Florida State and Nebraska begin the season in the uncomfortable position of defending their reputations instead of a championship.
The Seminoles and Cornhuskers have won two national titles apiece since 1993, but both teams are coming off dismal years. Florida State went 8-4 the first time in 15 years it lost that many games and failed to win the Atlantic Coast Conference for the first time in a decade.
Nebraska fared better, winning its first 11 games. But the 'Huskers fell hard at the end, 62-36 to Colorado and 37-14 to Miami for the national championship at the Rose Bowl.
Needless to say, neither team can wait to get started. They begin Saturday: No. 3 Florida State plays Iowa State at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City and No. 10 Nebraska is home for Arizona State.
"We're about as motivated as we can be," Seminoles quarterback Chris Rix said. "We're anxious to get back out on the field and prove we're back, not just talk about it."
Rix took his lumps as a freshman but still threw for 2,734 yards and 24 touchdowns. Receivers Anquan Boldin and Robert Morgan return from injuries as the 'Noles bring back most of their starters from 2001.
Iowa State could present problems with Seneca Wallace, who can run and throw with the best quarterbacks in the country. The 5-foot-11, 193-pound player threw for 2,044 yards and 11 TDs and ran for 475 yards and seven scores during the Cyclones' 7-5 season.
"I see Seneca as a combination of a Charlie Ward and Michael Vick," Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said, referring to his 1993 Heisman winner and Virginia Tech's star quarterback of '99. "He runs well, but he also has a great arm."
Bowden's next win moves him into second place on the Division I-A victory list with 324 one ahead of Bear Bryant. Penn State's Joe Paterno will start the season at 327.
Nebraska eagerly awaits the debut of quarterback Jammal Lord, who steps in for Heisman Trophy winner Eric Crouch.
"I can see the light," Lord said of his long wait to play. "I know when they call out the names and that first play, it's going to be me out there instead of Eric. It changes a whole lot of things."
Don't be surprised if the Huskers start off slowly. There are five other new starters on offense, and the defense replaces five starters. Coach Frank Solich can only hope for a smooth start.
The 'Huskers do have I-back Dahrran Diedrick back. He returns after running for a Big 12-best 1,299 yards.
No. 3 Florida State (minus 22 1â2) vs. Iowa State (at Kansas City)
'Noles could have hands full with ISU QB Wallace ... FLORIDA STATE 41-24.
Arizona State (plus 21 1â2) at No. 10 Nebraska
Last meeting, in '96, ended Huskers' 26-game win streak ... NEBRASKA, 34-17.
Texas Tech (plus 6) at No. 13 Ohio State
Buckeyes haven't lost a home opener since 1979 ... OHIO STATE, 31-24.
Arkansas State (plus 37) at No. 16 Virginia Tech (Sunday)
RB combo of Suggs and Jones overpowers Indians ... VIRGINIA TECH, 49-7.
Fresno State (plus 7) at No. 25 Wisconsin (Friday)
Badgers out to avenge last year's loss to Bulldogs ... WISCONSIN, 27-17.
Colorado State (plus 2 1â2) at Virginia (Thursday)
Rams capable of winning close one ... COLORADO STATE, 28-27.
New Mexico (plus 13) at North Carolina State
Wolfpack QB Rivers is a throwing machine ... NORTH CAROLINA STATE, 41-13.