against Penn State (4-2, 2-0 Big Ten).

Iowa has played spotty football at best for nearly the entire season. But the Hawkeyes (4-2, 2-0) have proven to be a mentally tough bunch, a trait that's allowed them to overcome more than a few shortcomings.

"We have good guys on our team, and I think we have good leadership. It probably starts and stops right there. I think our leaders have done a good job," coach Kirk Ferentz said. 'We have a lot of guys that aren't starting right now that are seniors ... we have a lot of good stories going on with those guys. They've really been all in."

Still, how does a team that can't throw the ball and lost at home to Central Michigan find themselves in control of their own destiny in the Big Ten? Strong defense, an even stronger running game and the ability to keep its focus when things aren't going well.

Oh, and the fact that the Big Ten is down doesn't hurt, either.

The Hawkeyes figured to be the type of team that would need to put up a bunch of points in the early going to help its young defense.

It's been the other way around.

The passing game behind quarterback James Vandenberg ranks second-to-last in the nation with just two touchdown passes. And Iowa's defense has grown up fast.

The Hawkeyes are allowing just 17.2 points per game and are 28th nationally in pass defense and 31st in run defense. They're also plus-7 in the turnover margin and have allowed just 26 total points in regulation in wins over Minnesota and Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes have also managed to run the ball effectively all season. Starter Mark Weisman sprained his right ankle scoring the game-tying touchdown in last week's 19-16 double-overtime win over the Spartans, and it's doubtful he'll be ready by Saturday.

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