LaVar Arrington laughed at the question, then proceeded to rip Ohio State and added Penn State is going to ''whup'' the Buckeyes on Saturday.
Let's backtrack first. It all started like this ...
Former Penn State star linebacker Jack Ham and former Ohio State star Chris Spielman were asked separately Saturday at Beaver Stadium which university really is ''Linebacker U.''
Penn State generally is recognized with the official title, but some in the Ohio State camp have tried to claim it over the years.
''That Linebacker U, I think it stays here at Penn State,'' said Ham, a Nittany Lion radio broadcaster.
Spielman, calling Saturday's game against Michigan for ESPN, didn't hesitate a bit with his answer.
Who is Linebacker U?
Penn State gets the edge when it comes to first-team All-Americans. The Lions have had 13, while Ohio State has had 12.
Dan Connor 2006, '07
Paul Posluszny 2005, '06
Brandon Short 1999
LaVar Arrington 1998, '99
Andre Collins 1989
Shane Conlan 1985, '86
Kurt Allerman 1976
Greg Buttle 1975
Ed O'Neil 1973
John Skorupan 1972
Charlie Zapiec 1971
Jack Ham 1970
Dennis Onkotz 1968, '69
James Laurinaitis 2006, '07
A.J. Hawk 2004, '05
Matt Wilhelm 2002
Na'il Diggs 1999
Andy Katzenmoyer 1997
Steve Tovar 1991, '92
Chris Spielman 1986, '87
Thomas Johnson 1985
Marcus Marek 1982
Tom Cousineau 1977, '78
Randy Gradishar 1972, '73
Ike Kelley 1964, '65
''Ohio State,'' he said.
''Both of them have great traditions,'' Spielman continued, ''but obviously if you're going to ask a former linebacker from Ohio State, he's going to say Ohio State. So that's why I say Ohio State.''
Penn State fans may not like hearing it, but it's not exactly crazy talk that Ohio State tries to claim the Linebacker U distinction. History shows the two schools have been very similar when it comes to producing standout linebackers.
A closer look:
* Penn State has had 13 first-team All-Americans. Ohio State has had 12.
* Two Lions - Arrington and Paul Posluszny - have won the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. The Buckeyes also have had two winners - James Laurinaitis, a member of this year's team, and Andy Katzenmoyer.
* Penn State has a big lead in Bednarik Award winners for the nation's top defensive player. Posluszny won it twice, Arrington and Dan Connor once each. Ohio State has never had a linebacker take that honor.
* Ham, a star for the Steelers in the 1970s, is the only linebacker from either school in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
All this brings us back to Arrington.
He was contacted by phone Monday night and asked which school really is Linebacker U.
''Ohio State,'' he said.
Then he laughed for about three seconds.
''Total sarcasm,'' Arrington said, still laughing.
''Ohio State would never touch the tradition of what linebackers represent at Penn State,'' Arrington said.
Now, everyone must be aware of one thing. When Arrington played at Penn State in the 1990s, reporters tell stories of how they never wanted to miss his weekly conference calls because there was no telling what he might say.
Things like this:
''They talk about these linebackers from USC and Ohio State,'' Arrington said Monday. ''Let's be realistic here. Ohio State got whupped by USC, which shows how inferior they are. Oregon State whupped on USC and showed how inferior USC's linebackers are. And you know what? Penn State whupped on Oregon State, and they're going to whup on Ohio State.''
Arrington spoke with great reverence about former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, calling him the professor of linebackers.
''I got an opportunity to play for him, and to be honest with you, that's just as legendary as playing for Joe Paterno,'' Arrington said.
''The coaches are legendary, our reputation [as Linebacker U] is legendary. It speaks for itself. I'm not going to get into the whole going back and forth. The tradition speaks for itself.''
That tradition continues for both schools this season.
The Buckeyes have Laurinaitis, a first-team All-American each of the past two years and a probable first-round pick in the next NFL draft.
''Laurinaitis is an outstanding player, came back for his senior year,'' Ham said. ''That guy plays the passing game well, he's good against the run, he's got great speed, anticipation.''
Penn State would have had an All-America candidate in Sean Lee, but he suffered a season-ending injury in spring ball.
Arrington, though, said the Lions do still have one of the best linebackers in school history playing. He could not stop raving about redshirt sophomore Navorro Bowman.
''He's the best linebacker in America right now,'' Arrington said. ''I'd be hard-pressed to find somebody as talented as him.''
High praise, indeed. But it gets even better.
''Jack Ham said Paul Posluszny was the best linebacker he'd ever seen,'' Arrington said. ''I think if Navorro comes back for another year, he might be the most talented that plays there.''
Bowman already has been given the nickname ''Lavorro'' by some Penn State fans because he has a similar, all-out playing style that Arrington had.
Arrington has heard the nickname and said, ''that's awesome.'' Bowman also has heard it and seems humbled by it.
''I'm just blessed to be mentioned in the same sentence with that guy,'' Bowman said. ''He's a great athlete. I watched him when I was younger. ... I've just got to keep working hard and hopefully live up to the name.''
Arrington sees similarities in the way his and Bowman's careers unfolded.
''It's sad that he's so underrated,'' Arrington said. ''He's having a year much like my first year of playing was. He slipped under the radar because they didn't play him at the beginning. He didn't even start until the third game. Same as my story. I didn't start until the third game of my sophomore year.''
The linebacker play will be a big key in Saturay's showdown between the Lions and Buckeyes. No one would expect anything else from two schools with the best linebacker traditions in the nation.
Spielman wasn't dissing Penn State when he said his alma mater is Linebacker U. He understands exactly what the label means in Happy Valley.
''It's one of the traditions of college football,'' he said. ''It's something certainly that I was aware of when I was in high school when I actually visited [PSU] and loved every second of it.''
Producing good, tough linebackers, Spielman added, is ''what we do in the Midwest, and especially in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I always say that's where all the tough guys are anyway. That's where everybody comes to get them.''