HOUSTON — After reviving the Nicholls State football program in four short seasons, Tim Rebowe came to the realization Thursday that he has become a victim of his own success.

After coming in at the bottom of the Southland Conference preseason poll in his first season in 2015, Rebowe and Nicholls made it a complete turnaround Thursday when the Colonels were picked to win the 2019 title in a vote of coaches and sports information directors.

When the results of the poll were announced to kick off Southland media day, Rebowe jokingly said he looked around and eyed a few of his fellow coaches who helped make the Colonels a unanimous pick to win the title.

“I told the coaches in the back of the room, ‘I really appreciate that … just putting the big bull’s-eye on us,’ ” he said after Nicholls received the maximum of 20 first-place votes and 200 points.

Rebowe said his preference is to be picked in the middle of the pack in the preseason, but he is confident his team can live up to the lofty expectations after last season — despite the loss of 11 starters.

There is at least some familiarity with being picked that high, which he said was in part a byproduct of the Colonels' highly successful 2018 campaign.

A year ago, Nicholls was tabbed to finish second, but the Colonels went on to claim the title and finish 14th in the national polls with a 9-4 record.

With it came the school’s first Southland crown in 13 years and first FCS playoff win since 1996.

That continued a steady progression in which Nicholls, still reeling from an 0-12 season when Rebowe arrived in 2015, won three games in his first season. That was followed by five wins in 2016 and eight in 2017 before the breakthrough last fall.

Because they know where the program was four years ago, Rebowe said his team won’t have any trouble handling the expectations thrown their way Thursday.

He’s confident of that because they got a taste of it last season when they were picked second behind preseason favorite Sam Houston State.

“Last year, we didn’t take second and say, ‘OK, we’ve arrived,’ ” he said. “That’s what you always want to be careful of, right? They took it as they still had something to prove and still had something to do. I think this group is the same way.”

Senior quarterback Chase Fourcade, the reigning SLC player of the year, said the players didn’t even think about being picked to finish second a year ago.

While it’s flattering to be in the position they’re in going into the first fall practice on Aug. 2, he said, the goal is to remember that it’ll mean nothing when the season begins with an Aug. 31 date against Kansas State.

“I mean, it’s really good for Nicholls and the school itself … it’s good for us as a team,” Fourcade said. “But don’t get me wrong, we still have to work hard and be consistent in what we do.”

Rebowe, whose team lost to Eastern Washington in the second round of the FCS playoffs last December, said that will be a key to proving they were worthy of being picked to repeat as the league champions.

As such, he likened the task facing his team to writing a book.

“We don’t have the luxury of going to the end of the book (now) and looking at the last chapter to see how things turned out,” Rebowe said. “We can’t do that. … We have to prepare and get ready and write page after page and chapter after chapter.

“If this was the end of the year, we would be super-excited about where we’re picked … but it doesn’t work that way. Hopefully, we’re all going to get the ending they want to have.”

Email Sheldon Mickles at smickles@theadvocate.com