For the second time this season, Virginia will be engaged in a No. 1 versus No. 2 matchup. In the last game, then-No. 2 Virginia defeated then-No. 1 Syracuse to earn the top spot in the country - which the Cavaliers have yet to relinquish. This Saturday, Virginia will defend that spot in the Big City Classic against No. 2 North Carolina in the brand-new New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J. - incidentally, the home of the New York Giants and the Jets.
"It has a lot of meaning to be able to play on the same field as the guys you see playing on Sundays," junior midfielder Rhamel Bratton said. "It's something you have over Eli [Manning] and those guys."
The Big City Classic, which also features a match between Delaware and Hfstra and a game between No. 3 Syracuse and No. 4 Princeton, is expected to draw more than 20,000 fans in just the second year since its inception.
Although the game is only the second of Virginia's (10-0, 1-0 ACC) three ACC games, the matchup will decide the regular season conference champion. So far, the Cavaliers have maintained an unblemished record but are not flaunting their success.
"You kind of have to remind yourself almost every day that you haven't won anything yet," Rhamel Bratton said. "Being No. 1 is sweet, but being in the driver's seat, you always have people that want to stab you in the back."
Rhamel Bratton and his twin brother junior midfielder Shamel Bratton have been key contributors in many of Virginia's victories, especially against then-No. 12 Johns Hopkins, during which both brothers notched hat tricks.
"We haven't really had both of us playing at a high level here yet until this season," Shamel Bratton said. "I think both of us being on the same line, playing well and being healthy and giving guys all they can handle.
North Carolina will have to handle the Brattons in addition to many other scoring threats from Virginia.
Nevertheless, Virginia will have to prepare well for the Tar Heels' (10-0, 2-0 ACC) challenge. Even last year, when North Carolina was at the bottom of the ACC and ranked 10th in the nation, the Cavaliers only edged past them 11-10. This season, Virginia faces an undefeated North Carolina squad.
"I think the only difference is that they are practicing at 7 a.m. now," Shamel Bratton joked before adding, "I think the guys are a little more invested and committed to the program this year."\nThe game begins at 4 p.m. Saturday and will be televised on ESPNU.