Jan 4, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen paces the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2012 Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium. West Virginia defeated Clemson 70-33. Mandatory Credit: Douglas Jones-US PRESSWIRE

WVU's Defense vs. Marshall's Offense is the Matchup to Watch

We all know how good WVU’s offense can be, and it stands to reason that it’ll be ever better this year.  And while everyone can’t wait to see Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and the rest of the offense take the field, the most interesting and important matchup of the game, and the one that will give an early indication of how good we really are this year, is the Marshall offense vs. the WVU defense.

Everyone knows that WVU has dumped the 3-3-5 stack and switched to a more traditional 3-4 defense. But Marshall might be switching up their offense as well. WVU Head Coach Dana Holgorsen recently suggested that Marshall will have a completely new, unseen offense on Saturday. WVU Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest said that Marshall’s coaches visited Oregon’s campus over the summer and suggested that Marshall’s offense may look like Oregon’s.

“They went to Oregon, so you don’t know if they’re going to do Oregon stuff,” DeForest said. “You don’t know if they’re going to do Marshall stuff from last year, so we’re trying to prepare for both and get ready for up-tempo.”

Oregon has traditionally had one of the top offenses in the country under Chip Kelly, I think it will be good for the WVU defense to see an offense like that early in the season. Obviously, Marshall’s offense is talent deficient compared to the Big 12 offenses we’ll see this year, but Big 12 offenses are a lot more dynamic than the offenses we saw last year in the Big East and in our out of conference schedule.

Facing a different kind of offense early in the year can only help the defense as they gain experience and prepare for Big 12 offenses. While the defense giving up some big plays doesn’t necessarily mean we’re looking at a 7 win season, a good showing from the defense against a new-look Marshall offense would be a good sign that we can live up to the hype and compete for a Big 12 championship this year.

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Also, apparently there are rumors out there that Marshall knows our hand signals and is memorizing them. Hey- if I were in their shoes, I’d try to get any advantage I could. But, even assuming our signals didn’t change from last year (and that Marshall could interpret them and change their defense quick enough), I doubt it will make much difference.

In Doc Holliday’s first year as the Marshall head coach, he no doubt knew what plays WVU was about to run (really, who didn’t know what Jeff Mullen was about to call?), and Marshall still couldn’t pull out the victory. And even if they knew every play we were about to run, they stand little chance of consistently stopping our offense.

Dana Holgorsen had this response to the rumors of Marshall players memorizing WVU’s signals: “I have one really good one they can memorize.”

Gotta love Coach Holgorsen.

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