Admit it. You've wondered, even as Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes raced to 6-0, whether Iowa was for real. If the win over Penn State in Happy Valley was a fluke. If those close shaves against Northern Iowa and Arkansas State were the real indicators.
A 20-10 win at Wisconsin answers a few questions, doesn't it?
When A.J. Edds' interception sealed victory late in the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, it was time to start thinking about the Rose Bowl. Or maybe even that little contest that will be played a week later in the same location.
It still feels like a stretch, calling Iowa a BCS title contender. But the Hawkeyes keep doing the one thing they must.
The Hawkeyes have won 11 straight, dating back to last season. More important, with Purdue's upset of Ohio State today, Iowa (7-0, 3-0) is the only unbeaten Big Ten team -- in the league standings, and overall. And Saturday afternoon's performance was especially impressive, considering Wisconsin held an early 10-0 lead.
Ricky Stanzi sometimes makes you cringe, but he's fun to watch. He completed 17-of-23 for 218 yards, the bulk of the Hawkeyes' offense in a slugfest. The tying touchdown to tight end Tony Moeaki -- third-and-seven, 24 yards -- early in the third quarter was nice, but for a defining moment, try the 27-yard strike to Moeaki a few moments later.
The possession seemed stalled, third-and-13 at the Hawkeyes' 37. Stanzi dropped back, then found Moeaki on a seam route. Moeaki was well-covered, but after the near-perfect pass and a nice catch, the Hawkeyes were headed for the clinching field goal -- which happened to be a career-long 48-yarder by Daniel Murray.
After that, the Heartland Trophy was headed back to Iowa City. And it was safe to begin thinking about the bigger picture.
A quick word about the Badgers (5-2, 2-2). They're not half-bad, and you have to feel for them after a closer-than-it-looked loss at Ohio State last week and Saturday's home setback. But they didn't take advantage in the first half against Iowa, then stumbled badly in the second.
Iowa's defense grabbed three interceptions, and slowed the Badgers' rushing attack. And after trailing 10-3 at halftime, Stanzi and the offense got going. And though it came differently, it was a little reminiscent of the win at Penn State, when the Hawkeyes trailed 10-0 and then 10-5 at the half.
Edds' clinching interception was nice punctuation. The linebacker was matched on a wide receiver. Advantage Wisconsin. Except it wasn't. Much like his team keeps doing, Edds found a way to win the battle.
Up next, a trip to Michigan State. And next month, there's a trip to Columbus, Ohio. But after winning at Penn State and Wisconsin -- and with Purdue's upset Saturday of Ohio State -- it might be time to jump on the Hawkeyes' bandwagon.
Or not. Wait a while longer, if you must. When you look at these guys, it's easy to see flaws. Until you check the scoreboard.
Where you see perfection.