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7-in-Seven Countdown: Top McNeese matchups in 2022

Published: Jun. 20, 2022 at 10:09 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 25, 2022 at 3:13 PM CDT
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Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - We are just seven weeks away from KPLC’s coverage of TDL: Two-A-Days and starting June 20, KPLC will bring you the 7-in-Seven countdown.

Countdowns will include topics from McNeese to high school football. A new countdown each week, beginning every Monday.

We start the countdown with the top-seven matchups for McNeese this upcoming season.

7. Rice, September 10

The Rice Owls come in at the number seven on the list as the Cowboys’ only FBS opponent in 2022.

It will mark the first-ever meeting between McNeese and Rice and will be played at Rice Stadium in Houston. The drive should be close enough for Cowboy fans to make a trip to see the Pokes in action on the road following their season-opening game with FCS-power Montana State.

The Owls will open up as a favorite against the Cowboys, but after going 4-8 in 2021, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that McNeese could pull off the upset. That being said, the Owls look to be a team on the come up as that four-win mark was the most for the program since 2015.

They’ll meet on September 10 in week two of the season.

6. Eastern Illinois, November 5

Coming in at number six on the list is another team McNeese will face off against for the first time in school history. After a deal between the Southland and Ohio Valley conferences, McNeese will host the Eastern Illinois Panthers on November 5.

Despite three-straight single-win seasons, including a 1-10 showing in 2021, EIU is a program with a rich quarterback history.

The school boasts alumni such as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and CBS NFL Analyst Tony Romo and none other than former Saints Super Bowl-winning head coach Sean Payton.

The Southland-Ohio Valley matchup for McNeese is positioned right in between two rivals, Southeastern and Nicholls, and it could make for an intense non-conference matchup.

5. Alcorn State, September 17

Having met four times since the turn of the century, Alcorn State is an opponent McNeese should be familiar with. The Cowboys have gotten the better of the Braves in all four meetings, most recently winning 17-14 in 2019 in a game that saw Alcorn put up all 14 points in the fourth quarter to give the pokes a scare. Most importantly, it will be the first time Cowboy fans will get to lay eyes on first-year head coach Gary Goff under the lights of Cowboy Stadium as well as McNeese’s return to night games at home. Alcorn returns its leading rusher from a year ago Niko Duffey who averaged nearly 6 yards a carry and amassed 739 total as well as Quarterback Felix Harper. Defensively they return the team leader in tackles for a loss Claudin Cherelus who finished 2021 with 8.5.

4. Texas A&M Commerce, October 15

Coming off the bye week, McNeese will have their first conference road trip, as Texas A&M Commerce will host their first conference matchup as members of the Southland Conference. The Lions make the jump to Division I FCS after spending 90 years in the Lone Star Conference of Division II. Commerce will have back-to-back tough tests to open up Southland play as they Travel to Southeastern on October 8th followed by a visit from the Pokes on the 15th. Commerce is not to be taken for granted as the Lions come from D II having won a National Championship in 2017. The Lions will likely look much different on offense and defense losing virtually all of their statistic leaders from 2021. The two schools have met twice but not since they squared off in back-to-back meetings in 1970 and ‘71 where they split a home and home series.

3. Montana State, September 3

Let the Gary Goff era officially begin! McNeese opens up the season and the Goff era with a tough challenge as they travel over 1,800 miles to Montana State one of the top-ranked teams in FCS fresh off a 12-3 season which saw the Bobcats make it all the way to the national championship but falling to North Dakota State. There will be a lot of questions answered in week one, most importantly who the starting quarterback will be and how Goff’s system and coaching style will play out against the best of the best in the FCS. The Bobcats return 1200-yard rusher Isaiah Ifanse and will likely roll out Tommy Mellott as QB-1 in week one who threw for nearly 500 yards and four touchdowns in 2021. The two have previously met once in 2002 in the first round of the playoffs where the one-seeded Cowboys defeated the Bobcats 21-14. The Cowboys made a championship run of their own that year falling to western Kentucky in the big game.

2. Nicholls, away October 22, home November 12

The lone repeat on the Cowboys schedule in 2022 comes in at number two in the Nicholls Colonels. Likely to be favored to win the Southland Conference again and coming off a down year that saw the Colonels finish third in the conference, Nicholls will surely look to get back on top of the conference for the first time since 2018. The Cowboys and Colonels fought hard in 2021 as the pokes jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first and the two went tied at 14 into the fourth quarter. 13 points in the final quarter would give the Colonels the victory and a spot ahead of the Cowboys in the final standings of the season. While the Colonels lose Starting QB Lindsey Scott and leading receiver, Dai’jean Dixon, from a year ago, they do welcome in former LSU and UTSA Quarterback Lowell Narcisse. They do however return leading rusher Collin Guggenheim and sacks leader Perry Ganci on defense.

1. Southeastern, October 29

After six points combined decided both matchups in 2021, Southeastern’s trip to Lake Charles rightfully earns the number one spot. The Lions finished second in the Southland to UIW by a game and made it to the second round of the FCS Playoffs falling to James Madison. The Pokes are 3-7 against the Lions in their last 10 meetings and have not come out on top since 2019 when McNeese won 38-34. A win against a ranked and potential conference favorite in Southeastern in year one of Gary Goff’s tenure would like spell success for the Cowboys for years to come. The Lions are expected to shift to a more run-focused offense in 2022 with the loss of QB Cole Kelly, who also led the team in rushing in 2021, to the NFL. Running back Taron Jones returns to lead the backfield and Sacks leaders Garrett Crawford and John Graves III on defense.

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