WINSTON-SALEM — Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the first college football game of the season is a nightmare, especially in someone else's home stadium.
The Demon Deacons travel to Baylor for their season-opener and first of five road games this season. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. on Thursday (FSN).
The No. 23 Deacs travel to Floyd Casey Stadium in Waco, Texas holding an AP preseason ranking for the first time in school history.
The past two seasons, filled with 20 victories and bowl game appearances, have brought on tremendous expectations for this season. Grobe said on Tuesday in his weekly news conference that those expectations will be the issue his team deals with more than anything else this season.
Grobe said his team did not do well going into the first game at Boston College last season and started the season 0-2 after a loss at Nebraska.
This season he's faced the expectations issue head on with players, hoping they have listened to him instead of the hype.
"Just being honest with the kids," Grobe said. "'It's fun to have people respect you. It's fun to be ranked. It's nice to have people say good things about you, but we haven't played a game yet. We haven't earned anything yet.'"
Even so, the media's selected the Deacs to finish second in the ACC's Atlantic Division behind Clemson. Others have suggested they will win the ACC Championship.
In addressing his players, Grobe took a stiff hand to those claims.
"All this stuff's really, really nice, but it doesn't win you a football game," he said. "We're not a team that's arrived. We're not ever going to take the field and look across at the other sideline and feel like we've got better players. That's not going to happen."
He said the Deac's schedule is challenging, with nonconference games against Baylor, Mississippi (Sept. 6), Navy (Sept. 27) and Vanderbilt (Nov. 29).
Grobe said having an experienced team should offset some of the pressure of high expectations. He said he thinks they are mentally ready to deal with the grind.
The Deacs face Clemson on Oct. 9.
Wake fans expect the Deacs to enter that game at 4-0. It's a sentiment that has thrown players off.
"The scary thing is that everyone is saying we can compete for the title," Wake redshirt senior Aaron Curry said. "I'm not comfortable with that. It puts me a little uneasy because now everyone's going to be shooting for us."
"We've ridden this underdog thing for a while now," he said. "It's been kind of fun being under the radar."