MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State is set to begin life without the legendary Bill Snyder when it opens the new season at home with FCS foe Nicholls State on Saturday. Snyder retired as the winningest coach in Wildcats history with 215 victories during a spectacular 27-year career (two stints) in Manhattan, which included two Big 12 Conference titles and 19 bowl appearances. Chris Klieman will be given the task of getting the program back on track after Kansas State suffered its first losing season since 2015.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN Plus. LINE: Kansas State -22.5
"What coach Snyder did at Kansas State was nothing short of remarkable and I'm going to feed off that," Klieman told reporters. "I know I'm not going to fill his shoes and I'm just trying to continue in his legacy, but doing it our own way." Klieman, who went 69-4 en route to four FCS national championships in five years at North Dakota State, inherits a Wildcats team that returns 16 starters, including promising junior quarterback Skylar Thompson, and likely five senior starters on the offensive line. Kansas State was picked to finish ninth in the conference's preseason poll but hopes to prove critics wrong by starting the Klieman era with their fourth consecutive win over a Southland Conference opponent. Nicholls looks to build on a successful 2018 season after capturing its first conference title in 13 years, and hopes to stay on the winning track by knocking off an FBS team for the second straight year following a 26-23 overtime win against Kansas.
ABOUT NICHOLLS STATE (2018: 9-4)
Reigning Southland Conference Player of the Year Chase Fourcade, who threw for 2,930 yards and accounted for 34 total touchdowns last season, was named to the watch list for the FCS National Performer of the Year Trophy. Fourcade has a plethora of weapons on offense, including wide receiver Dai'Jean Dixon, who caught 53 passes for 753 yards and seven touchdowns, and leading rusher Dontrell Taylor (990 yards and nine TDs). The Colonels defense will be led by defensive lineman Sully Laiche, who is the active FCS leader in sacks with 25.5 and was named to the Southland Conference Preseason All-First Team.
ABOUT KANSAS STATE (2018: 5-7)
Thompson seems primed for a breakout campaign after throwing for 1,391 yards and nine touchdowns while adding 373 yards and five scores on the ground. Grad transfers James Gilbert (Ball State) and Jordan Brown (North Carolina) will likely share carries in the backfield after the Wildcats' leading rusher from last season Alex Barnes decided to forego his senior season in pursuit of the NFL. Wyatt Hubert, who earned Freshman All-America honors last season after recording 8.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, will anchor a stout defensive line which also features seniors Trey Dishon and Reggie Walker.
1. Kansas State has won 74 of its last 80 non-conference home games.
2. Wildcats WR Dalton Schoen needs 10 yards to become the 32nd player in program history to reach 1,000 receiving yards.
3. Kansas State has averaged 55 points over its last three games against Southland Conference opponents.
PREDICTION: Kansas State 41, Nicholls 23