When it comes to expectations for Florida State and Wake Forest, there is a clear dividing line between the haves and have-nots of college football, and that’s how Wake safety Daniel Mack prefers it.
"I kind of like being the underdog,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “There are no expectations placed on you. You just go out there and do your best. Everybody's going to predict things to be a certain way, but we know that we belong on the field with those guys. We know that we can be out there and compete as much as we need to."
The Deacs have certainly proven that against FSU in recent years.
With Wake Forest’s win over North Carolina on Saturday, this weekend’s game in Tallahassee suddenly got more interesting. A week ago, when the Demon Deacons needed a come-from-behind win to beat FCS school Liberty, it didn’t seem as if Wake Forest would stand a chance against a top 10 team on the road.
Now? Well, Wake Forest always seems to find a way to at least have a chance against the Seminoles. The Deacs have won four of the past six games in the series, including two of the past three in Tallahassee. If they managed to do it again, it would be a monumental upset -- and a dagger in Florida State’s chances of representing the league as a national title contender. Once again, Florida State is shouldering lofty expectations, but the No. 5-ranked Seminoles have yet to be tested by an FBS opponent, let alone one from the ACC.
"It would be big,” Mack said of an upset. “It would be our first road win of the season and we'd be beating another rival in Florida State. It would make us 2-0 in the ACC, so this game is important right now. We really have to get this done. It would mean the world to get this win. I know that, as a team, we're going to put everything we can into getting that win."
FSU coach Jimbo Fisher knows better than to count out the Deacs. Last year Wake Forest beat FSU and surprised the Atlantic Division by coming within a field goal of playing for the ACC title.
“They’re much more athletic than people think,” Fisher said. “Wake’s got good players. Last year, their first three got drafted before our first one got drafted.
“The first year I was here, they had about five guys drafted off the defense which was an excellent defense,” Fisher said. “Some of them were the best players we faced all year. They’ve always had a very good football team. They’re an experienced football team, a lot of them are redshirt juniors and seniors in the mix. I think people overlook that. They’ve caught the Butler (men’s basketball) syndrome -- you get older guys that know how to play together and very well and they understand the system. They’ve been there and understand how to win and play hard. When you get older you get smarter and tougher. That’s how they play.”
That's how they have to play -- they're the underdogs.