"What the Big East used to be is what the Colonial Athletic Association is now,'' Holgorsen said. "They'll get the ball off to tight ends, they'll try to establish the run and they'll control the clock. It's all about playing with effort. I think JMU defended around 62 plays per game last year. That's what West Virginia was defending before I got here.
"The landscape of college football is changing slightly, but I don't think it's gotten to them yet.''
So, is West Virginia's new defense equipped to handle that type of offense? Well, yes. Again, one of the objectives of changing the defense was to be more adaptable because not every team the Mountaineers will face is Texas Tech. Many, including Texas and Oklahoma, still employ plenty of the designs of traditional offenses, but with variations that allow them to spread the field.
"Each and every week your opponent creates different problems, and you have to solve them,'' defensive coordinator Joe DeForest said. "I think it's a huge challenge this week because you don't see it often, and if you have to prepare for it in three days it can become problematic.
"But every week there's going to be an element of an offense that you saw in previous weeks. So it's going to help us down the line because we'll see elements of James Madison as we go on.''
So what will West Virginia face on Saturday? Well, the Dukes' offensive line is big by FCS standards, although not so much on the FBS level. JMU will use a tight end most of the time and will give quarterback Justin Thorpe the freedom to make plays with his feet and hand it to a versatile back in 5-foot-9, 205-pound Dae'Quan Scott, assuming he recovers from an ankle injury. The Dukes have run the ball 85 times and thrown it 57 in two games, a ratio that's roughly the opposite of what WVU did last season.
"They have some guys up front that look the part. If you put too many people in the box, they will try to challenge you one-on-one,'' Holgorsen said. "They've got good, big O-linemen with some experience and they've got a tight end that they'll play with about 80 percent of the time. They want to control the ball, they want to run the ball and obviously they'll try to get us on some play-action stuff down the field.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.