Lincoln, Neb. Though pleased with its 3-0 start, Nebraska knows that tonight's game against Virginia Tech will be the first true measure of progress under first-year coach Bo Pelini.
"We have to prove ourselves to everybody," defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh said.
That includes proving to themselves that the malaise that set in during Bill Callahan's final year in Lincoln is truly gone. The Huskers have won their first three games by at least 23 points and, other than for a few minutes against San Jose State, they have not been pushed.
That's expected to change against the Hokies (3-1).
"We're all wondering how good we can actually be and how we play against elite teams like this," quarterback Joe Ganz said. "They are a powerhouse in the ACC. We're going to use this as a test to see where we're at."
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer looks at the game the same way for his team, which starts seven freshmen and sophomores.
The Hokies are coming off back-to-back 20-17 victories over Georgia Tech and North Carolina, rallying from 14 points in the third quarter to win on the road against the Tar Heels last week.
Virginia Tech hasn't traveled so far west for a regular-season game since playing at Oklahoma in 1991. The Hokies and Huskers met in the 1996 Orange Bowl, with Nebraska winning, 41-21.
That game came in the middle of Nebraska's run of 60 wins in 63 games over the last five years of former coach Tom Osborne's career. The Huskers won or shared three national titles during that period.
The Huskers declined over Frank Solich's six years as coach, and the bottom fell out during the past four years under Callahan.
But to Beamer, Nebraska still represents the best of college football.
"They're the winningest program since 1970, they're undefeated, and they're very exciting about the way they're coming back to being the Nebraska of old," Beamer said. "It's a real challenge for our football team."
Perhaps the Hokies' biggest challenge on the road will be getting their offense moving. They're averaging just 272 yards, have nine offensive touchdowns in four games, and haven't scored in the first quarter this season.
"There's no question we're working hard to get our offense consistent," Beamer said. "We haven't been very consistent. We did make strides the last part of the game against North Carolina. I'm confident we can build on that and keep moving in a positive direction."
Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor is expected to start after injuring his left ankle in the second half against North Carolina. Taylor had been scheduled to sit out as a redshirt this year, but Beamer reversed field and played Taylor in favor of Sean Glennon in an attempt to spark the offense.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Carl Pelini said that even though the Hokies' offense continues to struggle, he's wary of Taylor, a high school All-American regarded by recruiting services as the top dual-threat quarterback in 2007.
"A guy like him, he makes them, go," Carl Pelini said. "They've got some good backs, they've got some good receivers, and they're good up front, so it's not just him. But I tell our guys this - you've just got to be aware of where he is at all times. You can't forget about him or he'll burn you."