LINCOLN, Neb. — No. 10 Nebraska is proceeding with caution as it prepares to open against Chattanooga.
The previous time the Cornhuskers faced a Football Championship Subdivision team, they had to sweat out some nervous moments before beating South Dakota State in a game that seemed closer than the 17-3 final score.
"I would hope that we never take anybody lightly," coach Bo Pelini said. "We just didn't play well against South Dakota State last year, especially on offense. I don't know if our guys took them lightly. I don't know about that game, but we will be prepared on Saturday."
Similar to South Dakota State in 2010, Chattanooga is a middling team, even in its league. The Mocs have gone 6-5 the past two years and are picked to finish fourth in the Southern Conference.
Chattanooga scheduled Saturday's game for the $475,000 paycheck, but no big underdog can resist imagining the unthinkable happening.
After all, it was only four years ago that Appalachian State of the Southern Conference beat Michigan in one of the greatest upsets in college football history.
"Every FBC team probably points to that in some way," Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman said. "But think about it. Appalachian was probably the best FCS team in the country that year. Michigan probably was middle of the pack in the Big Ten. That was the perfect storm. I don't know when another perfect storm is going to show up."
Conditions for an upset started brewing in Lincoln last year after South Dakota State showed up after losses to Delaware and Illinois State, and the unbeaten and sixth-ranked Huskers were riding high following a 56-21 win at Washington.
The Jackrabbits appeared to score the game's first touchdown, but a video review showed the ball carrier didn't cross the goal line. Down 14 points in the fourth quarter, the Jacks ran back an interception 66 yards for an apparent touchdown, but a penalty nullified the play.
Nebraska's Taylor Martinez fumbled his first snap, threw two interceptions and was wildly off the mark with other passes. Most of Nebraska's starters had to play the whole game.
Brandon Kinnie said he and his teammates, though excited about the prospects of Nebraska's first season in the Big Ten, can't let their minds wander against the Mocs.
"All games are important. All of them are," he said. "You have to play them. For me, I like showcasing my talent every Saturday no matter who we're playing. So there's no game this year to me that's more important than the other one."
Chattanooga has experience playing the big boys of college football.
The Mocs have played against the past two national champions and past three Heisman Trophy winners.
They lost 45-0 to Mark Ingram and Alabama in 2009 and 62-24 to Auburn and Cam Newton in 2010.
In 2008, they lost 57-2 to Sam Bradford and an Oklahoma team that made it to the BCS national championship game.
"You go in trying to win," Chattanooga linebacker Ryan Consiglio said of Saturday's game. "We'll go in and compete and try to win the individual battles. Once you get over the shock of how many people are in the stadium, it's like any other game."
The Mocs have an NFL prospect at quarterback in B.J. Coleman. The senior threw for 2,996 yards and 26 touchdowns last season and is going into his third year as the starter after transferring from Tennessee.
Coleman's main target is his best friend since sixth grade, Joel Bradford, who set a school record with 1,284 receiving yards.
Coleman said he's realistic about the Mocs' chances against the Huskers, but added, "They'd be disappointed if we came up there and rolled over."