WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -Riley Skinner likes that Wake Forest has gained the attention of the college football world. Even if that attention can be a detriment to the quarterback and his Demon Deacons as they prepare to open the season Thursday night against Baylor.
Wake Forest enters the 2008 season ranked No. 23 in The Associated Press Top 25, the first time the program has earned a preseason ranking.
``It's been nice to know that other coaches and media outlets have expectations for you and have respect for your program,'' said Skinner, who led the nation with a 72.4 completion percentage last season. ``We take a lot of pride in that.
``We know those preseason rankings can do a lot more harm than good. We make sure not to focus on that stuff, and go about our business like we always do.''
Wake Forest, which won the 2006 Atlantic Coast Conference title after being picked to finish last in the league, is coming off its second straight winning season and bowl-game appearance.
This season, the Demon Deacons - who finished 9-4 and beat Connecticut 24-10 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte - were picked to finish second behind Clemson in the ACC's Atlantic Division.
``We've ridden this underdog thing pretty well for a while now, and it's been kind of fun to be under the radar,'' Wake Forest head coach Jim Grobe said. ``I'm sure the young guys are loving every second of it, but it makes the old guys nervous because they know it makes other teams play harder. You get everybody's best shot and get their best effort every week.''
Wake Forest will have a challenge against the Bears, whose new head coach Art Briles took Houston to four bowl appearances in five years.
``It's tough, it's really tough,'' Skinner said. ``Sometimes we feel like we're taking a shot in the dark, trying to guess what they're going to do. What we've really been focusing on is ourselves. We need to make sure we have the answers for whatever they bring against us.''
And if Wake Forest's players start thinking a little too much about preseason rankings, linebacker Aaron Curry said Grobe has a solution for that.
``He's really got a good sense of when somebody is getting the big head,'' Curry said, ``and he knows how to put a stop to that kind of stuff, whether it's running extra gassers or having longer practices.
``We realize that everybody expects us to be really good, but we're trying not to eat all the hype. We're really focused on being humble ... and playing every down like we've got nothing to lose, just like in 2006.''
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