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Top 25 preview: Oregon at Virginia

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KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

GAMEDATE: 9/7/13

SITE: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.

TV: ABC/ESPN2 (regional)

SERIES: First meeting

AP RANKINGS: Oregon No. 2, Virginia unranked

GAME SNAPSHOT

Virginia hosts No. 2 Oregon in what's arguably the biggest non-conference game in the modern history of the program. Oregon becomes just the third non-conference foe ranked in the top three to play in Charlottesville, and this marks the 21st game in Virginia history against an opponent in the top five. The Cavs are 2-17-1 against opponents ranked in the top five all time, but both of those wins have come at home.

KEYS TO THE GAME

Oregon is favored by more than three touchdowns, but coach Mike London and company appear supremely confident after an exciting 19-16 win over BYU in the opener that was disrupted by a weather delay that lasted more than two hours.

"That's what college football is all about, having the opportunities to play on those days that a lot of people say you can't win," London said. "A lot of people said we wouldn't be able to beat BYU. No disrespect to BYU, but Oregon is what, No. 2 or 3 in the country right now? Our mindset has to be, we're playing at our place, we've got to bring a lot of energy and passion."

It will take a lot for this game to be wilder than Virginia's first of 2013. A thunderstorm ceased play for 129 minutes in the BYU game, and the Cavs rallied for a come-from-behind win in a game during which London lost his voice and was reduced to a whisper for his postgame news conference.

Make no mistake, the test Oregon provides is an imposing one. The Ducks scored a 66-3 rout of Nicholls State last week in the head coaching debut for Mark Helfrich, with Oregon tallying a school-record 772 yards of total offense. The Ducks also have two Heisman Trophy candidates in QB Marcus Mariota and RB De'Anthony Thomas.

Beating BYU also earned Virginia something it hadn't received in nearly two full years: votes in The Associated Press poll. The Cavaliers got two votes coming off the BYU win, their first since being ranked 24th in the November 20, 2011, ballot.

Oregon accomplished offensive milestones in the first game under coach Mark Helfrich that it never reached for Chip Kelly.

Oregon had a school-record 772 yards of total offense in a dominant 66-3 home win over outmatched Nicholls, an FCS school coming off back-to-back one-win seasons. The Ducks had three runners go over 100 yards in a game for the first time in school history en route to 500 yards on the ground.

Oregon's 66 points were the fourth-most in the country on the opening weekend and impressed the Associated Press voters enough to move the Ducks up one spot from No. 3 to No. 2 in the poll.

It all added up to an easy opener for Helfrich, who was promoted from offensive coordinator when Kelly left for the Philadelphia Eagles. Helfrich called games from the coaches' box as a coordinator, but moved down to the field as head coach.

"I had not been on the sideline for a game since 1996, so that was a new experience trying not to get killed when somebody is running down the sideline," he said. "In the game, there were a few more things going on, but all in all, it was game day as usual."

The competition gets tougher this week when Oregon travels to Virginia, which defeated BYU 19-16 in its opener.

"Specifically on defense, they dominated BYU, which doesn't happen very much," Helfrich said. "BYU is traditionally a very high-powered offense, but they had about a 55-yard 'Hail Mary' on the final play and other than that had about 250 total yards. Virginia's front is big, physical, athletic, and good right up the middle. Their linebackers and safeties are very good. This will be a completely different test."

Oregon got the kind of production it expected from its offensive stars in the opener as both junior running back De'Anthony Thomas and sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota have gotten preseason hype for the Heisman Trophy.

Thomas is the feature back for the first time and ran 18 times for 128 yards and two touchdowns.

"He's a little bit heavier, but he's a guy that will do anything," Helfrich said of the 5-foot-9, 169-pound junior. "We obviously need to sometimes pick our spots and be smart with him. He's a little thicker and more confident physically in his knowledge of the big picture."

Mariota threw for 234 yards and a touchdown while running for 113 yards and two scores.

"He's a great passer, a tough guy, smart and very fast," Helfrich said. "He is a great decision-maker with a quick release. He would be good in any offense."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ducks

--RB De'Anthony Thomas had a career-high 18 carries for 128 yards and two touchdowns against Nicholls. There were questions whether or not the 5-foot-9, 176-pound junior could carry the load as Oregon's feature back, but he said he felt great after the game and Mark Helfrich said Thomas was strong in the first practice after the game. He had 11 carries for 106 yards and two scores in the first quarter.

--RB Thomas Tyner is expected to make his much-anticipated Oregon debut against Virginia. Tyner set the Oregon prep record in the 100-meters at 10.35 seconds and also set the single-season rushing record with 3,415 yards while becoming a five-star recruit at Aloha High School. He was injured in fall camp and missed the opener, but is expected to debut on Saturday.

--LB Torrodney Prevot was the most-hyped defensive player in Oregon's recruiting class and began to live up to his hype as a true freshman against Nicholls. He ranked fourth on the team with five tackles and also had a sack and a forced fumble. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound outside linebacker is also a force on special teams for the Ducks.

--LB Derrick Malone had a career-high 11 tackles against Nicholls. The biggest question mark on defense this season for the Ducks is at inside linebacker where Oregon lost its top two tacklers from last season. Malone showed in the opener he can fill one of those spots.

Cavaliers

--Junior DB Anthony Harris earned a pair of significant honors after his perfomance in the Cavaliers' 19-16 win over BYU in the season opener. Harris was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week and the Walter Camp Football Bowl Subdivision National Defensive Player of the Week. He was all over the stat sheet and the field for the Cavaliers, making 11 tackles with a sack, a blocked punt and an interception. Harris' pick was instrumental in setting up Virginia's first touchdown as he intercepted the pass off a deflection, made a short return and then executed a daring lateral to LB Henry Coley who ran an additional 27 yards.

--DE Eli Harold was considered one of the possible breakout players in the ACC this season, and he lived up to the hype in the 2013 opener, generating two sacks as part of 3.5 tackles for loss and forcing a fumble against BYU. Harold made 11 total tackles and was praised by teammates and coach Mike London after the game.

--WR Darius Jennings has established himself as one of the most consistent weapons in the offense. Jennings made a team-high seven catches for 62 yards, his 14th consecutive game with at least one reception, and logged the seventh TD reception of his career.
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