The first game of the Chris Klieman era of Kansas State football begins this weekend with Football Championship Subdivision opponent Nicholls State. In this weekly column, I will do all the research you need to be prepared for Saturday.
Nicholls is not a run-of-the-mill FCS cupcake. They finished last season 14th in the FCS Coaches Poll and will debut at 11 this year. Last year, the Colonels visited Lawrence in the season opener and left with an overtime win over Kansas.
Nicholls won the Southland Conference last year before being bounced in the second round of the playoffs by eventual runners-up Eastern Washington. This FCS opponent is more akin to last season’s squeaker against South Dakota than 2017’s blowout of Central Arkansas in terms of talent disparity.
Their offense is led by a very solid senior quarterback in Chase Fourcade, a target who could be one of the best to ever play wide receiver at Nicholls, according to a local paper.
Another strong player on Nicholls’ side comes in the form of Dai’Jean Dixon, a six-foot-four, 200-pound deep threat who has racked up 1,242 yards and 12 touchdowns in his two years in Thibodaux, Louisiana. He will likely be Forcade’s number 1 target this season.
The big question mark for this offense is Forcade’s protection. Nicholls lost four starters off of last season’s offensive line. The ability to get pressure without committing too many bodies will be a key for K-State. Nicholls had no issues moving the ball on the ground either last season thanks to the offensive line. They averaged over five yards per attempt last year.
Their defense was fairly porous last season, giving up over 337 yards a game, but only 22 points per game. The defense is fairly multiple, meaning that they use a lot of different formations depending on the down, distance and offensive personnel.
I imagine they will set up to stop the run in primarily four-man fronts based on what they showed last season. An interesting underlying factor to this game may be the familiarity between the coaching staffs from scouting potential playoff opponents over the years.
Despite having not played Nicholls recently, Klieman indicated at this week’s media availability that he was familiar with Nicholls’ quarterback from watching film on other teams that they had in common over the last few years.
PREDICTION: K-State fans may be surprised by how close this game ends up being. Anyone who expects a blowout win for K-State will likely be disappointed. I think a K-State win in the 31-27 range is more likely.