Virginia at Temple
Containing Washington: Temple quarterback Walter Washington is big (6 feet 2, 240 pounds), strong (475-pound bench press) and as athletic as any player in the revamped Big East. He closed last season with 945 yards of total offense in the final three games, all against nationally ranked opponents, including 340 rushing yards. Virginia's stout front seven should be able to keep Washington from running wild, but its unproven defensive backs will need to stay alert when he drops back to pass in Temple's no-huddle, spread offense. "I think it will be quite an arduous test for them," Cavaliers Coach Al Groh said.
Easy Entry: "We're anxious to find out what kind of team we have," Groh said, and nowhere is that more true than at quarterback, where Marques Hagans steps in for all-ACC star Matt Schaub. Hagans will debut in relatively comfortable circumstances, surrounded by the 16th-ranked team in the nation and facing an opponent that lost 11 of 12 games last season and hasn't beaten a ranked team since 1998. This will by no means be his toughest test, but it will be his first chance to validate the confidence his teammates and coaches say they have in him.
Beware the Unknown: In preparation for their first meeting with Temple, the Cavaliers pored over tape of returning players such as Washington and star linebacker Rian "Goo" Wallace, but they know little about the 15-plus new junior college transfers Temple will also throw at them. That could add another element of uncertainty to an afternoon already likely to feature some opening-game hiccups. "It does hurt us a little bit," cornerback Marcus Hamilton said, "but I think if we come into the game confident in knowing our assignments . . . we'll be fine out there."
-- Jim Reedy
Duke at Navy
Taking Over: Navy senior Aaron Polanco will make his first start at quarterback, replacing two-year starter Craig Candeto. Polanco, one of two team captains, has shown flashes of brilliance, rushing for two touchdowns in relief of Candeto in a close loss to Notre Dame two years ago. He's a tough player and has good speed (4.59 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and a stronger arm than Candeto. But his grasp of the nuances of Coach Paul Johnson's triple-option, spread offense will ultimately determine his success.
On Guard: The Midshipmen will be without senior tackle Casey Hughes, who won't play because of a sprained left ankle. Senior Sam Brown, who has seen action for only five plays in one game during the previous three seasons, will start at right tackle. Left tackle Tyson Stahl has been bothered by a sprained ankle, too. Navy's interior line also will get a big test. The Blue Devils lost all-ACC defensive tackle Matt Zielinski, who graduated, and two-year starter Micah Harris was killed in a car wreck in June. But Duke still has two 300-pound tackles coming back.
Struggling vs. ACC: Navy has been clobbered in each of its past nine games against ACC teams, losing by an average of 27 points. The Midshipmen gave up 40 points or more in six of those games -- Duke beat the Midshipmen, 43-17, two years ago in Durham, N.C. Navy hasn't beaten an ACC foe since upsetting Georgia Tech, 36-26, in Atlanta in 1996.
Under a New Roof: The Blue Devils won two of their last five games after Ted Roof became interim coach, ending a 30-game losing streak in ACC games with a 41-17 win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 8. Duke also beat North Carolina, 30-22, for the first time since 1989. "I think they were really on a mission trying to get him the job," Johnson said. "I think it will probably carry over for them."
-- Mark Schlabach