Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska looks at its opener against Nevada as more than just a warm-up for looming games with Wake Forest and USC.
"We have our marquee games everyone wants to lean toward," tight end J.B. Phillips said. "The little ones, they are important. Not to say this is a little one, but it's the first one we have. You have to get off to a good start."
The 20th-ranked Cornhuskers are three-touchdown favorites, but the Wolf Pack should present more of a challenge than the opponents in coach Bill Callahan's three previous openers at Nebraska.
Callahan's first two seasons started with wins over I-AA opponents, Western Illinois and Maine, and last year the Huskers hammered a Louisiana Tech team that finished 3-10 and fired its coach.
"Reno is the type of team that has had a considerable amount of success in the past," Callahan said of Nevada. "It is a team that we have great respect for. As you look at them historically, and you look at the success they have had and the opponents they have played, they do deserve that attention and respect."
Nebraska, 9-5 last season and the Big 12 North champion, has won a nation-leading 21 straight openers and will be backed by an NCAA-record 283rd consecutive sellout crowd.
"We've talked about the atmosphere already, and we've talked about playing a storied program," Nevada coach Chris Ault said. "When you're playing Nebraska, you're not only playing players and coaches but also tradition, and that stands for an awful lot."
The Wolf Pack returns 14 starters from a team that went 8-5 and ended the season with a one-point bowl loss to Miami.
But Nevada will be without linebacker Ezra Butler, the Western Athletic Conference preseason defensive player of the year, and its top two centers.
Butler was suspended for violating team rules. Starting center Dominic Green is out with a broken foot, and No. 2 center Kyle Robertson was kicked off the team after getting into an altercation with an assistant coach.