Joe Paterno typically goes into a season trying to calm whatever expectations, no matter how high, the Nittany Nation has for his team.
Penn State is slotted at No. 9 in the Associated Press poll, its highest preseason ranking since 1999 when the Lions opened at No. 3.
"I think people have had a tendency to overestimate how good we're going to be right now," Paterno said this week. "I think eventually we're going to be a pretty good football team. But until we get a couple things better, we're going to have to fight for our lives."
JoePa has sung this song so often that he knows it falls on deaf ears, but this year, it shouldn't.
While the Lions return a very solid defensive front seven and some key offensive parts, including quarterback Daryll Clark and tailback Evan Royster, there are enough newcomers to suggest today's opener with Akron may not be such a pushover.
Three previous meetings with the Zips have produced wins over 70-24 ('99), 48-10 ('04) and 34-16 ('06) so Akron has closed the gap over the past decade.
It's done so while the Lions were mixing in occasional early-season appetizers of Youngstown State, Florida International, Coastal Carolina and, later this year, Eastern Illinois.
With Temple and now Syracuse mired in a seemingly terminal state of rebuilding, today's game may actually be the toughest of the Nits' four non-conference matchups.
Akron brings in an experienced passing game with quick dropbacks orchestrated by a coaching staff, including former Pitt head coach Walt Harris, that has the potential to neutralize the Lions' rush.
That will shift the focus to the Lions' secondary, one of several green positions on the team. The others are the offensive line, receiving corps and placekicker.
JoePa is apparently concerned enough that cornerback A.J. Wallace, previously a candidate to sit out the first couple of games due to off-the-field transgressions, is now suddenly probable for action today.
The dawning of a football season - particularly at a place like Penn State - is like no other because the exhilaration of the fall chill is matched only by the anticipation of answers to the "how are they going to be?" question.
This appears to be a team eventually capable of challenging for the Big Ten title.
It also appears to be a team that can stub its toe several times along the way.
That shouldn't happen today, but it won't be surprising if there are plenty of season-opening jitters.
In fact, it will only be surprising if there aren't.
* This is just a guess, but if the allegations against Rich Rodriguez concerning excessive practice time are confirmed, he will eventually be fired at Michigan not because the infractions are horrific but because he alienated so many people in his short time in Ann Arbor. This may just be the perfect excuse.
* Indiana's decision to move its 2010 game against Penn State to FedEx Field, made for financial reasons, illustrates the difference between the halves and the halve nots in the Big Ten. Imagine giving up a home game, in a refurbished stadium, against a marquee opponent. Think any Penn State fans would mind if an Ohio State visit to Beaver Stadium was moved to St. Louis?
* Memo to Atlantic Broadband: After just four days, I've already enjoyed the option of having the Big Ten Network.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He will respond to brief comments and questions in Gameday.