MIAMI (AP) -There were crews all about FIU's new on-campus football stadium this week, doing everything from installing a $2 million scoreboard to painting logos on the freshly-installed turf.
It'll finally be ready Saturday, in time for a visit from No. 12 South Florida.
And given how the Bulls remember what happened against the Golden Panthers two years ago, it might not be a fairytale debut for FIU in its new home.
South Florida rallied from a 20-7 halftime deficit to beat FIU by a single point in the only other meeting between the teams, and many of this year's Bulls were on the field that night in Tampa. This week has been filled with plenty of reminders of that near-upset, which probably means the budding national power won't be overlooking FIU this time around.
eal big event for them. They've had two weeks to prepare for us, if not more. We've had three games. They've had a couple. It is going to be a heck of a ballgame, there is no question.''
The stats and the oddsmakers suggest Leavitt is offering coachspeak and nothing more.
Consider: South Florida is 3-0, just beat a potent Kansas team that simply steamrolled FIU in the season-opener and boasts one of the nation's top quarterbacks in Matt Grothe.
Meanwhile, FIU is 0-2 this season, has lost 25 of its last 26 games overall, doesn't have an offensive touchdown yet in 2008 and ranks last among all major colleges in total yards per game.
Heck of a ballgame?
Leavitt might be overstating things a bit, but FIU is embracing what it calls a heck of a challenge.
``If I ever, ever utter a word about changing a foe because they might be too strong, then I need to go into another field that doesn't involve competing,'' FIU coach Mario Cristobal said. ``Are we playing a team that is farther along than we are and more talented? Without question. That I will not deny. Is there any hesitation? No way. Not a chance.''
The stadium, much like FIU's process of building a program, remains very much a work in progress.
IU has been talking with MLS officials about expansion - and chairback bleacher seats. It will have replay screens and state-of-the-art audio systems and 15 luxury suites in use by deep-pocketed fans this weekend.
It also still lacks plenty, including a home locker room - the field house that'll be on one end hasn't been built, meaning FIU players and coaches will board buses before games, at halftime and after games, get driven a short way to the baseball stadium, and use that as their showering and dressing area.
Not ideal, but still a huge start for a department FIU athletic director Pete Garcia often calls ``a sleeping giant.''
``We picked, a couple years ago, the University of South Florida to open up our stadium,'' Garcia said. ``Obviously, where they were a couple years ago and where they are now, it's two different teams. I wish I could reschedule somebody else, but obviously, they won't let me do that on Saturday.''
He wasn't serious.
What Garcia and Cristobal are serious about, though, is modeling FIU after what Leavitt has done since South Florida football was born 12 seasons ago. The Bulls were No. 2 in the national polls at one point last season, should find themselves competing for a Big East title again this year, and have a roster loaded with players from the talent-rich Sunshine State, where FIU is now trying to make its own recruiting inroads.
l. We are coming to your place, playing against you. They are going to come out ready to play regardless of what we do,'' USF defensive end George Selvie said. ``They are going to fight the whole game. We have to come out with our best game. This is a big game for us and them.''
Grothe, who already has thrown for 780 yards and seven touchdowns this season, insisted that South Florida - four-TD favorites - won't make the trip across Alligator Alley assuming victory will be easy.
``The last couple years there have been some games that we haven't done as well as we should,'' Grothe said. ``Coaches got us (this week) and were telling us that we have to go out and take care of business. Great teams, when they are supposed to win, they win. When everyone has them winning, they win. They don't struggle. That is what we need to do this week.''

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