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5 Storylines: Virginia

9/5/2012

Every week, NittanyNation takes a look at five storylines that stand out for Penn State's opponent: What should fans keep an eye on? What's the bigger picture? What might be on display Saturday?

Here are NittanyNation's Week 2 storylines for the Cavaliers:

1. It's a family reunion for Michael Rocco. The Virginia quarterback's father played as the backup quarterback on Penn State's 1982 national championship team, and his grandfather was an assistant under Joe Paterno. Rocco has a lot of family in Pennsylvania, and they're all coming down to watch him. Michael grew up as a Penn State fan, and that was his dream school, so it should be a surreal day for the junior. Paterno offered him a grayshirt, not a scholarship, because he had already offered Rob Bolden and Paul Jones. Rocco opted for a scholarship elsewhere.

2. Cavs hoping to show last season was no fluke. Virginia hasn't had back-to-back winning seasons since 2004-05. Before last season, the last time Virginia boasted a winning season (9-4) was five years ago. It followed that up with a 5-7 record. Saturday should go a long way in helping determine whether Virginia can maintain its success -- whether it's turned a corner as a program or whether it's still searching for an identity.

3. Virginia has one of the best running attacks in the ACC. With a fast Perry Jones -- who's dangerous at catching the ball -- and the more-powerful Kevin Parks, Virginia has a balanced running attack that can rival just about any ACC team besides Georgia Tech. The Nittany Lions have a strong front seven and although they allowed 175 rushing yards last week, they still held Ohio to 3.7 yards a carry. If these backs can best PSU, it'll show they'll be even harder on defenses this season.

4. Young secondary might be overwhelmed with PSU's passing attack. Four true sophomores will start in the defensive backfield, and three of them made their first career starts last week against Richmond, an FCS team. Penn State has a young receiving corps, but this will be the first real challenge for the Cavaliers' secondary and will act as the barometer for whether this group can stave off ACC opponents' passing games. Demetrious Nicholson is the only DB who doesn't have a question mark next to his name.

5. If Rocco struggles, will Phillip Sims see time? Virginia coach Mike London acknowledged Sims -- an Alabama transfer eligible this season -- has taken a lot of reps, but he said he's not yet sure whether Sims will see time against Penn State. Sims has a lot of talent, and is pushing Rocco, but it might be too early in the season for the transfer to fully grasp the playbook. If Rocco struggles against an inconsistent PSU defense, Sims could be called on -- and might sow the seeds of a quarterback controversy.