Last week was fantastic. Big game. Big stakes. Big crowd. Big enthusiasm.
The totality of it all felt, well, normal from a traditional Penn State football standpoint.
Things probably won't truly be back to normal at PSU for many years - if ever - but everything leading up to and including the game against rival Ohio State at Beaver Stadium epitomized what's magical about big-time college football.
Now that it's over, it's hard not to think about one depressing reality: Penn State football might not see anything as exciting as last week for a long, long time.
The Nittany Lions are on the road the next two weeks -- at Purdue and Nebraska. There's the inevitable letdown possibility against the Boilermakers, who are not very good (3-5, 0-4 Big Ten) but are a desperate team, and while the Cornhuskers offer PSU a chance at a big win, there's just not the same level of excitement for a road game 1,110 miles away.
The next home game against Indiana in three weeks won't fire up many people.
The last game of the season, at home against Wisconsin, will be a very emotional day for a group of seniors who have shown phenomenal character in leading the team during the past tumultuous year. To downplay the significance of senior day would be disrespectful to what it will mean for Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges, Jordan Hill, Michael Zordich and the others who will wear the blue and white uniforms for the final time in their careers.
But the Wisconsin game itself probably will have little meaning in the standings for Penn State.
This is a good Lion football team, one that still could finish 9-3, which seemed unthinkable to virtually everyone - except the guys in the locker room - after an 0-2 start.
The sad reality, however, is that after this season, the future of the program is anybody's guess.
The scholarship reductions kick in starting next year and will have a major impact for at least six seasons, perhaps much longer. The overall quality and depth on the team will not resemble anything close to what Penn State fans have known for decades.
Many people will say that the team is competing well this season despite having only about 70 scholarships and that it bodes well for the future when the maximum will be 65 from 2014-17. But the team will be losing future NFL players in Hodges, Mauti, Hill and center Matt Stankiewitch, plus quarterback Matt McGloin will be a major loss after the success he's had running Bill O'Brien's offense.
Replacing those guys under normal recruiting circumstances would be tough but at least doable for a program like Penn State. Under this crippling new recruiting reality, however, and the other NCAA sanctions, it's hard to say when the program will be able to attract those caliber of players.
There was every reason to believe Penn State could beat Ohio State on Saturday because there's really not that much difference in the teams from an overall talent standpoint. That won't be the case in the coming years.
For what it's worth, the next potential megagame for PSU might be when Michigan visits Beaver Stadium in week six next year. The Lions have a manageable schedule to start the season - Syracuse at New Meadowlands, home against Eastern Michigan, Virginia and Kent State, then at Indiana -- and if O'Brien can work some magic, the Lions could go into the game against the Wolverines with a good record.
Following a bye, Penn State travels to Ohio State in week seven next year, and that game could be the biggest indication of how much the Lions' talent level will have dropped off.
O'Brien is the right man for the job, and under normal circumstances he might have been able to get the program into national championship contention within five years.
It's such a shame, though, that from a big-game standpoint, the highlight of O'Brien's first handful of seasons at Penn State probably already came and went this past weekend.