Preview & Prediction: Nicholls at Kansas State
We kick off our in-depth breakdown of Kansas State's 12 2019 football opponents with a look at the season opener against Nicholls on Aug. 31.
Nicholls posted a 9-4 record as an FCS member a year ago, playing two games against FBS opponents. One of them, the Kansas Jayhawks, you've probably heard of. Nicholls won in Lawrence 26-23 in overtime to open up the 2019 season. The following week featured another FBS game against Tulane, one lost by Nicholls 42-17. The season ended in the second round the FCS Playoffs with a 42-21 loss to Eastern Washington, the same team Chris Klieman and North Dakota State beat in the FCS Finals to claim the National Title.
WHO ARE THEY?
This is a team focused much, much more on the ground game than attacking you through the air. Nicholls ran the ball 605 times last year against 357 passing attempts, and the FCS power also ended up accumulating more than 500 rushing than passing yards a season ago. This matters, as both members of last year's explosive rushing backfield do return.
WHO TO WATCH?
Sorry to lack creativity, but it's all about the quarterback and tailback in this one. Running back Dontrell Taylor is back after running for 990 yards and nine scores while averaging very healthy 7.2 yards per carry last season. Quarterback Chase Fourcade piled up 838 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns on the ground before sack yardage dropped him back to 659 net rushing yards. Fourcade, a senior, also had 2,930 passing yards and 21 touchdowns against just eight interceptions a year ago.
K-STATE WINS BECAUSE...
It's a home game against a non-elite FCS program. A Power Five school will always be a heavy favorite in this scenario, and K-State should be, too. That said, I didn't project the Wildcats to trail South Dakota at home by two scores well into the fourth quarter in last year's season opener, either. I think that contest was a pretty early (and good) indication of the talent level on last year's 5-7 team, even if we ignored it at the time. I don't expect this to be easy, but I also don't think Nicholls can generate enough explosive offensive plays to pull off the upset.
K-STATE LOSES BECAUSE...
Nicholls can probably force K-State to depend a lot on the weakness of the defense, the group at linebacker. This is one of the few teams who could force the Wildcats to play more 4-3 than they're comfortable doing, and the Wildcats could be in trouble if Nicholls is able to successfully shorten this game and find success on the ground. If the Wildcats can avoid turnovers and find some success on third downs, though, the upset should be avoided.
***PRESEASON PREDICTION: Kansas State 31, Nicholls 20***
Fans will see a more competitive debut to the Chris Klieman-era than they'd like, but at least they'll be treated to a more comfortable win - and home opener experience - than last year's nail biter against South Dakota.
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