The Blue Devils will face stiff competition against a Virginia squad with high expectations for the upcoming season. The Cavaliers hope to make their presence felt in both the ACC and on the national stage with a second straight bowl appearance after an 8-4 finish in 2011. Although Virginia was largely led by its defense last year, the Cavaliers will be forced to rely on their offense and its seven returning starters more heavily this season.
The story for of the offseason for the Cavaliers has been the quarterback competition between junior Michael Rocco—who earned the starting job mid-season and went on to complete 60 percent of his passes—sophomore David Watford and recent Alabama transfer sophomore Phillip Sims. Sims possesses the most raw talent, yet head coach Mike London gave the nod to the more experienced Rocco for Virginia’s season opener against Richmond. Regardless of who lines up under center, the offense will be led by one of the conference’s best offensive lines, which boasts a pair of top NFL prospects in seniors Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses.
The uncertainty at quarterback means that the offense’s success will likely hinge on the ground game. The Cavaliers return four running backs who combined for the fourth-most rushing yards in the ACC, including senior Perry Jones, who earned all-conference honorable mention.
While the offense seems primed for a successful campaign, the Cavalier defense, which returns only five starters, could be handicapped by inexperience. The unit will rely heavily on middle linebacker Steve Greer, who will be counted on both as the returning team leader in tackles and as the quarterback of the defense.
Though there may be doubts regarding their level of experience, Virginia has the talent to be serious contenders in the ACC and a should pose a significant in-conference test for Duke.