MORGANTOWN - It's pretty much a given that the one thing that concerns college football coaches most about their opening opponents is the element of the unknown.
It's been, after all, at least eight months since anyone has lined up and shown what they have. In the interim there have been 15 spring practices, 29 more in August and all kinds of idle time in meeting rooms with dry erase boards and ideas floating around.
Still, it was at least mildly unexpected the other day when Dana Holgorsen was opining on the skills and the maturity of sophomore Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato and threw out this little nugget.
"I guess question No. 1 is, what offense are they going to run?'' Holgorsen said. "There's been some speculation on that, so hopefully he's learning a second offense in as many years.''
Indeed, while there has been little out of the Marshall camp to suggest that there are any wholesale changes in the works to the Herd offense, that is still something Holgorsen and his staff must worry about between now and Saturday's noon kickoff at Mountaineer Field in what could be the final game ever between the two teams.
After all, if a coach is going to dramatically - or even slightly - change his schemes in order to spring a surprise, the last thing he's going to do is advertise it.
Yet it's always something that has to be factored into preparations - that what a team is preparing for might not be what it ultimately faces on game day.
Holgorsen was noncommittal when asked in what grapevine he might have heard of changes being made by Marshall coach Doc Holliday and his staff - "Probably from one of you guys,'' he cracked - but the fact is that preparing for the unknown is imperative, particularly in opening games with so much lead time.
Of course, it works both ways.