Well, it's that time again. Your Nebraska Cornhuskers are going to head to Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning to take on the McNeese State Cowboys at 11am in the Central Time Zone.
There's not a lot of places to get insight on the Cowboys. However, I have searched the nether regions of the internets and found a man who is well versed!
Alex Hickey is the main beat writer for the Cowboys, and he writes for the Lake Charles (LA) American Press. He gave me the time to talk Cowboy Football. And, of course, we all appreciate it. Give him a follow on twitter to get his insights tomorrow during and after the game.
1. The Cowboys did well last year, knocking off South Florida and making the FCS playoffs. However, it is a new year & there are places to rebuild. Whats the preseason outlook for this year's version of the Cowboys?
If the Cowboys get quality quarterback play, the expectation is this season will be as good or better than last year. With the exception of tight end and possibly kicker, they should be stronger at every position than they were a year ago. However, staying healthy will be a big part of that -- there is a ton of youth on their two-deep. Southeastern Louisiana is a heavy favorite to win the conference title, but McNeese is considered by most to be the No. 2 team in the Southland Conference by a pretty wide margin over the rest of the field. That should result in another playoff bid, but the thing on everyone's mind here is whether the Cowboys will finally get a postseason win for the first time since 2002.
2. QB Cody Stroud is gone, which wouldn't be a big deal except he was the Southland Offensive PoY. Daniel Sams comes from Kansas St., however Tyler Bolfing has been named the starter. What can we expect w/ Bolfing, and do you expect to see Sams in the game Saturday?
Both quarterbacks will play. Bolfing is more accurate than Sams; Sams has a stronger arm and more running ability. Bolfing got the start because he has a deeper familiarity of the offense and probably a little bit as a reward for the time he has put in with this program. But really this game is essentially an open audition for the rest of the season for both of these guys. If someone gets a hot hand, they'll get the majority of the snaps.
3. The offense also loses their top rusher & 3 of their top pass catchers. Tell us who to watch at the skill positions on Offense.
McNeese lost Marcus Wiltz, but it brings in Arkansas transfer Nate Holmes and Mississippi State transfer Derrick Milton to soften the blow at running back. Returner Kelvin Bennett also looks like he is hitting holes with more authority -- he was challenged to be more than just a cutback/outside runner this season, and in August he appeared to answer that bell.
No one has the explosive speed of graduated receiver Diontae Spencer, but freshman Kent Shelby is a guy with big-play capability. Not sure how he will stack up with a Big Ten secondary in his first college game, but keep an eye on him. Ernest Celestie is a Lake Charles kid who started his college career for Mike Leach at Texas Tech, so he's also capable of doing things.
Replacing tight end Nic Jacobs, who is on the Saints practice squad, will be this year's biggest challenge.
4. The Defense returns 8 starters, but it is fair to say it seemed middle of the road as far as stats go. Is there hope this squad can slow down the Huskers?
I think the hope is the McNeese offense will hold onto the ball. I expect the defense to be better this year. But not on Saturday. They'll probably be feeling pretty good about themselves if they keep Nebraska under 600 yards.
5. FCS teams get bad raps in the FBS world. Talk if you can about what games like this do in helping programs like the Cowboy's, as well as whole Athletic Departments.
Left tackle Antoine Everrett is an NFL prospect, and this is his best chance to show what he can do against guys with NFL speed and size. (If you're into watching linemen). Same story with defensive end Everett Ellefsen. Punter Jean Breaux looks like the bearded 1970s Bob Dylan.
7. Prediction time. What true chance do you see McNeese State having Satirday, and what is your prediction for the game?
This is the best team McNeese has played since Missouri in 2010. You may remember that squad, which made it to No. 7 in the country before losing at Nebraska. That was McNeese's worst performance of the last decade (50-6). I think this one will be a bit closer -- in addition to the talent disparity, the team plane had to make an emergency landing on the way to that game so they weren't all the way there mentally. But I can't imagine the Cowboys winning after what I saw last week.
Nebraska 52, McNeese 21