SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Penn State's offense is flat out fantastic.
The Nittany Lions' first three opponents are downright lousy.
Which is it?
Most likely a combination of both.
Joe Paterno, for one, said he's ''not getting carried away'' about his team's torrid start. Some people might be, however, and so far it would be difficult to blame them.
Penn State made everything look easy for a third straight week, adding Syracuse to the list of embarrassed opponents that already included Coastal Carolina and Oregon State.
The Lions squeezed more drops of pride out of an Orange team that doesn't appear to have much juice. Penn State poured it on against its old rival, 55-13, spoiling the most exciting weekend of football the Syracuse program has had in several years (see page C13 for more on that).
In three games, Penn State has scored 166 points (66, 45 and 55). Its opponents have combined for 37 (10, 14 and 13).
Still, even the people who expected easy wins through the soft non-conference schedule may not have imagined just how impressive the 17th-ranked Lions would look.
Or, in all honesty, how bad the opponents would look.
''We're a pretty good football team,'' Paterno said. ''I just don't know how good and won't know until we have some adversity.''
When will that occur?
''I hope we never do get tested and we can just keep on winning like the way that we're winning,'' receiver Derrick Williams said.
One more blowout win figures to be on the horizon in Temple, which visits Beaver Stadium next week. After that, Penn State finally should get a test against Illinois in the Big Ten opener at home Sept. 27.
Some comparisons are being made to the explosive 1994 Penn State team that went undefeated. Paterno even referenced that squad fighting back from a 21-0 first-quarter deficit against Illinois as an example of how a team must overcome adversity to prove itself.
''That's a sign of a big-time football team,'' Paterno said.
If this year's Lion squad is indeed that kind of team, ironically, the first real chance to prove it will be against Illinois. Then again, the Illini did just barely hold off Louisiana-Lafayette at home Saturday, 20-17, so they have questions to answer between now and then.
''Who knows?'' PSU running back Evan Royster said when asked how good are the Lions. ''We'll have to see later when we play some good teams.''
Teams unlike Syracuse, which suffered its second-worst loss in the 69-game series against the Lions. Only the 43-point margin in 1973 (49-6) was larger than Saturday's 42-point blowout.
The Orange came in as a 27-point underdog, and even their coach didn't seem to think they had much of a chance. Greg Robinson, who dropped to 7-31 in his four seasons, said the game was ''more about seeing if we could get better, work on some things and develop some of these guys. It was just about playing the game and gaining something from it.''
Syracuse had only one chance in the game, which came after Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark fumbled on the first play from scrimmage. The Orange took over at the PSU 36, but they fumbled it away on their first play.
The game was basically over after the next play. Clark hit Jordan Norwood down the left sideline, and Norwood slipped a tackle before busting free for a 55-yard touchdown.
Clark hit Deon Butler on an 18-yard fade pattern in the end zone for a 14-0 lead with 7:45 left in the first quarter. Five minutes later, fullback Dan Lawlor busted into the end zone from a yard out on his first carry of the season, putting the Lions up, 21-0.
Backup quarterback Pat Devlin came on and led two touchdown drives, hitting Butler for a 15-yard score and Norwood for a 24-yard TD. Syracuse managed two Patrick Shadle field goals in the half, then Kevin Kelly booted a 52-yarder on the final play for a 38-6 lead.
Butler, who had only three catches through two games, caught seven balls for 110 yards and two touchdowns. Norwood followed up the best game of his career - eight catches for 116 yards against Oregon State - with another big day, grabbing five receptions for 113 yards and two TDs.
Royster also enjoyed another big day, running behind his strong offensive line and over Syracuse's porous defense. Royster, who finished with 101 yards on 13 carries, said he could see the Orange wearing down.
''We could really tell like getting into the third quarter,'' he said. ''They looked like they were beat up a little bit. We really tried to take advantage of it.''
Stephfon Green scored on a 2-yard run in the third quarter to make it 45-6. Syracuse then put together its best drive of the day and capped it with an 11-yard TD pass from Cameron Dantley - son of former NBA player Adrian Dantley - to Marcus Sales.
Penn State closed the scoring on Collin Wagner's 43-yard field goal and Paul Cianciolo's 33-yard TD pass to Derek Moye.
Paterno said he's always concerned about his players feeling overconfident and noted, ''We talk all the time and try to make sure they understand.''
The players do seem to understand, too, that the impressive start comes with an asterisk. They also know they'll get a big test soon enough.
''We're not too anxious for it,'' Royster said, ''but when it comes I think we'll be ready.''