McNeese linebacker Kordell Williams (23) lines up during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stillwater, Okla., Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (AP Photo/Brody Schmidt)
- The first week of FCS Spring Football kicks off with McNeese State visiting Tarleton State in their Division 1 debut
- McNeese State is coming off a 7-5 season in 2019; the Texans went 11-1 in their final D2 season
- See the odds, analysis and best bet for Saturday’s 2021 FCS Spring Kickoff below
For many of us fans, the Super Bowl already feels like a year ago and football withdrawals have kicked in – but fear not, the FCS is here to save us.
One of the few silver linings of the pandemic is a majority of these teams playing on a stage of their own this spring, and the action gets started with a one game appetizer this weekend.
The McNeese State Cowboys are opening on the road as near-field goal favorites in Stephenville, Texas against Tarleton State – making their debut at the FCS level after a successful run in the D2 Lone Star Conference.
Kickoff is slated for 7:00pm EST and will be picked up for TV coverage on Fox Sports Southwest.
McNeese State vs Tarleton State Odds
|McNeese State||-2.5 (-110)||-137||Over 52.5 (-112)|
|Tarleton State||+2.5 (-110)||+110||Under 52.5 (-109)|
Odds taken Feb. 11th at DraftKings
McNeese Loaded With Talent on Offense
There might not be a team in America more excited to play a game this year than the Cowboys of McNeese State. Hurricane Laura and Delta ravaged the campus and town of Lake Charles, LA, and the community is looking forward to the team’s season as a rallying point for rebuilding.
Former UTSA HC and LSU assistant Frank Wilson will be making his debut as the first African-American HC at McNeese, and has used his recruiting prowess to load up the roster with FBS talent through the transfer portal.
.@McNeeseFootball head coach @FrankWilson28 joins Madi Morris for our Coaches Corner, presented by @CanonUSA.
Check out what Coach Wilson had to say about his Cowboys and the upcoming 2020 revised spring season!!#GeauxPokes #SouthlandStrong pic.twitter.com/P8Ih1Snkwr
— Southland Conference (@SouthlandSports) January 27, 2021
The offense – which was middle of the pack in 2019 – figures to take a leap towards the top of FCS this season with a ton of key contributors returning. Senior QB Cody Orgeron – son of LSU HC Ed Orgeron – is the entrenched starter after throwing for 2,268 yards and 24 touchdowns last season, while adding 426 yards on the ground.
While leading receiver Cyron Sutton has departed, Sr. Trevor Begue will return as Orgeron’s top target – he had a team leading 10 touchdowns in ’19. The rest of the receiving core is fairly inexperienced, which could open up catches for LSU transfer TE Jamal Pettigrew, who was originally a four-star recruit but couldn’t find footing in four years with the Tigers.
Where this team will likely be most dangerous is in the run game, as former USF RB Elijah Mack will look to build upon the 533 yards he ran for in 2019. Standout JUCO transfer Deonta McMahon also joins the rotation as he ran for over 1,500 yards at Butte College, and former Arizona State back AJ Carter figures to see more carries as well.
Football returns to Stephenville this Saturday as @TarletonFB takes on McNeese State at 6:00 p.m. in Memorial Stadium! See game day information and purchase tickets at https://t.co/9rmYq9oamq. #HereComeTheTexans #TarletonState pic.twitter.com/TJFBPGNqaQ
— Tarleton State University (@TarletonState) February 10, 2021
Texans Have a Lot to Replace In Step Up to D1
With a combined record of 23-2 over the past two seasons in the Lone Star Conference, the Tarleton State Texans are likely itching to get on the field and start a new chapter of football in Stephenville on Saturday night.
That being said, it’s likely an uphill climb as the team will need to re-load on what was an offense that averaged 45 PPG in 2019 without their 3,338-yard passer, 1,457-yard rusher, 1,462-yard receiver, and their leading tackler on defense.
Head coach Todd Whitten did make a move to address the QB position, adding Western Kentucky transfer Steven Duncan, who threw for over 1,500 yards across three years in Bowling Green.
Defensively, Ronnell Wilson will take over as the QB of the defense and could have 50+ tackles in the truncated schedule. Where they will need players to step up is in the pass rush, as leading sack man BJ Wilson (8) has graduated – look for senior Jordan Wells to take over as the premier disruptor upfront as he had six sacks in 2019.
2021 Heisman Trophy Odds Tracker
Lay the Points With McNeese
While there’s obviously a bunch of unknowns going into a unique schedule with teams that have’t played an official game in over 365 days, I’m riding with the Cowboys -2.5 on Saturday night.
We’ve covered the offense, and much of the front seven remains in tact from Cowboy defense that was top ten against the run last season. Former TCU/Houston DE Isaiah Chambers is the guy to watch here as he led the team in sacks and was a preseason 2nd Team All-American in 2019. Kordell Williams is also a sideline-to-sideline backer to watch.
The back end is a bit more dicey, but Tulane transfer Chris Joyce and South Alabama transfer Gus Nave should be able to come in and cover effectively right away.
It should be a raucous atmosphere generated from however many are allowed in to Memorial Stadium, but McNeese will find a way to open their season with a win against a Texans team adjusting on the fly to D1 ball.
Pick: McNeese State -2.5 (-110)
Mitch graduated from Ryerson University’s Sport Media program in June of 2018, and has been with SBD since 2019. He’s worked in broadcast and digital for the Score, Sportsnet, TSN & CBC and has done play-by-play work for basketball at all levels including NCAA, Pan Am Games & U Sports.