More than once - actually more than three times this season - Heidelberg coach Mike Hallett has used the phrase "the great unknown" to describe an opponent.
Alma overhauled its philosophy. Ohio Northern had a new quarterback. Wilmington and Marietta have new coaching staffs.
Thing is, the nationally-ranked HU football team (it's No. 10 or No. 13, depending on which poll you prefer) isn't writing an episode of the Twilight Zone. The unknown not only doesn't fear the Student Princes, it doesn't seem to affect them.
Heidelberg has ripped through its three opponents this season with seemingly little difficulty. Tonight, the Student Princes get their fourth opponent, and fourth question mark when they travel for a 7 p.m. tangling with the Pioneers.
It's probably not an overstatement to say the first three games of the Marietta coach Andy Waddle era haven't gone real well. The Pioneers have lost all three, all by lopsided margins. The worst came last week, when the Pioneers were hammered by top-ranked Mount Union, 84-14.
But despite the tough start, Hallett said the Pioneers have some talent.
"They've got two good running backs who run hard," Hallett said, referring to Tim Connor and Patrick Lewis. "They've got two great receivers we've seen for a number of years, with Tannon [Roberts] and Kirby [Harris]. Those guys are very, very talented."
Tom Fulton, the Pioneers returning starting quarterback, has thrown for 451 yards and three touchdowns.
"He does a nice job; he threw some good balls against us last year," Hallett said. "He seems to be a better player this year. I think their offensive line is improved."
Hallett said he also believes the Pioneer defense is better than last year, despite what last week's score against Mount might indicate.
"They are getting better and more developed with their defensive schemes," Hallett said. "I just think they were a little outpaced talent-wise with who they faced."
When Hallett said "unknowns" this week, he wasn't just referring to the opponent. Heidelberg has played all of its games at Mayer Field this season. Heidelberg makes its first road trip of the regular season - and the longest trek of the season at that.
"How are we gonna travel, how are we gonna handle that," Hallett said. "I think with the veterans we have on this team we'll handle it fine. That's my expectation; that's the players expectation. But until you do it, you've got to see how it all goes."
The Student Princes have already lost some key pieces for the season, and Hallett said they will lose one more. Running back Bryan Lacey, who has out in last week's win over Wilmington, is done for the season.
Hallett said Lacey got hurt in practice in a "non-contact injury."
Lacey joins receiver Robert Gray and defensive back Chadd Williamson as key contributors who won't suit up again this season.
Hallett said Lacey will be spelled by Geoffrey Helms, Kevin Smith and Nick Coolidge.
"I think we have some guys where, each one of them have some different pieces and parts," Hallett said.
Of course, Hallett still has star back Cartel Brooks to carry the load as well.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m.