Slowly, No. 17 Ohio State and Miami are trying to regain some sense of normal.
While NCAA investigations at both schools continue, a total of eight Buckeyes and Hurricanes will be eligible to return from suspensions when the teams meet tonight. Even so, it's impossible to escape the fallout from scandals that overshadow everything they do on the field and even the memory of the national championship game they played to close the 2002 season.
"After everything we've gone through, it's got to a point now where I feel like nothing can break us," Ohio State center Mike Brewster said. "We have gone through so much, we have handled so much, we just keep getting closer, and at this point nothing can affect us."
Miami's mess — an extra benefits scandal involving a former booster — would only get messier with a loss in Al Golden's home debut as coach of the Hurricanes, who are trying to avoid losing five straight games for the first time in more than three decades.
The last time a Miami team opened 0-2 was 1978, when the Hurricanes were wrapping up an eight-game slide over parts of two seasons. So it's no shock that Golden isn't likely to sneak peeks at the scene during his first time on the Miami sideline. He'll have more pressing issues.
"I don't give myself too many moments," Golden said. "For me, it's going to be about each and every play and making sure everybody on our team is ready, including our staff, to make sure they have what they need to do their job."
The teams met last season, a 36-24 Ohio State win that brought out some less-than-scintillating play from both sides. That game was played amid unbelievable cloud cover in Columbus, the sky so dark that people in the upper levels of the Horseshoe had trouble seeing the field.
Turns out, those conditions were a perfect metaphor for what would soon strike both programs.