During an appearance on Dan Patrick's nationally syndicated radio show, Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz hinted that his undefeated Hawkeyes might be an underdog at Michigan State, just as they were the week before at the University of Wisconsin.
You could sense in Ferentz's tone he was comfortable with the slight, perceived or otherwise, regardless if he was planning to throw down the Lack of Respect Card to motivate his players Saturday in East Lansing, Mich.
"Winning takes care of itself," Ferentz said. "It's that simple. If you win enough, you usually -- not always -- you usually get what you deserve in sports. It's really how it works. Auburn might be the exception to the rule that year."
In 2004, unbeaten Auburn ended up No. 3 in the final BCS standings behind Southern Cal and Oklahoma, two more undefeated teams. While the Trojans crushed the Sooners in the national championship game, the Tigers settled for a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Ferentz was asked during his Tuesday news conference in Iowa City whether he was surprised that despite Iowa's impressive resume, the Hawkeyes were No. 6 in the first BCS standings. "Those are your words, not ours," he said of the "impressive resume." "Apparently not many people are buying that."
But after pooh-poohing the national perception ("I'm not worried about any of that stuff right now"), Ferentz later said, "Quick one for you: The teams that were 6 through 10 last year in the initial (BCS) poll, anybody want to take a shot where they finished?"
Oklahoma State was No. 6, and finished No. 13. Georgia was No. 7, and finished No. 15. Texas Tech was No. 8 and finished No. 7. Ohio State was No. 9 and finished No. 10, Florida was No. 10 and finished No. 1 before going on to beat Oklahoma in the BCS title game.
As a means, perhaps, to keep his players grounded, Ferentz concluded of the BCS standings, "You could go up, you could go down, or you might stay the same." And then he reminded everyone it's the fourth week of October. "We're not even halfway through our conference play yet as a team," he said.
Although the Hawkeyes have been road warriors -- winning at Iowa State, Penn State and Wisconsin -- they will be looking to buck the trend in the Iowa-Michigan State series. The home team has won the past nine games.
The Hawkeyes have lost four straight in East Lansing and haven't won there since 1995. But Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio wasn't buying Iowa as an "underdog" opponent unworthy of its top 10 ranking or perch atop the Big Ten.
"Resilient -- that's the term I heard the other day (to describe Iowa) and I would agree with that," Dantonio said. "They've been able to win close games. When you do, usually you develop a little bit of confidence,
"They've won on defense, they've won on special teams, and they've won on offense. They've done it three different ways. That's an indication of a great football team, and a very well-coached team."
Penn State tailback Evan Royster on the Nittany Lions losing five straight games at Michigan, heading into the teams' matchup Saturday in Ann Arbor: "I think we feel like we're the better team and we can go out there and still beat them."
Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham on Royster's comments: "He's just going to have to show it. They better come hard, because we're coming (hard). If he feels pretty confident, he'd better prepare, that's all I can say."