STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Asked to assess Penn State's strengths, Temple coach Al Golden paused for a couple seconds before uttering a one-word answer.
"Wow," he said before another brief pause.
On Saturday, Golden gets to see Penn State in person when the Owls visit Beaver Stadium.
The 16th-ranked Nittany Lions (3-0) are rolling through the nonconference schedule, rushing for more than 260 yards a game and passing for 270. The defense is containing opposing tailbacks and holding overmatched opponents to 12 points a game.
"Tremendous amount of weapons. Well-coached, disciplined," Golden said. "Tough, fundamentally sound."
Golden would know -- he played for coach Joe Paterno almost two decades ago. Temple defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio did too. They were co-captains on the 1991 team.
Now, they're trying to lead Temple back to respectability. The results have been encouraging so far this season, even if the Owls are just 1-2.
Temple opened the season with a 35-7 win over Army before losing the next two games by a combined five points. Connecticut beat them on a field goal in overtime. Buffalo got a touchdown pass as time expired to hand Temple a stinging 30-28 loss last week.
"Is it deflating? That's the obvious question," Golden said. "There's no eclipse, no locusts on the field, so I told them 'We're going to be all right."
Another loss still seems highly likely though, on Saturday. After all, Temple hasn't defeated Penn State since 1941.
It doesn't matter to Paterno, a master of talking up weaker opponents.
"This is the best Temple team I think I've seen in a while," Paterno said. "This will be a really good football team on Saturday. When I say really good, I mean solid and in the right position and not going to beat themselves, that kind of thing."
Penn State has outscored Temple the previous two seasons by a combined 78-0. The Owls would seem to have a better chance of at least getting on the scoreboard on Saturday with dual-threat quarterback Adam DiMichele leading the offense.
DiMichele averages more than 243 yards per game of total offense. In last week's loss to the Bulls, he was 24-of-33 passing for 285 yards and three scores.
A former Penn State recruit, DiMichele dreams of spoiling the Nittany Lions' season with an unlikely upset that would put Temple football back on the national radar.
"They get up 28-0, and that's going to be a hard thing to come back from," said the fifth-year senior. "Hopefully we can do some things early in that game, and be in it in the fourth quarter."
Paterno has said DiMichele is the toughest quarterback Penn State will have faced so far in 2008. His defensive line, thinned by injuries and suspension, might be tested.
The most recent issues include the off-field trouble for suspended linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma, who haven't played since the first week of the season. They were each charged with one misdemeanor count of possession of a small amount of marijuana earlier this week.
Reserve Mike Lucian was moved from offensive line to defensive tackle before the Syracuse game to replenish depth, but injured his left ankle in the win over the Orange. He was listed earlier this week as "probable" for the Temple game.
The fresh bodies left on the line hope they're ready to pick up the long-term slack, especially with Big Ten play looming. Illinois visits Happy Valley to kick off the conference slate on Sept. 27.
But Paterno appears to have the defense well-schooled in focusing solely on the next opponent.
"He seems like overall, one of the better quarterbacks we've played so far," defensive tackle Jared Odrick said about DiMichele. "We're doing the right things at practice this week to prepare for that."