The Nicholls State and Northwestern State football teams have a lot in common.

Both teams play in the Southland Conference, both teams claim the acronym NSU and both open their seasons on Thursday night.

Another thing both the Colonels and Demons have in common is they open their seasons against teams from outside the Football Championship Series.

Nicholls State hosts NAIA Evangel University of Springfield, Mo., at 6:30 p.m., while Northwestern State entertains Division II power Delta State at 6 p.m.

The Colonels open their 40th year of football with 10 returning starters on both offense and defense. That experience, along with just one assistant coaching change during the offseason, should pay dividends.

“We have valuable experience returning and leaders in both groups,” second-year Colonels coach Charlie Stubbs said. “I think there will be a carryover.”

Nicholls State, 4-7 last season, built some momentum in the latter part of the year with victories over Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana.

“We’re carrying a little bit of a winning streak from last year and we want to build and capitalize on that,” Stubbs said. “Again, going into this season, we’re much more optimistic.”

Evangel, 4-6 last season, also has a second-year coach in Brenton Illum. The Crusades, who play in the Heart of America Conference, return six starters on both offense and defense.

The two teams have played once, back in 1979, with the Colonels coming away with a 40-17 victory in Thibodaux.

Meanwhile in Natchitoches, the Demons open their season against a Delta State team ranked No. 2 in the Division II polls.

The Statesmen are coming off a 28-21 overtime win over Elizabeth City State in their season opener Saturday.

Despite the seeming disadvantage of playing a team that has already played a game, Northwestern State coach Bradley Dale Peveto said his team’s advantage could be its fresh legs.

“The advantage they’ll have is they do have one game under their belt and there’s nothing like playing a game,” Peveto said. “In camp, everyone tries to simulate game situations as much as possible, but we’re looking at it as we’re fresh, we’re at home and we’re looking forward to playing a very good Delta State football team.”

Delta State could be at a further disadvantage having played just five days ago.

“To play a game (on Saturday) and have to come back and play on Thursday is tough,” he said.

“We’ve had all camp to get ready, plus we’ll get a couple of extra days to prepare for the next opponent, almost like an open weekend.”

The Associated Press

contributed to this report.