The Dukes finished 9-3 last fall, advancing to the NCAA playoffs for the second time in three years. Matthews' program has gone 29-9 over the last three seasons, highlighted by a national championship victory in 2004.
"Obviously it's a football team and a program that's playing with a lot of confidence," Davis said. "You can tell that success – all you have to do is just start watching film… It was pretty apparent why they've had that success. They've got a lot of talented, gifted athletes."
North Carolina fans are still having nightmares concerning the 45-42 nail-biter against Furman last September, and the Dukes' offense is every bit as potent as the Purple Paladin unit that rolled up 521 yards against the Tar Heels.
"You're going to see a team that looks a great deal very similar to West Virginia," Davis said. "That is the style and the mode and the scheme offensively that James Madison tries to exploit – spread the field, multiple wide receivers, at times multiple tight ends, an extraordinarily athletic quarterback that can make plays not only with his legs, but certainly with the play action and with his arm."
Senior running back Eugene Holloman rushed for 1,085 yards in 10 games last fall, and senior L.C. Baker is a threat at both wide receiver and special teams.
"This kid is electrifying," Davis said of Baker. "You talk about a great punt returner and a kick returner. This will be – for people that like special teams – with the guy that we've got and the guy that they've got, there's the possibility for some huge, big plays in the kicking game."
James Madison's willingness to open up their offense and run out of various formations could provide early problems for an inexperienced North Carolina defensive squad.
"Your defense certainly builds an identity by its ability to stop the run," Davis said. "These people are going to give us a huge challenge, because of the nature of this offense. They are not a true two-back offense – line up in the I-formation and run four or five traditional offensive plays. Every single guy that they've got at the skill positions potentially has the ability to carry the ball."
The Tar Heels must stay emotionally in control and stick to their defensive game plan, or else risk big plays due to missed assignments.
"Defensively, the buzz word is discipline," Davis said. "Every single guy has got a responsibility and you've got to do your job. You cannot try to be above and beyond the call of duty. You can't say ‘Okay, I'm going to go help so-and-so on the pitch, I'm going to help so-and-so on the quarterback or I'm going to run the alley.' About the time you don't, they hand the ball off and it's a quick, hard-hitting inside dive that goes 30 yards."
James Madison employs a basic 4-3 defensive scheme and loves to send heat with a variety of blitz packages. With red-shirt freshman T.J. Yates taking the Kenan Stadium field at quarterback for the first time, the Dukes will be salivating at the thought of causing havoc and creating turnovers with this young North Carolina offense.
And while the Tar Heels' secondary will feature three players who have never taken a defensive snap in free safety Deunta Williams and cornerbacks Kendric Williams and Kendric Burney, the Dukes' will showcase a proven luxury at free safety.
"The one difference probably between their defense and our defense is that they've got an All-American safety returning in [Tony] LeZotte," Davis said. "This is a kid that makes an awful lot of plays. He's been a three-year starter for them, he's played an awful lot and that security of having a safety that's making all of the checks and all of the adjustments for your secondary and your underneath coverage certainly is evident when you watch their defense play."
Davis understands the challenges that await his inexperienced North Carolina squad, which may field as many as 14 first-time starters on Saturday evening.
"I'd be remiss if I didn't say that there are some unknowns going into this first ball game," Davis said. "That you're playing against a team that's got a lot of confidence from their winning and you've got a young team that's getting ready to get their first opportunity to play. I think these kids are excited, they're practicing extremely hard and I think they're looking forward to the challenge on Saturday."