UNIVERSITY PARK - So which powerhouse program in the country is the toughest to score against?
Florida? Nope. Alabama? Nuh-uh. Iowa? Wrong.
So who is college football's stingiest defense? Why, it's the Penn State Nittany Lions.
Despite the injuries to both Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman that caused each to miss significant time this year, Linebacker U has looked every bit the part. Penn State is surrendurring just 8.9 points per game.
That's it. And that includes the blocked punt return for a touchdown that Iowa got.
The next-closest teams to the Nittany Lions - Oklahoma and Florida, both averaging 10.1 ppg - have each given up the same number of points as Penn State (71). But the Lions have played eight games to the Sooners' and Gators' seven, meaning that if either wants to catch Penn State, they'll likely need to pitch a shutout at some point during the season - something that the boys in blue and white have already done (against Minnesota, 20-0).
And the scary part? Joe Paterno thinks that this team isn't as good as it could be - not yet anyway.
"We've probably done as well as we could have, considering some of the positions we went into, which were inexperience, the injuries to Lee and Bowman and those kinds of things," Paterno said at his Tuesday press conference. "But, I think overall, we did probably as well as we could."
A big part of the reason Penn State's defense has been more of a "de-fortress" has to be on the defensive line - namely tackle Jared Odrick.
The front four has blown up play after play against pretty much everyone the Nittany Lions have faced this season, including Michigan's Big Ten-leading offense with two sacks and 5.5 other tackles for losses Saturday.
The threat of Penn State pressure seemed to be the factor that led to Michigan center David Molk snapping the ball through the end zone for a safety when quarterback Tate Forcier wasn't even looking for the ball.
It's plays like that that has led Paterno to say that he doesn't think Odrick and some other players have gotten enough credit.
"As a football player, I think he's a heck of a football player," Paterno said. "He's a heck of a leader in practice. I think he's a leader in the game. He makes plays when they have to be made. I just don't think some of the kids have quite the credit they should get.
"And we've talked about Bowman. I think Bowman was the same way. Bowman was hurt by the fact that he didn't play early."
But the Lions face another offense that has shown the ability to score points quickly on Saturday - Northwestern. The Wildcats seem to always be the Big Ten's biggest wild card team, or in other words, erratic.
Take Northwestern's game last week against Indiana last week, for instance. The Hoosiers jumped out to a 28-3 halftime lead before the Wildcats rallied back to win 29-28 on the arm of fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Kafka.
That means that, given the chance, Northwestern could prove to be in prime position to give Penn State a run for its money Saturday. The game is placed perfectly between the Lions' blowout win at Michigan last week and the impending showdown with Ohio State at home next week - not to mention the fact that it's at Ryan Field and not Beaver Stadium.
But as long as Penn State doesn't fall into a trap, the Lions should be able to do to Northwestern what it has to everyone else this season - smother the opponent's offense and hand the ball to Daryll Clark and the offense.
Sounds like a strategy worth defending.
Brian Cox is a Sentinel sports reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.