FCS Playoffs First Round
The Matchup – South Dakota (7-4) at Nicholls (8-3)
Kickoff – 4 p.m. ET Saturday at Guidry Stadium (10,500) at Thibodaux, Louisiana
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – First meeting
Players to Watch – South Dakota: QB Chris Streveler (258 of 390, 3,236 yards, 23 TDs, 5 INTs; 635 rushing yards, 10 TDs), RB Michael Frederick (133 carries, 686 yards, 6 TDs), DE Darrin Greenfield (46 TT, 17.5 TFL, 7 Sacks), FS Andrew Gray (68 TT, 5 PBU); Nicholls: QB Chase Fourcade (141 of 263, 2,084 yards, 14 TDs, 10 INTs), RB Kyran Irvin (127 carries, 676 yards, 7 TDs), WR Damion Jeanpierre Jr. (35 receptions, 735 yards, 4 TDs), DE Kenny Dotson (37 TT, 12 TFL, 6.5 Sacks)
The Skinny – An explosive offense averaging 520 yards per game has fueled South Dakota to its first FCS playoff bid (two years ago, coach Bob Nielson took Western Illinois to the playoffs). Streveler ranks fourth nationally in total offense (351.9 ypg) and is just 379 yards away from the Missouri Valley single-season record. Although the Coyotes lean heavily on the conference’s offensive player of the year, Frederick and true freshman Kai Henry both surpassed 100 rushing yards to close the regular season against South Dakota State. An active USD defensive line is adept at getting into an opposing backfield, but Nicholls has a strong offensive line that has allowed four different rushers to combine on seven 100-yard games. No team in the playoff field has a worse turnover margin than the Colonels (minus-10), so Fourcade must protect the ball. Kicker Lorran Fonseca is first in the FCS with 18 field goals.
Up Next – The winner plays at No. 6 seed Sam Houston State (10-1) in the second round Dec. 2.
Prediction – Nicholls hung tough with Texas A&M in a 10-point loss, but the Coyotes’ tougher schedule in the Missouri Valley – plus a win at Bowling Green – weighs heavily in this matchup. South Dakota, 35-21.