Even in the minds of the most optimistic, diehard Penn State fans, that little voice in your head is probably still telling you that the team's 7-1 record is not legit.
The Nittany Lions have a chance to shut that voice up -- along with all their critics -- over the final four regular-season games.
They should beat Illinois, which has a struggling offense, this week. It was announced late Saturday that the game will kick off at 3:30 p.m. at Beaver Stadium.
Nebraska is a tough call, but it's a home game after a bye.
Ohio State is down, but no trip to Columbus is easy.
At Wisconsin? Almost no chance.
The Lions are exactly where most people thought they would be at this point, building an impressive record with a bunch of unimpressive wins over mediocre and bad competition.
Losing the final four games and going 7-5 is still more likely than 10-2. The preseason consensus of 8-4 remains the most likely outcome, and that's what I'm picking (beating Illinois, losing final three).
It's not a giant leap to go from 8-4 to 10-2, however, given three factors:
PSU in polls
The Nittany Lions are ranked 19th in the USA Today coaches poll and 19th in the BCS standings, while they are 21st in The Associated Press poll.
1. The ridiculous quarterback rotation appears to be over. Matt McGloin is the guy, and while Rob Bolden still may get a little playing time here and there, this will be McGloin's team going forward.
Is McGloin good enough to lead the Lions to a 10-2 record? No, but he's got help in key areas.
2. PSU's defense should be able to keep the team in every game, except for probably Wisconsin. The rejuvenated defense already has forced more turnovers (18 vs. 17) and recorded more sacks (21 vs. 17) than it did during the entire 2010 season.
3. Silas Redd gives Penn State the strong running game it will need to balance things out against the upcoming competition. Redd has four straight 100-yard games, including a career-high 164 Saturday at Northwestern, and is averaging 109 per contest.
The Lions are not a great team and will not become a great team down the stretch, but they don't need to be because the Big Ten is really disappointing this season. It looked like the Big One Conference of Wisconsin and everyone else, until Saturday, that is, when Michigan State shocked the Badgers on a Hail Mary touchdown.
With Wisconsin going down, no Big Ten teams are ranked in the top 10 in the latest BCS standings. Ouch.
Wisconsin is still much, much better than PSU, and if I had to pick a score for that game, I'd go Badgers 37-17. Things fell apart on them in a hurry with special teams mistakes against Michigan State, but as long as quarterback Russell Wilson stays healthy, you can count on Wisconsin bouncing back by the time PSU visits Madison on Nov. 26.
The more pressing question, as it pertains to Penn State's hopes, is will the Badgers bounce back this week?
They visit Ohio State for a night game Saturday, and with their national title hopes dashed, the Badgers are ripe for a hangover. The Buckeyes (4-3, 1-2 Big Ten with close losses to Michigan State and Nebraska) are coming off a bye, and they can make their season by upsetting Wisconsin.
It might be painful for Penn State fans to cheer for Ohio State, but that's exactly what everyone needs to be doing this weekend. If, like me, you think there's very little chance PSU can beat Wisconsin on the road, then take comfort in knowing the Lions may not have to as long as the Buckeyes can upset the Badgers.
If that happens, Penn State could clinch the Leaders Division and reach the Big Ten title game by beating Illinois, Nebraska and Ohio State. The outcome at Wisconsin wouldn't matter because PSU would go into that game unbeaten in the Big Ten, while the Badgers would have two losses.
OK, all of that is fun to consider. It gives fans the warm, fuzzy feeling of knowing your team controls its own destiny and can still achieve great things this season.
But let's not get carried away just yet.
Penn State still hasn't proven anything, and the 7-1 record is so hollow that the Lions are ranked all the way down at 21st in this week's Associated Press poll. The team clearly hasn't earned a whole lot of respect so far.
Win at least three of the next four games, and that will change.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. Reach him at 949-7031 or @CoryGiger on Twitter.