Unheralded Iowa conjures up some more late-game magic to stay unbeaten. Time to start taking these Hawkeyes seriously.
Undefeated Cincinnati could have a seriously good chance to keep coach Brian Kelly around for another season.
Week 8 of the college football season included the end of one seriously long losing streak and a good sign that officials might not be taking those celebration penalties quite so seriously anymore.
The Big Story
Even the most passionate Iowa fans would have a hard time arguing the Hawkeyes are more talented than Florida, Alabama or Texas.
According to R.J. Bell of pregame.com, Iowa would be an 8-12 point underdog on a neutral field against any of this season's big three.
But at this point in the season, no team has accomplished more than Iowa, which moved up to fourth in the BCS standings Sunday. And if the Hawkeyes keep winning, they will have a strong case to be included in the BCS national championship game.
The Hawkeyes (8-0) latest dramatic turn came Saturday night in East Lansing, Mich., when Ricky Stanzi and Marvin McNutt hooked up for a 7-yard touchdown on the last play of the game to give the Hawkeyes a 15-13 victory.
Iowa has been so lightly regarded, despite a winning streak that is now at 12 games, it hasn't even been favored in its last two games against Wisconsin and the Spartans.
"We come in here underdogs, last week we were underdogs. I got to think it's the first time a top-10 team has been an underdog (against an unranked team) ... well, probably not. But it was interesting," Ferentz said Saturday night.
Add that road win to victories at Penn State, Wisconsin and Iowa State _ all teams with winning records.
In fact, Iowa has played only one sub-.500 team _ Arkansas State _ and the Hawkeyes' opponents have a .633 winning percentage (38-22) that is by far the best of any team in ranked in the AP top 10.
Florida's opponents are 26-24 (.520), same as Texas'. Alabama's opponents are 28-29 (.491).
As for road victories, Alabama has played only two road games (at Kentucky and at Mississippi). Florida scored a big road win at No. 9 LSU. The Gators' other trips were to Kentucky and Mississippi State. Texas' road games were at Wyoming and Missouri.
The knock on Iowa has been that it's not dominant enough. The Hawkeyes have only one win by more than 11 points _ a 35-3 victory against Iowa State.
They needed two blocked field goals on consecutive plays to beat Northern Iowa, a very good FCS program, 17-16 in the season-opener. They squeaked by Arkansas State 24-21. They've played from behind in all their Big Ten games.
"At the end of the day, it really doesn't matter if we were underdogs or not. We're 8-0. We're happy about that, don't get me wrong," Ferentz said. "But we're only halfway through the Big Ten schedule. We've still got a big month ahead of us."
Iowa faces Indiana and Northwestern at home next before a trip to Ohio State on Nov. 14. The Hawkeyes finish at home against Minnesota.
If the Hawkeyes win out it might not be enough to earn a spot in the BCS title game, but don't think they won't have earned the right to complain.
No place to go
Nothing against Cincinnati, but it's plain logical to think at some point a school with a bigger budget will pry coach Brian Kelly away from the Bearcats.
Kelly, who was wooed by Tennessee and Washington last year, is having another resume-padding season.
The fifth-ranked Bearcats (7-0) are vying for a second straight Big East title and BCS berth and are a legitimate national title contenders.
Kelly signed a new five-year contract after last season that pays him $1.5 million annually, or less than half of what Nick Saban and Urban Meyer make.
Kelly is a hot commodity, but there might not be many 'Help Wanted' signs at big-time programs in the upcoming months.
Notre Dame would seem to be an obvious fit if Charlie Weis' team breaks down in the second half of the season. But the Irish also could be headed to a 10-2 or 9-3 finish.
Other than that, Virginia might need a coach. But that's not much of a step up from Cincinnati. Colorado? Illinois? Kelly can probably do better and he doesn't seem to be in a hurry to leave.
Unexpected retirements or defections to the NFL can create some attractive openings, but right now the job market for a rising coaching star is thin.
In case you missed it
Indiana State snapped a 33-game losing streak with a 17-14 victory against Western Illinois.
Larry Bird's alma mater had not won a football game since beating Missouri State 28-22 on Oct. 21, 2006.
The Sycamores' skid ranks only behind Prairie View A&M (80 games), Columbia (44) and Northwestern (34) in Division I.
_ After his game saving blocked field goal, Alabama's Terrence Cody tore his helmet off with a couple of ticks left on the clock as the celebration began on the field. No penalty was called. Thank goodness.
_ There are five winless teams left in major college football. But Illinois (1-6) is the only team from the six automatic qualifying leagues to without a win against FBS competition.
_ The schedule maker might decide the muddle of mediocrity that is the Big 12 North, with the teams that play the fewest South Division heavyweights getting an advantage.
No. 4 Southern California and No. 10 Oregon play for control of the Pac-10 race in Eugene and No. 3 Texas faces what figures to be its toughest remaining test at No. 13 Oklahoma State.
Associated Press Writer Tim Martin in East Lansing, Mich., contributed to this report.
Ralph D. Russo covers college football for The Associated Press. Write to him at rrusso(at)ap.org.