The college football world has marveled at the incredible leadership Bill O'Brien has shown from the minute a Penn State plane carrying him and his family touched down in the darkness of the University Park Airport late Friday, Jan. 6.
Over the past nine months, O'Brien has not only said all the right things and interacted with as many in the Nittany Nation as possible, he's brought an offensive style that Penn State fans previously only dreamed about.
Through seven games, we've seen significant improvement on both sides of the ball and an incomparable level of flexible ingenuity that has allowed the Lions to overcome special teams that have been anything but.
It's added up to a wildly entertaining style, a five-game winning streak that has resuscitated an 0-2 start, injected some needed optimism in the face of the NCAA's heavy handedness, and for the first time in 15 games, the Lions may finally lure 108,000 to Beaver Stadium.
Of course, the opponent has a lot to do with it.
Without Pitt - I know, get over it, but just sayin' - Ohio State is the closest thing to a rivalry on the Penn State schedule, and for as much as O'Brien has accomplished in two months, his success will always be measured to a large degree on how he handles the Lions' peers.
And those peers are Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Iowa and sometimes Michigan State (and not Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana, Minnesota and llinois).
Of those at the big-kids' table, the Buckeyes are most welcome for so many reasons - geography, competitive recruiting turf, pre-Big Ten history, past Big 33 rivals and the quiet 2011 courtship of Urban Meyer as a candidate to succeed Joe Paterno.
Meyer took the Ohio State job instead, and both schools seem quite happy with their choices.
With a pair of national championships in his pocket, Meyer has the better resume, but O'Brien could add a large and bushy red feather to his cap by driving his NASCAR offense down the Buckeyes' throat.
In a year when neither are eligible for a Big Ten title or a bowl game, O'Brien could also send a message into Ohio that could help lead PSU back to the fertile recruiting state that once delivered O.J. McDuffie, Ki-Jana Carter, Jeff Hartings, Joe Jurevicius, Curtis Enis, Kim Herring and the Zordiches.
O'Brien downplayed a recruiting implication this week, perhaps not to put more on the game than what's already riding. At the same time, nearly all of the Lions' 2013 commits will be on the sidelines with another five-dozen plus prospects.
Atmosphere-wise, they should all be in for a treat.
Ohio State has been vulnerable defensively, and the game is considered a toss-up by the oddsmakers, interesting given that the Lions - with a team not as good as this one and certainly not as well organized - went into Columbus and won, 20-14, last Nov. 19.
Have the Buckeyes gained more ground since or is their 8-0 record and No. 9 ranking by the Associated Press a bit plastic? They've allowed 125 points in four Big Ten games alone, but they've also been explosive, putting 65 on Nebraska, and showing the poise to come from behind against Cal and Purdue.
Were it not for a special-teams collapse against Northwestern, Penn State would have three blowout wins in the Big Ten and has proven it's not content with two-score leads. Then again, the NIts can't afford a slight margin for error because of their Ficken, er, fickle kicking game.
Logic would suggest that sooner or later, blocked or missed field goals, shanked punts and porous coverage teams will not be overcome, especially against an Ohio State.
O'Brien has been special so far, but even Vince Lombardi, at one point or another in a key situation, needed a field goal.
And if that's not the case against the Buckeyes, well then Bill O'Brien, Matt McGloin and the Nittany Lions' defense will be even further exceeding expectations in the season's biggest game.