MORGANTOWN - The whole idea of West Virginia restructuring its defense, from hiring a new set of coaches to implementing a new scheme, was born with essentially one thing in mind - defending the high-tempo spread offenses it will face in the Big 12.
Yes, the Mountaineers' new 3-4 scheme puts an emphasis on versatility. Its design allows for a seamless transition into a 4-3 front better suited to stop running attacks like the ones it will face against teams such as Kansas State and Iowa State. It has the flexibility to drop a safety-sized linebacker like Terence Garvin into coverage and instantly become a quasi-nickel package.
The bottom line is that as the offenses it faces become more multiple, the defense has to steer that way, too.
But now here - plopped between the evolving offenses of Marshall in the opener and Maryland next week, and as that initial run through a Big 12 schedule approaches - comes James Madison. The Dukes are simply old fashioned.
"What it reminds me of is what the Big East is or was doing. It's the old Northeastern football,'' West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said of JMU. "It's what old Big East teams were. It's what West Virginia was before I got here, what Pitt was a couple years ago, what Syracuse and Connecticut did last year.''
That's what No. 9 West Virginia (1-0) will face Saturday against JMU (2-0) at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
It's not as if the Dukes are running the single wing or emulating the 1960s Packers, mind you. It's not old fashioned in that sense.
But with more and more offenses rapidly morphing into what could be described as modern-day football, those that still emphasize the running game, have a mobile quarterback and consider play-action to be trickery - think Don Nehlen football here in the 1980s - are diminishing.
That was true even in the Big East during West Virginia's final years there, and it's true in certain areas of the country on the FCS level that James Madison calls home.
But not so much at JMU and in that team's league, the Colonial Athletic Association. JMU actually refers to its base offense as a spread, but it is far from, say, the WVU version of the spread.