McNeese State has been one of the most storied programs at the FCS level. The Cowboys have been to six bowl games in their history and also boast the record for biggest margin of victory for an FCS school over an FBS opponent.
That mark was set in 2013 when the Cowboys visited Tampa and housed South Florida, 53-21. While the team doesn’t have an FBS opponent on its schedule this season, the 14-time Southland Conference champions are expected to contend for another league crown this fall.
2016 McNeese State Football Season In Review
The Cowboys finished with a 6-5 record but could have easily won eight games in 2016. McNeese State blew a fourth-quarter lead at home against Stephen F. Austin, losing by a field goal. But that tough loss pales in comparison to what happened against Southeastern Louisiana.
Head coach Lance Guidry’s squad looked primed to go to overtime against its conference rival, but then disaster struck. The Cowboys allowed the Lions to convert an 85-yard Hail Mary with less than 10 seconds left on the clock for the game-winning score. It was a huge blow to the team’s chances of making it back to the postseason.
Quarterback James Tabary had a solid first season in Lake Charles. He transferred from Arkansas State for more playing time and quickly emerged as the team’s best option. He threw for over 3,000 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes while limiting the interceptions that plagued him in Jonesboro.
The Cowboys had some major issues hanging onto the football, though. The team fumbled a whopping 19 times in 2016. Ryan Ross was the major culprit, giving it away on six occasions on 135 carries, but backups Justin Pratt and Lawayne Ross had butter fingers, too.
The Southland has some quality offenses, but the Cowboys have to do better at keeping teams out of the end zone. They allowed 33 touchdowns in league play and gave up at least 30 points in all five of their losses.
2017 McNeese State Football Season Preview
Tabary is back and should thrive in his second year leading the offense. He threw for a combined nine touchdowns against Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston State and will likely throw it even more this year.
Almost all of his weapons return, too. According to Street & Smith’s, 97 percent of last year’s production comes back to the unit. That is fantastic news, but the rate at which both the leading running back and receiver turn the ball over is still way too much. That sloppiness must be rectified if the team wants to once again compete for a league crown.
The defense should be much improved this fall. Athlon notes that the Cowboys have their top seven tacklers returning from last year’s team, which should give the unit little option but to improve. Chris Livings and Jammerio Gross-Whitaker combined for 15.5 quarterback sacks and will try to increase those numbers.
2017 McNeese State Football Schedule
August 31: McNeese State at Nicholls State
September 9: McNeese State vs. Florida Tech
September 16: McNeese State at Alcorn State
September 23: McNeese State vs. Houston Baptist
September 30: McNeese State at Stephen F. Austin
October 7: McNeese State at Abilene Christian
October 21: McNeese State vs. Incarnate Word
October 28: McNeese State at Central Arkansas
November 4: McNeese State vs. Southeastern Louisiana
November 11: McNeese State vs. Northwestern State
November 18: McNeese State at Lamar
FCS Pick ‘Em Games To Watch
McNeese State gets to dodge Sam Houston State this year, which is huge for its chances of making the postseason. SHSU is going to be a juggernaut and dropped 56 points on this defense last season.
However, the Cowboys do have to go on the road for their two toughest conference games. Facing Stephen F. Austin and Central Arkansas away from home is a tough ask, and it’s more than likely at least one loss will occur out of these two contests.
The Battle of the Border has been very close recently. Although McNeese State ended up blasting Lamar last season, the previous four meetings had all been decided by one possession. With that in mind, backing Lamar in your FCS Pick ‘Em Contests that week may not be a bad idea.