Although relatively young, the Virginia Cavaliers were a trendy preseason pick to unseat Florida State for the Atlantic Coast Conference throne.
But in the opening quarter of the opening game, star quarterback Matt Schaub injured his shoulder. The Cavaliers were embarrassed in Week 2 at South Carolina, losing 31-0. The non-conference loss sent them tumbling out of the AP poll, from 15th, and in the eyes of many, out of ACC contention.
Schaub returned three games ago and has looked like the Heisman Trophy candidate the school promoted in the summer. He has completed 82 of 115 passes (71.3 percent) for 881 yards and six touchdowns in those games.
"Their quarterback's one of the best in the country," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "If I ever saw a pro-looking quarterback, this guy's him."
The Virginia offense might have taken a hit for Saturday's showdown, however, if sophomore tailback Wali Lundy can't play. Lundy, the league's top rusher with an average of 89.7 yards, left the Clemson game in the third quarter with an injury to his right foot. The Cavaliers lost 30-27 in overtime but remain in second place in the ACC.
Defensively, coach Al Groh is reaping the rewards of playing so many freshmen a year ago, including lineman Darryl Blackstock (7 seven tackles for a loss) and linebackers Ahmad Brooks (44 tackles) and Kai Parham (37 tackles), keys in the team's 3-4 defensive alignment.
JOHN FRADY, GOT A MINUTE?
This time a year ago, Frady was enjoying his senior year at Jacksonville Bolles High playing guard and tackle. Now he has made the transition to center and is set to start for the first time.
BL: Did you ever imagine this happening so fast?
JF: I guess it's one of those things you always dream about. All the guys who sign on signing day, especially with the offensive linemen, what's the percentage, 80 percent of offensive linemen redshirt. Just to be on the active roster going into a game is something special, but to be actually starting, that's beyond your wildest dreams. Really.
BL: You played most of the second half against Miami and had to face star tackle Vince Wilfork, a potential first-round NFL pick. Some indoctrination, huh?
JF: Vince Wilfork is a heck of a ball player, there's no other way to put that. He's big and strong and quick. But those are the kind of people you have to go against when you play at Florida State; that's why I came here, to play against the best competition in the country. For me to have a chance at a guy that's going to be playing on Sundays, that's something I can take for myself to build on and use that down the road to get better.
BL: Did he trash talk to you?
JF: No. He just kept trying to get in our huddle.
BL: What did you say?
JF: I told him to leave.
BL: So who was the first person you called Sunday when you were told you were starting?
JF: My mom ( Tina).
BL: Did she scream?
JF: No, she thought I was joking with her. Her birthday was last week and she was like, "No, you're just messing with me. I'm getting old.' (I said) "No, I got the nod.'
The measure of a Florida State quarterback often comes down to what he does in the games against the national elite. In his third year as a starter, Chris Rix is 3-5 against Top 25 opponents. The number of miscues often has been the determining factor:
Season/Opponent (AP rank)/Turnovers/Result
2001/Miami (2)/6/UM, 49-27
2001/Maryland (10)/1/FSU, 52-31
2001/Florida (3)/1/UF, 37-13
2001/Virginia Tech (15)/1/FSU, 30-17
2002/Miami (1)/0/UM, 28-27
2002/Notre Dame (6)/3/ND, 34-24
2002/Florida (14)/0/FSU, 31-14
2003/Miami (2)/4/UM, 22-14
"The thing that eased some of the pain is that four other undefeated teams (Ohio State, LSU, Arkansas, Nebraska) got beat, which only made you drop two spots. By dropping two spots, you're still in the fight. This could be a year where everybody loses a game. But like I told the kids, the cushion is gone; the cushion is gone. Lose to Virginia and you can forget about that." - BOBBY BOWDEN
The Seminoles better get over the sting of their 22-14 loss to Miami, fast. They still control their destiny as far as a Bowl Championship Series berth - and remain in the hunt, with some help, for a title shot - but first must win the ACC title. Saturday's trip to Virginia, the site of their first ACC loss in 1995, looms as a major hurdle toward that end.