Virginia (8-5, 4-4 ACC)

The Acc


Virginia (8-5, 4-4 ACC)

Strengths: Virginia has three returning starters at linebacker and is touting all three as Butkus Award candidates. The best of the trio is sophomore Ahmad Brooks, who flies to the football and hits ferociously. All four defensive linemen return, and the Cavaliers are touting their front seven as the best in the nation. Running backs Alvin Pearman and Wali Lundy should lead one of the ACC's best ground attacks. Seventeen total starters return.

Weaknesses: The Cavaliers have to replace quarterback Matt Schaub, who went to the NFL. Virginia also needs to prove it can stop someone when it matters. Last season, the Cavs desperately needed a win against Maryland, but their defense allowed Terps running back Josh Allen to rush for 257 yards.

Key game: Clemson, Oct. 7. The Cavs should be 4-0 when the Tigers come to town. The game begins a stretch in which Virginia faces four ranked teams in five games.

Extra point: Brooks, a freshman all-American in 2003, has been in Al Groh's doghouse this preseason. He was demoted to the second team, then left the team for two days after a blow-up with Groh at practice. The two have smoothed things over, at least for now.

2004 schedule

9-4 at Temple Noon

9-11 North Carolina 3:30

9-18 Akron 3 9-25 Syracuse TBA

10-7 Clemson 7:30

10-16 at Florida State TBA

10-23 at Duke TBA

11-6 Maryland TBA

11-13 Miami TBA

11-20 at Georgia Tech TBA

11-27 at Virginia Tech TBA

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