Smaller schools, Stanford's next opponent among them, had college football witnessing a whole new version of parity during the last decade.
When you think of Cincinnati, Louisville or Wake Forest reaching the postseason, you imagine Billy Packer (Wake Forest Class of 1962) calling the action. The Cardinals are lone public school member of the three. All three have made BCS appearances in the last four years, with the Demon Deacons taking the most unlikely road to that end.
With barely 4,000 students, Wake Forest is the Football Bowl Subvision's second-smallest school. The program has lost nearly 60 percent of its games since first playing football in 1888. The Demon Deacons' three in-state rivals in the ACC, Duke, North Carolina and North Carolina State, have produced far more wins and famous players.
But over the last ten years, Wake Forest has assumed a much more intimidating identity. The Deacs reached the Orange Bowl in 2006 before bowing out to Louisville in a battle of college football recent arrivals. Under redshirt freshman quarterback Riley Skinner, who propelled his team to last year's comeback win over the Cardinal, Wake finished 11-3 overall to set school record for wins.
But unlike the aforementioned Bearcats and Cardinals, Wake Forest still boasts the head coach that led the original surge. And he's not going anywhere. Jim Grobe came aboard in 2001 and promptly led his side to two winning seasons. So overjoyed were his bosses, they awarded him a 10-year contract extension. Grobe has won three bowl games, while 13 of his program's former players reside on active NFL rosters. Not to shabby for the only ACC program with a losing record all-time.
So with that in mind, here are some key numbers/terms to know about the program standing between the Cardinal and a 3-0 record.
1: As in the first. Wake Forest hired current Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell to lead the program in 1993, making him the first African-American head football coach in ACC history. Caldwell was fired after notching only one winning season in eight years.
2: The number of conference titles won by Wake Forest since it joined the ACC in 1953. The 2006 banner goes alongside a championship from 1970, when the 6-5 Deacons weren't even invited to a bowl.
3: Saturday marks the third time Stanford has hosted a team from the ACC. Duke upset the Indians by a 9-3 margin in 1971. Kevin Miller's last-second field goal marked the difference in a 37-34 outcome against North Carolina 12 years ago.
Big Four: A local term for North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke and Wake Forest. Before Grobe turned things around, Wake was actually prone to losing to the sad-sack Blue Devils. Duke won all of five conference games between 1996 and 2002. Two of those occurred against the Demon Deacons.
2-10: The record for ACC teams in BCS bowls since the current system took effect in 1998. Bobby Bowden (1-5 personally in such tilts) was forced out at Florida State in part for contributing to the poor mark. Virginia Tech's defeat against James Madison last weekend is only the latest indicator of this conference's football ills.
14: The number of years Wake Forest had gone without appearing in the Top 25 rankings until 2006. Wake finished 25th in the final 1992 rankings after beating Oregon in the Independence Bowl.
18: As in holes, as in the sport of choice for three of Wake Forest's most famous alums: Arnold Palmer, Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins.
Karma: From the Stanford perspective, what Wake Forest had coming as the 2009 season unfolded. The Deacons (who finished 5-7) used a last-second touchdown to secure a 24-17 victory over the Cardinal. They proceeded to fall twice in overtime, in addition to losing to Miami at home by a point on a touchdown in the final minute.
Men who cry: Acceptable behavior, considering the subject matter of a famous made-for-TV movie about a former Demon Deacon. In Brian's Song, James Caan plays Brian Piccolo, the Wake Forest star felled by cancer while playing for the Chicago Bears. Caan himself played football while at Michigan State in the late '50s.
Peahead: The nickname of former Wake Forest head coach D.C. Walker, whose 77 victories remain tops all-time for Deacon coaches. Grobe (59-52) may soon catch him.
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