Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is worried about his Demon Deacons, and Clemson's Dabo Swinney is worried about his Tigers. Neither one is spending much time fretting about the ACC's frayed reputation.
The ACC gets another chance to salvage the wreckage from last weekend's 0-5 start against major Division I opponents with four nonconference games today against ranked opponents. Wake travels to No. 19 Stanford, Clemson goes to No. 16 Auburn, Maryland visits No. 21 West Virginia, and Duke hosts No. 1 Alabama.
Grobe is aware of the ACC's brutal start, but with such a young team he is not prepping the Demon Deacons with a "Win one for the ACC!" speech.
"Those guys can't handle any of that outside stuff, and I wouldn't think that the seniors would be good at it either," Grobe said. "What we've really tried to do is we're trying to take an approach throughout the season that we just need to focus on the Deacs."
Swinney's Tigers have the national spotlight with ESPN's GameDay crew in Auburn for their ACC-SEC matchup.
"We're not trying to do anything other than just play the very best Clemson football we can," Swinney said. "It's a long season. All that stuff is fun for people to talk about. That will all sort itself out throughout the course of the year."
Through two weeks, the sorting out has left the ACC near the bottom of the pile. Florida State (47-17 at Oklahoma) and Miami (36-24 at Ohio State) lost high-profile regional games outside the ACC. Until N.C. State's win over two-time Big East champion Cincinnati on Thursday, the ACC had zero wins over BCS opponents this season.
Florida State (BYU) and Virginia Tech (East Carolina) host teams from outside the Bowl Championship Series power structure today, but as the Hokies' loss to a Football Championship Subdivision opponent (James Madison) showed last week, every game counts toward the ACC's reputation.
Swinney understands he might not be interested in any ACC-SEC banter, but a win by Clemson, which has started 2-0 against a soft schedule, would make a statement for the league.
"There's no doubt, you want your conference to perform well every week when you're playing out of conference," Swinney said. "I know there's been a lot of talk about last weekend. I don't care what logo you carry with you, when you go to places like Oklahoma and Ohio State, it's a high likelihood you're coming out of there with a loss. Those are difficult places to play for a reason. These are top programs. It's not like they just lost to somebody."
Wake, Clemson and Maryland - three teams from the ACC's Atlantic Division, the predicted weaker half of the league - take 2-0 records into their games. All three are on the road and listed as underdogs.
The Deacs, coming off a wild 54-48 win over Duke, will have a new quarterback for their first road game. Freshman Tanner Price threw for three touchdowns in relief of injured starter Ted Stachitas and will make his first college start against the Cardinal (2-0).
In addition to traveling across the country, and three time zones, Wake has the added obstacle of starting the game at 11:15 p.m on the East Coast. Then there's Stanford itself, which has a pro prospect in quarterback Andrew Luck and scored 87 points in its first two games.
That's enough to keep Grobe busy.
"The ACC-vs.-Pac-10 thing doesn't have anything to do with it," Grobe said. "We just need to go play football."
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