FRISCO, Texas — Nicholls is the preseason favorite for the 2019 Southland Conference football season, the league announced Thursday. The defending co-champions received the most possible first-place votes (20) and 200 total points to garner the top spot.
Central Arkansas was voted second with 154 total points. Defending co-champion UIW follows closely in third place, earning one first-place votes and 150 points. Sam Houston State collected 146 points to rank fourth in the preseason poll.
Lamar (123) is slated as the fifth-place team, followed by McNeese (114) and Abilene Christian (112), who picked up the final first-place nod. Rounding out the poll is Southeastern Louisiana (71), Stephen F. Austin (63), Northwestern State (56) and Houston Baptist (21).
Nicholls enters 2019 with a league-high 11 total preseason all-conference picks. Led by senior quarterback Chase Fourcade and senior defensive lineman Sully Laiche, the Colonels grabbed eight of the 28 first-team slots. Fourcade, the 2018 Southland Conference Player of the Year, enters his final season with the 10th-most career total offense yards in league history (8,990), and Laiche begins his senior campaign as the active FCS leader in career sacks (25.5).
The 2019 season opens Thursday, Aug. 29, with a pair of 6 p.m. kickoffs between Central Arkansas and Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky., and Northwestern State and UT Martin in Martin, Tenn. At 7 p.m. Thursday, Southeastern Louisiana hosts Jacksonville State and Lamar hosts Bethel (Tenn.). The remaining teams in the league begin their 2019 campaigns on Saturday, Aug. 31.
The Southland Conference preseason poll is voted on by each head coach and football sports information director. Each voter ranks their predicted order of regular season finish, not including their own team. First-place votes are worth 10 points, second-place votes are worth nine and so on to one point for 10th place.