"They're bigger, faster and stronger and probably expect to dominate the game," Talley said bluntly. "I doubt they're real excited about playing Villanova."
Truth be told, Talley and his Wildcats have to at least be giving themselves a puncher's chance for an upset during this weekend's visit to Morgantown. After all, stranger things have happened. In fact, it seems as though every autumn, a team from the ranks formerly known as Division I-AA jumps up and bites one of their higher-tiered brethren.
Even still, Talley readily admits that this is a different beast than anything his Wildcats have faced during their annual forays into I-A .
Looking for a reason to believe that ‘Nova just might be able to give West Virginia fits? Well, for starters, the teams run very similar offenses. Shotgun-oriented, spread the field and get the ball into the hands of your best playmakers in space. Talley and his staff have visited Wake Forest in recent years for a peek into how the Demon Deacons run their spread offense. Former Wake QB coach Jeff Mullen, ironically, is now West Virginia's offensive coordinator. From that perspective, Talley should have at least a little bit of insight into what the Mountaineers plan to do offensively, right?
"We've been to Wake Forest and visited there. We know some of the wake stuff and run some of it ourselves," Talley said.
"But the big difference is they have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback (Patrick White) and an awful lot of talent. I don't think the scheme so much is going to be the concern as much as it is the talent level."
To be fair, the Wildcats do have quite a bit of talent themselves. Ranked No. 21 in the Football Championship Subdivision's preseason poll, another playoff-bound season will likely await Villanova following the game against West Virginia. Just like the Mountaineers, the Wildcats have geared their offense around a dual-threat quarterback, Antwon Young. The junior will return to the lineup Saturday after missing the latter part of the 2007 season with a torn knee ligament.
Less than a year after his injury, Young looks to be completely healed, and will certainly be a big part of what the Wildcats plan to do in 2008. Though his running and throwing abilities are big reasons for optimism in Philadelphia, his toughness is what stands out to Talley.
"He's doing extremely well. Has no limitations at all," Talley said. "Normally you do, but he never took any practice time off. He came back as well as anybody we've had off of ACL surgery."
The Wildcats also boast a formidable duo of running backs in sophomore Aaron Ball and Angelo Babbaro. Both are cut from the mold of former Villanova great and current Philadelphia Eagles standout Brian Westbrook in that they are threats in the passing game as well as the running game. Of the two, Ball probably has the better speed, said Talley, but both have game-breaking ability.
With 2007 workhorse Matt Dicken now graduated, the emergence of Ball and Babbaro will be key in the ultimate success that Villanova will have in 2008.
"They've been on the field before," Talley said. "These are guys who can run screens, catch the ball from the backfield and catch the ball in space."
As Talley all but admitted, his team's season in all reality begins one week from this Saturday when it hosts Lehigh. Though the Wildcats have played BCS foes before, never have they played a team quite like the Mountaineers.
"From what I'm told, it's probably going to be the most hectic atmosphere we've ever been in," he said.
And while Talley and his staff can break down the Mountaineers on film for hours on end, there really aren't any big secrets as to what head coach Bill Stewart and his staff plan to do, even with the added tweaks from Mullen.
"As far as a first game from West Virginia, I doubt they'll try to do anything but come out and try to run the ball down our throat," Talley said. "We do expect more motion from them, but in general, first game, I don't think West Virginia is going to take any chances.
"We have a long season, and the West Virginia game is a building block into what we think is the toughest I-AA conference in the country."