FCS First-Round Playoff
The Matchup – North Dakota (7-4 independent) at Nicholls (8-4, 7-2 Southland)
Kickoff – 4 p.m. ET at Guidry Stadium in Thibodaux, Louisiana
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Coaches – North Dakota: Bubba Schweigert (37-31, six seasons; 59-53 overall); Nicholls: Tim Rebowe (33-26, five seasons)3 Players to Watch – North Dakota: QB Nate Ketteringham (2,343 passing yards, 16 TDs), WR Noah Wanzek (67 receptions, 4 TDs), LB Donnell Rodgers (123 tackles, 7½ tackles for loss); Nicholls: QB Chase Fourcade (3,281 yards of total offense, 26 total TDs), RB Julien Gums (983 rushing yards, 16 TDs), DE Sully Laiche (19½ tackles for loss, 10 sacks)
The Skinny – North Dakota, which will join the Missouri Valley Football Conference next year, has played one of the tougher schedules in the FCS, including a home win over Sam Houston State, like Nicholls a Southland program. In fact, the Fighting Hawks have played at two Southland programs in Louisiana, just not Nicholls (Southeastern Louisiana in 2008 and Northwestern State in 2009). They have been excellent at converting third downs (41.3 percent) and produce points in almost every trip to an opponent’s red zone (32 of 34 times). Rodgers has double-figure tackles in eight games. Nicholls is hosting a first-round game for the third straight season. Laiche is the first defensive player to win the Southland’s overall player of the year award since 2007. The dual-threat Fourcade has been clutch throughout his four-year career, totaling 12,244 yards of total offense with 102 total TDs in 48 games. His favorite target, WR Dai’Jean Dixon, had 16 receptions for 375 yards and four TDs over the final two games after missing the previous five games.
Up Next – The winner will play at No. 1 seed North Dakota State (12-0) in the second round Dec. 7.
Prediction – North Dakota is a little different than in recent seasons, not as proficient at running the ball and giving up too many yards against the run. That works into the Colonels’ plans. Nicholls, 24-21.