No. 23 Virginia

Billy McMullen, the leading receiver in UVa history, and leading tackler Angelo Crowell are gone, but Virginia quarterback Matt Schaub was the ACC's leading passer and Player of the Year last fall, and he's back.

Coach Al Groh hit the mother lode in recruiting last year, and he threw his novices right into the fire. Tight end Heath Miller was the ACC's top pass-catching tight end and a Freshman All-American, running back Wali Lundy led the Cavs in rushing and the nation's freshmen in all-purpose yardage, and linebacker Darryl Blackstock was the National Defensive Freshman of the Year.

Offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the anchor of the offensive line, and end Kwakou Robinson, one of four returning D-Line starters, also broke in last year as true freshmen. The linebacking corps of Blackstock, Kai Parham and Ahmad Brooks, who comes to Charlottesville via Hargrove Military Academy, will make history before their college playing days are over.

The Cavaliers play host to Maryland for consecutive November matchups.

Mountaineer mauler: Wali Lundy amassed 239 all-purpose yards and scored four touchdowns in West Virginia.

Youth movement: Of Virginia's 22 bowl game starters, nine were freshmen.

Ball! Virginia led the nation last season in fumble recoveries with 22.

2002 results: 9–5 (6–2 ACC)

Bowl Game: Beat West Virginia 48-22 in Continental Tire Bowl

Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense, both kickers

2003 Schedule:

A. 30 Duke

S. 6 at South Carolina

S. 13 at Western Michigan

S. 27 Wake Forest

O. 4 at North Carolina

O. 11 at Clemson

O. 18 Florida State

O. 25 Troy State

N. 1 at NC State

N. 13 at Maryland

N. 22 Georgia Tech

N. 29 Virginia Tech

Schedule Analysis: The heavy hitters come late in the season for Virginia. Al Groh's young squad will have an excellent chance to take a 5-0 record to Clemson, a team the Cavs beat 22-17 last year. The Florida State home game on Oct. 18 will obviously be the biggest home game in years for Virginia, but the Cavs also face stiff road challenges in November with NC State and Maryland. Should Virginia split with Florida State and NC State, the Thursday night game at Maryland on Nov. 13 could be for the ACC title.

Final Word: The top four teams in the ACC all look like title contenders prior to the season. Virginia's strengths are its momentum from last season, strong recruiting classes and a top-flight quarterback. Weaknesses include a defense that was soft against the run and an offense that did not run effectively last season. Virginia could finish first in the ACC just as easily as fourth, though with what Groh is building in Charlottesville, the Cavs can expect to be closer to first than fourth for the foreseeable future.

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#23 Virginia

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