Are you starting to feel the excitement of the return of college football? For us Kansas fans, it’s more like dread. You know there’s only about a 10% chance that KU is even going to be competitive on any given Saturday, and it’s been like that since 2010.
I for one am getting beat down.
I even worry about the 2018 season opener against FCS Nicholls State, and today, you’ll see why.
Nicholls State @ Kansas
September 1, 2018, 6:00 PM
Lawrence, KS: Memorial Stadium (50,071)
About the Nicholls State Offense
Nicholls State is a run-oriented offense; in 2017, they were credited with 524 rushing attempts and 323 passing attempts, which is about a 62/38 run/pass ratio.
The Colonels return virtually every major contributor from their offense last year. JR quarterback Chase Fourcade (162-298, 2316 yds, 14-13 TD-INT) has been a starter since the day he stepped on campus as a freshman. A mobile QB, he isn’t afraid to tuck the ball and run, as he was NSU’s fourth-leading rusher in 2017, gaining 389 yards on 83 carries. But, he can be a bit turnover prone as you can see by his TD/INT ratio.
Nicholls had some injury issues throughout the running back corps last year, which is why they had three backs with 50+ carries in 2017 - and all of them are back for 2018. JR Kyran Irvin (147 car, 774 yds, 5.2 avg, 8 TD) is a 6’1” 220 lb bowling ball who appears to be the best of the bunch. JR Dontrell Taylor (114 car, 492 yds, 4.1 av, 4 TD) will also see significant carries, while R-SO Tahj Smith (50 car, 339 yds, 6.6 av, 3 TD) appears to have moved to WR for the 2018 season.
As for receivers, the Colonels return their top pass catcher from 2017 and four of their top five in receptions. SR Damion Jeanpiere (40 rec, 770 yds, 4 TD) headlines the group, while the just mentioned Tahj Smith will compete with SO Dai’Jean Dixon (23 rec, 489 yds, 5 TD), SR Mason Roberts (15 rec, 267 yds, 2 TD), and JR Christian Booker (13 rec, 124 yds, TD) for playing time.
The Colonels return the bulk of their offensive line as well. In addition, SR kicker Lorran Fonseca put 52% of kickoffs out of the back of the end zone in 2017, and nailed 19-23 field goals. The regular long snapper, SR Wesley Barnett, also returns.
About the Nicholls State Defense
The Colonels are loaded with juniors and seniors all over the defense. Every linebacker from the 2017 roster returns, including 2017’s leading tackler JR LB Allen Pittman (80 tak, 6 TFL, sk, INT), along with SR LB Hezekiah White (54 tak, 8 TFL, 2 sk, INT) and JR LB Evan Veron (54 tak, 6.5 TFL, INT).
In the secondary, SR safety Corey Abraham (79 tak, 6 TFL, 2 FF) leads an experienced and deep unit of defensive backs, including SR DB Ahmani Martin (61 tak, 8 TFL, FR) and SR DB Darryl Adams (36 tak, TFL, sk, INT).
Along the line, both leading sackmasters from 2017 return in the form of SR DL Kenny Dotson (38 tak, 12.5 TFL, 6.5 sk, FF) and JR DL Sully Laiche (26 tak, 9.5 TFL, 7.5 sk, FF).
Overall, NSU returns 91 players from last year’s roster. This is a team that was tied with Texas A&M in College Station in the fourth quarter with 8 minutes to go before falling 24-14. (They also nearly beat Georgia in 2016.) Don’t think for a moment that they’re going to be intimidated by the 30,000 fans in Memorial Stadium next Saturday.
They finished 2017 ranked #23 in FCS, losing in the first round of the playoffs. They return pretty much everybody from last year: starting QB, top 4 rushers, 4 of their top 5 receivers, their top 7 tacklers, and their top 2 sack leaders.
Sure, KU returns 18 starters too, but KU’s returning players didn’t win 8 games last year.
Nicholls State is ranked #17 in the preseason FCS poll.
With more of the same expected from KU football this year, I see no reason to change my original prediction from back in May. It’s gonna be a long season, folks. Nicholls 37, Kansas 31.