Game Time: Thursday, November 16, 2017, 7 p.m. ET
Location: Strawberry Stadium, Hammond, Louisiana
Where To Watch: ESPN3/WatchESPN/COX Sports TV
Betting Odds: Southeastern Louisiana -2.5, O/U 59.5
Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com
Nicholls State is so close to getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2005. The Colonels are sitting pretty at 8-2 and their only losses this season have been to Texas A&M and Sam Houston State. They are probably in at this point, but with only one quality win to their name, it’s hard to be 100 percent certain. A win over the Southeastern Louisiana Lions would erase all doubt.
Despite being 5-5, the Lions actually opened as a 3.5-point favorite in this one. That’s because while Nicholls State had a road game last week, Southeastern Louisiana had a bye in order to prepare for this one. Now the Colonels have to go on the road again on just four days rest.
Reasons to Like Nicholls State
The Colonels have a solid ground game. They are averaging 4.5 yards per carry this season and have been able to establish the run against most of their opponents. Quarterback Chase Fourcade is a decent runner too and teams have to respect his ability to make a play with his legs.
For playing in a conference with so many good offenses, Nicholls State has been good defensively too. The school is allowing just 4.7 yards per play with just one game left to play in the regular season. The total defense numbers don’t look as good, but so many teams in the Southland play hurry up so yards per play is a much better measure.
Reasons Not to Like Nicholls State
Leading rusher Kyran Irvin was hurt in last week’s win over Stephen F. Austin and no update has been given on his status for this game. If Irvin can’t play, it would be a huge blow to the Colonels as he has been their spark plug all season long. He is averaging 5.3 yards per carry and is the quick-hitter for this team.
It’s never easy to play on the road on a short week after being on the road the week before, but it’s even worse when your opponent had the prior week off. It’s even more unfortunate for the Colonels though. Southeastern Louisiana runs a triple option attack that is one of the deadliest in the nation and preparing for it on such short notice is tough.
Reasons to Like Southeastern Louisiana
It’s never a bad idea to zig when everyone else is zagging. In a conference full of pass happy teams, Southeastern Louisiana went in the opposite direction by installing the triple option and have had a lot of success. Since no one else in the Southland runs it, opponents aren’t always equipped to stop it.
Having a dynamic runner like Lorenzo Nunez as quarterback makes the option attack even scarier. Nunez was originally at South Carolina, but transferred here in search of playing time. He has proven to be an adept trigger man for this offense, but does have one glaring flaw.
Reasons Not to Like Southeastern Louisiana
It’s downright scary how often Nunez fumbles. On just 80 carries, he has fumbled the ball 12 times. That’s an absurd percentage and it wasn’t just the result of one atrocious game or some terrible weather either. Nunez has fumbled in all but two games this season.
The Lions have yet to beat a quality opponent this season. They have come close to getting over the hump quite a few times. SE Louisiana lost by three to Louisiana-Lafayette, five to Bethune-Cookman, and 10 to both Sam Houston State and McNeese State. That’s why it was so surprising to see this team listed as the favorite even with certain variables working in its favor.
As much as I want to back Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State is the right play here. It might seem square, but if you look at the Lions rushing numbers you will see a huge disparity between what they racked up against the worst teams in the Southland and how they performed against the elite teams in the conference. That gap is much bigger than you’d expect and is very telling.
Final Score: Nicholls State 31, Southeastern Louisiana 24