Virginia vs. Richmond
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville.
Internet: Televised on ESPN3.com.
Radio: WGRQ (95.9 FM), WTNT (570 AM).
Stopping the pass: Virginia possessed one of the top passing defenses in the ACC last season, and led by two-time all-ACC cornerback Ras-I Dowling, the Cavaliers were hoping to be able to count on another strong showing from their secondary this season as they transition from a 3-4 base alignment to a 4-3. But because of nagging injuries and depth concerns in the secondary throughout training camp, Coach Mike London said two true freshman cornerbacks - Rijo Walker and Drequan Hoskey - likely will play Saturday. London hopes to use as few true freshmen as possible this season. Dowling, who dealt with minor injuries the past month, said he will play against Richmond.
Putting it all on the line: Under London and first-year offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, the Cavaliers hope to operate a more balanced offense, which means a significant improvement will need to be seen from the team's offensive line. In 2009, Virginia led the ACC in sacks allowed. Lazor said it was made clear to the offensive linemen in the spring that the expectation was to return to a more physical brand of play, and he said he believes they have adjusted well to that mandate. Watch to see how many snaps 6-foot-6, 350-pound reserve right tackle Morgan Moses - a true freshman - takes. A highly touted prospect, Moses eventually could develop into the line's cornerstone.
Passing attack is key: If the line can provide manageable protection, the onus will be on fifth-year senior quarterback Marc Verica to demonstrate an improved decision-making ability. When he's on, Verica can be one of the most precise passers in the conference. When he's off, he can be one of the conference's most interception-prone quarterbacks. His receiving targets are mostly unproven, though the wide receiving corps looked solid during the open portions of the team's training camp. Saturday will be the first opportunity to see if the newly-installed route tree pays off for wideouts Kris Burd, Dontrelle Inman and Tim Smith in a live game. One of the Richmond cornerbacks squaring off against them will be fifth-year senior Justin Rogers, a three-time division I-AA all-American with 10 career interceptions.
- Steve Yanda