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Jan. 28, 2013

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — The largest crowd to watch a football game at Scott Stadium — 64,947 fans — turned out on Aug. 30, 2008, to see UVa take on mighty Southern California.

Five years later, Virginia will face another power from the Pac-12 Conference, and this one might be more formidable than that USC team, which finished 12-1 after beating Penn State in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 2009.

The Ducks are coming to town.

UVa announced Monday that it will host Oregon at 61,500-seat Scott Stadium on Sept. 7, a game that will give fans an early look at a team expected to contend for the national championship in 2013.

For fourth-year coach Mike London’s players, the game will be an opportunity to measure themselves against one of the nation’s elite programs.

“Couldn’t be more excited,” wide receiver Tim Smith tweeted Monday.

Oregon is coming off a 12-1 season that included a 35-17 rout of Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl. The Ducks headline a 12-game schedule that on paper ranks as the most ambitious in the 125-year history of UVa football.

In all, the schedule includes eight games with teams that advanced to bowls last season: Oregon, BYU, Clemson, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Duke and Ball State. Two other teams on Virginia’s schedule — North Carolina and Miami — won enough games to be bowl-eligible in 2012 but, for various reasons, did not compete in postseason.

In the final USA Today coaches’ poll for the 2012 season, Oregon was ranked No. 2 and Clemson No. 9.

For the first time in the program’s history, Virginia will play eight games at Scott Stadium. The first is the Aug. 31 season-opener against BYU, in its first appearance in Charlottesville since Sept. 2, 2000.

The Wahoos return seven starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that finished 4-8 in 2012.

As excited as the `Hoos will be about Oregon’s visit, they would be wise not to look past BYU. The Cougars finished 8-5 last season after beating San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl, and their returning players include All-America linebacker Kyle Van Noy and wide receiver Cody Hoffman.

Van Noy, who totaled 22 tackles for loss, including 13 sacks, blocked two kicks and forced a school-record six fumbles in 2012, scored two touchdowns — one on a fumble recovery, the other on an interception return — in BYU’s victory over San Diego State. The 6-4, 215-pound Hoffman caught 100 passes for 1,248 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

After the BYU game will come perhaps the greatest challenge, and opportunity, of London’s tenure at UVa. Oregon lost its head coach, Chip Kelly, to the NFL this month, but his successor, Mark Helfrich, inherited a roster stocked with fast, explosive, dynamic players.

Of the teams in the top 10 of the final USA Today coaches’ poll, only Oregon did not lose any underclassmen to the NFL draft.

Helfrich, who was promoted from offensive coordinator at Oregon, returns three players who made the All-Pac 12 first team last season: quarterback Marcus Mariota, center Hroniss Grasu and cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu. The Ducks finished the season ranked No. 2 nationally in scoring offense and No. 5 in total offense.

UVa and Oregon never have met in football. In the second game of the series, which was announced Monday, the `Hoos will meet the Ducks in Eugene, Ore., during the 2016 season.

The other six opponents coming to Scott Stadium this fall are VMI, Ball State, Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech.

VMI finished 2-9 in 2012, but each of the other five teams won at least six games. Clemson won 11, Ball State nine, and Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech seven each. Duke won six and advanced to a bowl game for the first time in 18 years.

Virginia has never played Ball State in football. UVa and VMI last met in 2010, in Charlottesville. The `Hoos have won nine straight in that series, which they lead 56-23-3.

Clemson, which competes in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, hasn’t played at Scott Stadium since 2008. In quarterback Tajh Boyd, a graduate of Hampton’s Phoebus High, the Tigers have the reigning ACC player of the year.

Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech are among UVa’s Coastal Division rivals, and each beat the Cavaliers in 2012.

The ACC will release the 2012 schedules of its teams, with specific dates, next month.

Virginia’s road games will be against ACC foes Maryland (4-8 in 2012), Miami (7-5), UNC (8-4) and Pitt (6-7), a new member of the conference. In its most recent game at Pitt, UVa lost 38-13 in the 2006 season-opener.

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