WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) - Wake Forest already has beaten two teams from BCS conferences and until recently was the ACC's only ranked team. The No. 18 Demon Deacons' next opponent is one they've dominated twice and whose perfect record has come exclusively against the Southern Conference.
And naturally, Wake Forest is the underdog.
``What else is new?'' kicker Sam Swank said Tuesday.
Then again, when you're taking on No. 24 Florida State, some perceptions never change.
Especially for the Demon Deacons, who have turned themselves into one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's premier programs yet need only check the point spread - the Seminoles are favored by four - to keep themselves grounded this week.
's how we like it.''
Indeed, Wake Forest rebuilt its program over the past few seasons by embracing the underdog's role, with the Demon Deacons parlaying their no-respect mantra into a worst-to-first ACC finish and Orange Bowl berth in 2006. Perhaps no game turned them into believers quite like their last visit to Tallahassee two years ago, when the oddsmakers pegged them to lose by a touchdown but they instead routed Florida State 30-0.
A year ago, Wake Forest was a five-point underdog at home but followed up its unlikely victory by doing it again, topping the Seminoles 24-21 to become just the fourth team since Bobby Bowden's team entered the ACC in 1992 to beat them in two straight seasons.
``We've had two good seasons versus Florida State being, arguably, one of the teams of the 90s,'' linebacker Stanley Arnoux said. ``You just know that you've got to come out and play hard because nothing's going to be given to you, whether we're the underdog or not.''
Staying humble, he added, is ``something we pride ourselves on. ... (Linebackers coach Brad Lambert) tells us all the time, 'Humble pie's a day away.'''
One of the challenges of the Demon Deacons' recent rise to respectability has been finding ways to keep that underdog's edge during those rare instances when they're expected to roll over an opponent.
inst teams from the Big 12 (Baylor) and SEC (Mississippi). Conversely, Florida State has opened by routing SoCon schools Western Carolina and Chattanooga by an average score of 58-4 to vault back into the national rankings.
``I think everybody understands that every year, they bring in the best recruits in the country. ... They've got great talent, and I think everybody understands that when they put it together, they're going to be really hard to beat,'' coach Jim Grobe said. ``So they probably get a lot of respect because people know how talented they are, and they get a lot of respect because they've done it before. That's the best indicator of future performance is past performance. Obviously, they've got a tradition of winning, and I think people expect that, so when they are winning, I don't think it shocks anybody.''
That's an enviable position for the Demon Deacons, who for now are proud of their reputation as scrappy overachievers but someday aspire to establish themselves as one of the unquestioned powerhouses in the league and maybe even the nation. But that's far down the road, reachable only by seasons of sustained success.
For now, they're content to keep defying their modest expectations while they pursue that ambitious goal.
``That's our goal, to be the kingpin,'' Patterson said, ``but we don't mind being the underdogs doing it.''

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