Dec. 29, 2006
DAVIE, Fla. (AP) -Kenneth Moore understands that many people think Wake Forest took advantage of a down year in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Beating No. 5 Louisville in the Orange Bowl would do plenty to save the ACC's face.
"People look at Wake Forest like it's a Cinderella year, the ACC is weak and Wake Forest is at the top," the running back said Friday. "It's a lot of pressure proving that we are a good team and this is not just like the ACC's weak, but Wake Forest is a good team and came to play every game. We have to prove the ACC is still strong."
The 15th-ranked Demon Deacons have plenty to play for. Not only do they want to cap their worst-to-first season with a landmark victory, they also want to give their much-maligned conference a rare victory in a Bowl Championship Series game.
The ACC is just 1-7 in the major bowl games since the BCS was created in 1998 - easily the worst record of any conference with an automatic BCS berth. The conference is winless in four straight Orange Bowls and hasn't won it in more than a decade.
The ACC's only BCS victory came after the 1999 season when Florida State beat Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. The Seminoles also were the last conference team to win the Orange Bowl when they beat Notre Dame in January 1996.
The team picked in the preseason to place last in the Atlantic Division wound up winning the league, yet isn't even the ACC's highest-ranked team - the Demon Deacons (11-2) are one spot behind No. 14 Virginia Tech.
They're also starting to feel the pressure that comes with thinking they have to save the league.
"We were predicted to finish last, and the fact that we finished out on top, now we've got to represent the whole conference, we can't let the conference down and we can't let the school down," linebacker Aaron Curry said. "We're going to go ahead and try to prove a point about the ACC."
The ACC was never supposed to be in this type of situation, not after it underwent a football-fueled expansion in 2004. Powerhouses Miami and Virginia Tech and perennially solid Boston College were added to give balance to a league that had been dominated by Florida State.
But this season the Hurricanes and Seminoles combined to lose 12 games, and immediately critics blasted the ACC for being weak from top to bottom.
"When they're having a down year and they're bad, the ACC's bad," Wake Forest center Steve Justice said. "The tables have turned in some areas, and competition has been getting better and better."
Curry said the Demon Deacons drew satisfaction from Florida State's rout of UCLA earlier this week in the Emerald Bowl in the first bowl game of the postseason involving an ACC team.
Two more were set to play Friday: Clemson met Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, and Maryland was playing Purdue in the Champs Sports Bowl.
The Seminoles' win "was very satisfying, to let everybody know on the West Coast that the ACC plays good ball," Curry said. "Now we've got to go put a better show than Florida State did."