MIAMI (AP) -Michael Dominguez knows Florida International will face huge odds when it opens the season before a packed house at Penn State.
He doesn't mind, either.
``I haven't stopped dreaming about it,'' the FIU linebacker said Wednesday. ``It's kind of hard to pay attention in class and all those good things when you've got 110,000 people waiting for you. It's like an awesome party.''
Say this much for the Golden Panthers - they've got the right attitude for their trip to Beaver Stadium and a matchup with legendary coach Joe Paterno and the 17th-ranked Nittany Lions on Saturday.
Oddsmakers have them as 38-point underdogs, which sounds about right considering that Penn State is looking for its 100th win in season-openers, while FIU is embarking on only its sixth season of football and went 0-12 a year ago. But the Golden Panthers insist they're eager for the chance.
``It's something I've been looking forward to ever since I saw the schedule,'' left tackle Andy Leavine said. ``Penn State, that's a legendary field. Joe Paterno, he's been there since before I was born.''
Hey, he's been there since before FIU coach Mario Cristobal was born, too.
The 80-year-old Paterno - who, with 363 wins, is three behind Bobby Bowden for the most in major college football - is entering his 42nd year as Penn State's head coach. The 37-year-old Cristobal was hired in December after Don Strock resigned.
Asked earlier this week about facing an unknown opponent like FIU in Week 1 of the season, Paterno said he is ``as nervous as I've probably ever been for a first game.''
Hearing those comments, Cristobal respectfully expressed disbelief.
``I don't believe it. I don't believe it at all,'' Cristobal said. ``He knows he's got a great football team. Like any coach, of course, whenever there's an unknown factor there's always a sense of nervousness. But he knows he's got a great football team and I'm sure he's looking forward to a great football game.''
Not everyone at sold-out Happy Valley, the site of the second-largest college football stadium in the country, will be there wanting to see a carnage. Cristobal, a former Miami standout player and assistant, has 50 relatives - ``a crazy old family,'' he said - making the trip for his head-coach debut.
Since taking the FIU job, he's been talking about the building process. There's only about a dozen players on this team with more than one year of college playing experience, and the first four games - Penn State, Maryland, Miami and Kansas, along with a mid-October date with Arkansas - doesn't exactly lend itself to an easy season.
``Are we young? Of course. We're not a veteran football team. We don't have those guys that have 30-some-odd starts underneath their belts,'' Cristobal said. ``Are they quite ready to completely master a situation like this? Can't say that we are. Are they excited? Have they been preparing like a bunch of crazed maniacs? Absolutely, and I'll take that any day.''

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