UNIVERSITY PARK - Receiver Devon Smith posed the question last week - "Is this Penn State team really good?" - and for now there is a clear answer.
This Nittany Lion team, which has been decimated by injuries on defense and plagued by offensive ineptitude, did not look good at all Saturday against Illinois.
"We stunk," Joe Paterno said.
The question now becomes just how long the stench will last and whether a bye week can wash some of it away.
If it doesn't, Penn State fans thinking about attending a bowl game will have to start coming up with alternative travel plans for the holidays.
"The situation we're in right now, it's a bad situation," cornerback Stephon Morris said.
Illinois humbled PSU at Beaver Stadium, 33-13, to drop the Nits to 3-3 overall and 0-2 in the Big Ten. It was just the sixth time JoePa has lost a homecoming game in 45 seasons.
The Fighting Illini (3-2, 1-1) scored 20 points in the second quarter for a 20-13 halftime lead and were never challenged in the second half.
Penn State needs three more wins to be bowl eligible, but looking at the schedule and the current state of the team, it's tough to find three victories.
That reality is starting to sink in for the players.
"That's obvious," tailback Evan Royster said. "If we don't start to win games, then yeah, we're not going to go to a bowl game."
Given PSU's slew of injuries on defense, no game - not even Minnesota in two weeks or Indiana on Nov. 20 - can be seen as locks.
"Every time we see one of our teammates down on the ground, we just hang our head like, 'Dang, not again,'" Morris said. "It's just tough right now."
Illinois dominated on both sides of the ball, including holding the Lions to just seven first downs, second-fewest ever during the Paterno era.
Penn State's defensive meltdown was equally astounding, but at least that unit had the injury excuse. The Illini, pretty much a one-dimensional team coming in with a non-descript passing attack, piled up 437 yards of total offense and ran over, through and around Penn State defenders.
As for those defenders, many of them were only on the field because of injuries to starters and, in some cases, second-team guys.
"That's no excuse," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "That's part of football. We got some guys hurt, other guys gotta step up."
Defensive end Jack Crawford (foot) and linebackers Michael Mauti (ankle sprain) and Bani Gbadyu (knee) didn't play Saturday. Crawford may need surgery. Nate Stupar and true freshman Khairi Fortt started for the injured LBs.
Defensive end Eric Latimore hurt his left wrist on the first play, didn't return and may need season-ending surgery. Free safety Nick Sukay suffered a pectoral injury and also may be out for the season. Defensive end Pete Massaro suffered dehydration and didn't return. Backup safety Andrew Dailey suffered a stinger.
The team already was without defensive end Sean Stanley and cornerback Derrick Thomas for undisclosed violations. They aren't expected to return any time soon. And linebacker Gerald Hodges (broken leg) has been out since the Alabama game.
"I can't figure out why we're getting so many kids bumped, but we're getting them bumped," Paterno said. "You've got to live with it."
That's easier said than done.
This wasn't a typical dominant Penn State defense even with all those players. Without them - if more of the injuries are severe - one has to wonder if the Lions will be able to stop any team left on the schedule.
When the coaches rested defensive tackles Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still in the second half, the line consisted of all backups: ends Kevion Latham and true freshman Da'Quan Jones, along with tackles Jordan Hill and James Terry.
"Coach always tells us, 'If anyone goes down, you're next up to play,'" Latham said. "So that's how we practice. We know that could happen."
They may know it, but that doesn't mean the backups who are being forced into action are prepared for what it takes to be successful - especially not on short notice and with limited reps.
Bradley said he "thought at times we didn't fight in there."
"You see the pile going forward," he added, "that always bothers you from a defensive standpoint."