Posted: Thursday, September 13th 2012 at 5:38pm
ACC's unbeaten teams set for early season tests
By The Associated Press
With the ACC still buzzing about the eventual addition of Notre Dame in the 2015-16 season, football coaches around the league have more immediate concerns.
This weekend will show if some surprise squads are for real.
Wake Forest, Virginia and Maryland are unbeaten and share the top of ACC standings, and they can prove they belong Saturday.
The Demon Deacons play at No. 5 Florida State, the Cavaliers travel to Georgia Tech (1-1, 0-1 ACC) and the Terrapins are at home against Connecticut (1-1). The Huskies aren't a power, but their former coach, Randy Edsall, is now at Maryland, and there are hard feelings.
Wake Forest, which has victories against Liberty and North Carolina, has won four of the last six meetings against the Seminoles. The Demon Deacons ran for 162 yards in their 35-30 victory on their home field last year, shredding a defense that finished second in the country to national champion Alabama in defending the run.
``We're focused on them. They are our No. 1 priority and we're ready to give them our all,'' Florida State defensive back Lamarcus Joyner said this week.
The Seminoles aren't the only ones with short memories, either.
Georgia Tech (1-1, 0-1 ACC) hasn't forgotten how the Cavaliers gave the Yellow Jackets a taste of their own medicine last year in Charlottesville. Virginia ran for 272 yards in a 24-21 victory.
``They beat us up up there,'' Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. ``They got after us. That's going to be our challenge. We've got to see if we can stand in there toe-to-toe with them and do a little better job than we did a year ago. We were feeling awfully good about ourselves up there a year ago. We went up there 6-0 and so, we need to buckle our chin straps and be ready to play on Saturday.''
So do the Cavaliers, who beat Richmond in their opener and Penn State last weekend, but only after Nittany Lions placekicker Sam Ficken missed four of five field goals in the 17-16 setback.
``We are nowhere near where we need to be,'' Virginia coach Mike London said. His team also is entering a rough stretch. It plays at No. 16 TCU next, and then hosts an offensive juggernaut, Louisiana Tech.
The Terrapins are also hardly untested.
After scoring late to beat William & Mary 7-6, Maryland nearly blew a big halftime lead last week and had to hang on against Temple. Now they face a motivated Connecticut (1-1) squad.
The game has added intrigue because only this week did Edsall apologize for leaving UConn immediately after coaching the Huskies in a bowl game two seasons ago and never going back to address his team before taking the Maryland job. Most players found out via text message from someone else.
Old news, Terps linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield said of the hard feelings.
Hartsfield said Maryland's close victories show improvement. The Terrapins finished 2-10 last season, and prospects looked grim after more than two dozen players transferred including two-year starting quarterback Danny O'Brien, now at Wisconsin.
``It's a great start for us. It shows just how much we've grown, the way we finished last week and the way we played,'' Hartsfield said. ``Getting this win would get us rolling and get us ready for ACC play.''
The upstarts are eager to show what they can do.
``No, no, no,'' Demon Deacons free safety Daniel Mack said when asked if he was surprised by the start.
Edsall, too, sees hope for the Terrapins, but also notes their vulnerability.
``I think that we've turned the corner a little bit from the standpoint that we are out there competing for 60 minutes,'' the second-year coach said. ``We've won two games in the fourth quarter, basically. We still have a long way to go, but the energy and attitude has been good. Hopefully we won't have any other injuries, but as of now we are moving in the right direction.
``The more that these young kids play and the more that the older guys continue to make plays and mentor the young guys, the better we will do.''
Saturday should answer a lot of questions about all three schools.
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