Colorado v. Nicholls – A Preview – Your “T.I.P.S.” for the game

Program Note: Let’s combine threads this week. If you have a prediction for the game, post it by clicking on the “Comment Now” link, above …

Okay, so Colorado v. Nicholls is not Georgia Tech v. Cumberland .. or even Kansas State v. Southeast Polytechnic Junior College.

But it’s really not that far off.

There is a hierarchy in college football.

In the FBS, there are Power-Five conference schools and Group of Five conference schools, with a wide gap between the Ohio State’s and Alabama’s at the top, and the UNLV’s and Idaho’s at the bottom.

In the FCS, there is a hierarchy as well, with the North Dakota State’s and Eastern Washington’s at the top … and schools like Nicholls at the bottom.

The Southland Conference is one of the lowest ranked conferences in the FCS … and Nicholls is at the bottom of the Southland Conference.

Yes, friends and neighbors, Nicholls is that bad.

Let me put it this way … If Colorado loses to Nicholls this weekend (Saturday, 11:30 a.m., Pac-12 Networks), coach MacIntyre and his staff should slink back into their new digs at the Champions Center and brush up on their resumes.

 

T – Talent

Well, there isn’t much to talk about.

The quarterback who started the first two games for Nicholls this fall, Tuskani Figaro, red-shirted as a junior but passed for 1,000-plus yards and ran for 1,013 more in 2013. In his first two games this fall, Figaro went for all of 214 yards on 23-of-35 passing. In the first drive against Incarnate Word last weekend, Figaro was five-for-five and a touchdown (Nicholls’ only touchdown of the season). After that, Figaro went south in terms of production, and was pulled in the third quarter.

The quarterback for the final 23 minutes of last weekend’s game was Landry Klann, who completed three-of-five passes for 23 yards. His other two passes were also caught … but by Incarnate Word defenders.

The rushing “attack” is led by Michael Henry. The 40-yard output against Incarnate Word was his lowest since becoming the starter last season. Henry went for over 1,000 yards last season, with four 100-yard games (all were, however, against Southland Conference opponents).

Nicholls has scored ten points – one touchdown and one field goal – in two games. That’s an average of five points per game, tallied against noted powers Louisiana-Monroe and Incarnate Word.

‘Nuff said.

The defensive line for Nicholls is ridiculously young. Six of the eight players on the defensive line depth chart are underclassmen. The starters for the CU game: two red-shirt freshmen and two sophomores. (Here’s guessing some of CU’s dinged up running backs are verrry upset that they might be held out of this game).

How’s this for a defensive highlight (from the Nicholls’ Game Notes): “Red-shirt sophomore Geoffrey Hebert was credited with the Colonels’ first sack of the season as he chased Louisiana-Monroe starting quarterback Garrett Smith out of bounds for a yard loss. Last season, Nicholls had just two sacks on the year”.

Yikes.

One member of Nicholls’ secondary is a former Buff, Jeff Hall. A member of the CU Recruiting Class of 2012, Hall came to Colorado from Reserve, Louisiana, and played in nine games as a freshman and 12 as a sophomore (with one start, against UCLA).

Nicholls has given up 887 yards of total offense in its first two games, with the 443.5 yards average almost 100 yards better than the FCS-worst 538 yards per game surrendered in 2014.

If CU doesn’t hit the 538-yard average from last year, it will be a huge disappointment.

 

I – Intangibles

What can make a team on a 19-game losing streak feel even worse?

How’s about losing to one of the teams prognosticators thought the team would actually have a chance to beat?

Despite going winless in 2014, the Nicholls Colonels, at least in the eyes of The Sporting News, was the 9th-best team in the 11-team Southland Conference this year.

One of the teams rated below Nicholls?

Yup. Incarnate Word.

The Cardinals of Incarnate Word were all of 2-9 last year, with one of its victories coming at the expense of Nicholls (38-20). The Nicholls Colonels were expected – at least according to TSN – to leap over Incarnate Word this year, but the 20-10 loss last weekend puts a damper on that dream.

The Colonels next best chance at a victory is now against Houston Baptist … at home on October 17th.

Against Incarnate Word, Nicholls stayed in the game until late, even leading at halftime.

That shouldn’t be the case this weekend

Unless, of course, the Buffs get complacent.

Recall that Colorado, which had never played a 1-AA/FCS team before 2006, is only 3-2 all-time against the lower division, with losses to Montana State (2006) and Sacramento State (2013).

Perhaps it’s a good thing the latest loss was only two years ago … as there are still many players on the current roster who were on the team for the loss to the Hornets of Sacramento State.

Coach MacIntyre relayed to the media at Tuesday’s press luncheon that, at Monday’s weekly meeting of his 12-member Leadership Council, several upperclassmen urged him to revisit CU’s 2012 Sacramento State debacle. The Buffs lost 30-28 on a last-second field goal, and went on to finish the season 1-11.

“They said, ‘Coach, show the Sac State game, show highlights of the Sac State game,’” MacIntyre said. “So I went and showed about a minute clip of the Sac State game of them beating us . . . you know they say, ‘A picture is worth a thousand words.’ I think that might have been worth a million words. That’s all I needed to say.”

Let’s hope so …

 

P – Preparation / Schedule

Two weeks ago, UMass was so concerned about playing at altitude that they rented oxygen tanks for the sidelines.

Thibodaux, Louisiana, home of Nicholls State University, is 13 feet above sea level. Yet, despite the Colonels having to come up to the mountain air, there have been no reports about the Colonels being concerned about playing at 5,440 feet.

That’s because the Colonels are used to playing at altitude. Just last season, Nicholls played at Air Force … and lost 44-16.

More scheduling concerns for the visitors … and adding insult to injury … The Nicholls Colonels have yet to play a home game.

The first two games of the season were played on the road, with the Colonels getting to play their first home game of the season next Saturday against McNeese State (which happens to be a ranked FCS team). After taking on the Cowboys, the Colonels return to the road to face another ranked FCS team, Stephen F. Austin.

As noted above, the best chance for Nicholls to break its losing streak is still three weeks away, on October 17th, against Houston Baptist.

That must seem like a long ways away for the Colonels’ players …

Meanwhile, Colorado players have to fight from looking ahead. After Nicholls on Saturday, the Buffs’ next opponent is at home next weekend, against Oregon. The Ducks will come to town for a night game (8:00 p.m.), with the game to be played before a national audience on ESPN.

Buff safety Tedric Thompson conceded this week that it was difficult to keep his thoughts from straying to the Pac-12 opener. “Sometimes, but I stop myself,” he said. “I don’t look into the future until it’s there. I’m not really focusing on anything (but Nicholls).”

As it should be …

 

S – Statistics

The stats sheet for the CU football team looks about as good as it has in a long time … and that’s before the stats get padded against Nicholls this weekend.

In some areas, the Buffs haven’t moved the needle as far as we might have thought. For instance, Colorado is 87th in pass defense after three games (244.7 ypg.), up only slightly from 2014 (256.2 ypg.; 100th nationally).  In other significant areas, the Buffs are actually down from last year (e.g., total offense in 2014: 439.2 ypg., 37th; 424.7 ypg. so far in 2015, 61st nationally).

But where the Buffs really needed to make strides this fall, they have done so.

While Colorado is 83rd in total defense, the Buffs are 57th in scoring defense. To date, the Buffs are giving up 22.0 points per game, two touchdowns and a field goal better than the 39.0 ppg. average from a year ago. The CU defense has held all three opponents under 30 points so far this season. The last time the Buffs held three consecutive teams under 30 points? Five years – and two coaches – ago.

Another statistic that has seen meaningful improvement is the turnover ratio. Last season, Colorado was a minus-10 on turnovers, good enough for a national ranking of 112. This season, the Buffs are a plus-three on turnovers, 23rd nationally.

Much was written this off-season about the interception drought in Colorado. The Buffs had a total of three picks all of last year (all by Tedric Thompson), with none in the last eight games of the season. This fall, Colorado already has five interceptions (by five different players), half of the season totals for 2013 and 2010, and well beyond the pace of 2012 (three picks) and 2011 (7).

“When I took this job, I knew it would be a haul, a process,” new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt told cubuffs.com this week. “I didn’t say we’d be all-world right away. What you have to remember is, this is the third scheme these guys have learned in three years. That’s not easy, that’s tough. They’ve done a great job with that, they’re working hard and they’ll get better.”

They already are …

It’s hard to remember a game in the past decade in which the Buffs fans could feel so confident of victory. With nine consecutive losing seasons, it’s hard to remember any really easy wins. Even wins over FCS teams like Nicholls have been difficult, with the Buffs struggling to put away Eastern Washington (31-24 in 2008); Central Arkansas (38-24 in 2013); and even Charleston Southern (43-10 in 2013 … but 22-10 at the half).

As a matter of fact, I believe the last time I was this confident of a win, the Buffs were coming off of a Pac-12 North title, with a new head coach and new enthusiasm.

The result: Montana State 19, Colorado 10, in the 2006 season opener, and the inauspicious debut of head coach Dan Hawkins.

Uh-oh.

Nope. This time I’m right.

This is going to be a cake walk.

Or, to put it another way … it damn well better be.

Prediction: Colorado 49, Nicholls 10.

—–

 

8 Replies to “CU v. Nicholls – A Preview”

  1. damn this idea of a45 or50 point win could spell nothing but trouble ,all they need to do is win by 1 or 6 thats what really matters . if they win by more great .

  2. I’m no fan of mismatched blowouts and this game has all the markings of a blowout in CU’s favor!! I really dislike this type of scheduling, as players need to be able to go all out and not be thinking of anything other than giving it 100%. If the talent level difference is as great, as it seems, then this game can easily match my prediction below.

    Other than no injuries, what I am hoping to see is the Buff D ‘pitch’ a shutout! (to form a D mentality reminiscent of LSU’s “Chinese Bandits” in the late 1950’s – alas, a clue to my age – )

    Here is how I see the game via quarters.
    1st Quarter CU 17 Nicholls 0 (Sefo in to hone timing)
    2nd Quarter CU 21 Nicholls 0 (Sefo then Gehrke with Apsay getting a series)
    3rd Quarter CU 17 Nicholls 0 (Sefo 2 series then all Gehrke)
    4th Quarter CU 10 Nicholls 0 (Gehrke then Apsay)
    FINAL CU 65 Nicholls 0

    GO BUFF’s Stampede Thibodaux Louisiana Prep

  3. I agree with Boulder Devil. Sefo was dinged up vs CSU and dang near had to come out. Let him play the first quarter only, , let Gehrke run the show the second and third, and let him get in a TD pass or two. He hasn’t tossed one as a Buff. and let Aspy get some reps entire 4th to get his feet wet. He hasn’t seen the field yet as a Buff. Perfect time to do so.

  4. Yo Stuart,

    Do you agree that Lindgren and Mac should let the 2nd and 3rd string QB’s get into the game and actually run the offense? It does not do them any good to just hand the ball off. To be prepped for emergency service if something happens to Sefo, they need game experience throwing the ball and getting the offense into a rhythm.

    Jordan Gehrke was thrown to the wolves at Oregon last year. With Pac-12 play just a week away, the Buffs need to get some real game reps in for the backups to Sefo.

    Go Buffs.

    Mark
    Boulderdevil

  5. I’m flying in from SoCal to see this game (ok, also largely to see my undergrad daughter). I’m not much of a betting man, but like to see what the Vegas odds are for games I am interested in. This game is “off the board” right now. Even they can’t figure out a spread. SKO BUFFS.

    1. 5Dimes is an “off-shore” betting site, so they do take action on FBS v. FCS games.
      The CU/Nicholls game opened with CU a 50-point favorite … The line has since moved down to 45 points …

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