CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -On one side of the country, Virginia's players anticipate their game against No. 3 Southern California as an opportunity to test themselves against the standard by which all college football programs are judged and the biggest game most of them have ever played.
And on the other, there's Trojans tailback C.J. Gable, scoffing.
``They're not better than our defense,'' he said of the Cavaliers this week. ``We've got the best defense I'm ever going to play against. ... Their defense is nothing compared to ours.''
The answer will come Saturday, when Cavaliers linebacker and co-captain Clint Sintim said he and his teammates would be foolish not to go in thinking they are decided underdogs.
``It's one of the better teams in the nation, it has been for quite some time,'' Sintim said. ``It's a great opportunity for our program to play a team of that caliber.''
He added: ``Nobody expects us to win.''
That is not to say that Virginia doesn't look forward to pulling off a shocker.
``I think everyone is going to be a little bit nervous,'' left guard Zak Stair said. ``It's the first game and for a lot of guys, it's going to be their first start.''
That will even be true of the Cavaliers quarterback, who is not expected to be revealed until Virginia's first offensive series. Through training camp, coach Al Groh has contended that senior Scott Deke and sophomores Peter Lalich and Marc Verica have battled evenly.
Lalich is the only one of the three to have ever thrown a pass in college.
The battle has drawn a lot of attention throughout training camp, and none of the candidates have spoken publicly since Deke announced that all three had agreed, with Groh's blessing, to withhold any comments until they actually accomplish something on the field.
Wide receiver Kevin Ogletree said he isn't concerned about the choice taking so long.
``We know whoever it's going to be, they're going to be ready,'' Ogletree said.
Ogletree will help make that so, bringing a deep threat to the wide receiver position in his return from missing all of last season with a knee injury. He caught a team-best 52 passes for 582 yards the year before and is eager to finally get his season underway.
The Trojans are too, and are expecting a stiff test at sold-out Scott Stadium.
``We know they're a solidly coached defense, a very disciplined group. I know it's going to be a challenge for us,'' quarterback Mark Sanchez said. ``We're a new team, we're trying to put our stamp on the USC tradition. ... We'll find out a lot about ourselves on Saturday.''
Sanchez has already shown his toughness, needing just 17 days to bounce back from a dislocated kneecap before declaring himself ready to go behind a rebuilt offensive line.
The line will protect him, said guard Jeff Byers, the lone returning starter.
``I really feel like we're ready for any blitz situation they throw at us,'' he said. ``If we can handle this situation, we can handle anything. The only way you become the best is to play the best. ... I believe, I hope, we're going to do special things.''
The contrast of programs will continue after the game, too. While the Trojans host Ohio State in two weeks, Virginia hosts Richmond of the Football Championship Subdivision.

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