Nicholls St Kansas Football

Nicholls State coach Tim Rebowe yells to his team during their game against Kansas in Lawrence, Kan., on Sept. 1.

Is Nicholls ready to take a big step up nationally?

In a nutshell, the answer is yes. Nicholls has shown steady progress during the first four seasons with Tim Rebowe at the helm of the once-moribund program, and his fifth team has the talent, experience and quality depth needed to make even more noise and get deeper into the FCS playoffs after advancing to the second round last fall.

Can second-year coach Frank Scelfo get Southeastern back to the top?

After replacing Ron Roberts, who won two SLC titles in six seasons, Scelfo had a rough go in his first opportunity as a head coach. But with more than 3½ decades of experience at the high school, college and pro levels, Scelfo settled into his new role quickly and will be even more comfortable in his second season.

What’s new at McNeese State?

After a 6-5 season and three-year SLC record of 17-10, Lance Guidry’s contract wasn’t renewed last fall. Sterlin Gilbert, a former Angelo State star quarterback and the offensive coordinator for productive units at Tulsa, Texas and South Florida, was hired to jazz up a Cowboys’ attack that ranked at or near the bottom of the SLC in most offensive categories.

Will Nicholls repeat as SLC champion?

All the ingredients are there. Rebowe’s team went 7-2 in conference play to win the title by a half-game over upstart Incarnate Word, which played one fewer league game, and earned the automatic berth in the FCS playoffs. With SLC player of the year Chase Fourcade and a large group of top players returning, there’s no reason to believe the Colonels can’t do it again.

Can perennial SLC power Sam Houston State rebound?

After winning four SLC titles and making the FCS playoffs seven times in a seven-year stretch from 2011-17, Sam Houston went 6-5 and tied for fourth with a 5-4 league mark in 2018. Fourteen starters return, but it won’t be easy returning to the top with Nicholls, Incarnate Word and 2017 league champ Central Arkansas improving in recent years.

Sheldon Mickles

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com