SUU, which finished the 2013 season ranked 21st by the Sports Network and 24th by the coaches after qualifying for the FCS playoffs for the first time in school history, will face Nevada and Fresno State from the FBS ranks, as well as 2013 playoff teams Southeast Louisiana, South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Montana and Northern Arizona. In addition, SUU will rekindle its rivalry with Cal Poly, a 2013 playoff participant, next fall.
"SUU has always striven to schedule the best opponents in the country, and this year is no exception,” SUU Coach Ed Lamb said. “Our players and fans should be very excited to match up against such established programs."
The Thunderbirds are scheduled to open at Nevada on Aug. 30, before traveling to Hammond, La., for a game against Southeast Louisiana – which advanced to the FCS quarterfinals last year – on Sept. 6. Nevada finished the 2013 season with a 4-8 record, while Southeast Louisiana notched a 30-29 win over Sam Houston State (the team that knocked SUU out of the playoffs), before losing to New Hampshire, 20-17, in the quarterfinals and finishing the season with an 11-3 mark.
SUU hosts South Dakota State – a 26-7 winner at NAU in last year’s playoffs – in the home-opener on Sept. 13 before heading back out on the road for a first-ever meeting with Fresno State, Sept. 20. The Jackrabbits went 9-5 last season, notching the win at NAU in the first round of the playoffs before falling at Eastern Washington, 41-17, in the second round. Fresno State finished the 2013 regular season ranked No. 20 in the BCS, No. 19 in the coaches poll and No. 21 in the AP poll, but fell out of the polls after a loss to USC in the Las Vegas Bowl gave the Bulldogs a final record of 11-2.
The Big Sky portion of the schedule begins Sept. 27 when rival Weber State comes to town. The Thunderbirds then head back to California for a game at Cal Poly, Oct. 4. The Weber State game will feature a trio of former SUU coaches, who fled the Thunderbirds for the Wildcats, going against their former team as WSU works to rebuild after back-to-back two-win seasons. Cal Poly finished tied with the Thunderbirds in fourth place with a 5-3 conference mark last year and was 6-6 overall.
Eastern Washington, a 2013 FCS semi-finalist, visits Eccles Coliseum on Oct. 11 before the Thunderbirds travel to Idaho State for an Oct. 18 game. The Eagles claimed the outright Big Sky championship last season after going a perfect 8-0 in league play, including a 34-10 win over SUU in Cheney, Wash. Idaho State went 1-7 in conference play last year with a 3-9 overall mark; the T-Birds got past the Bengals last year in Cedar City, 19-9.
SUU returns home to host North Dakota on Oct. 25, then after a bye week goes back on the road to face Sacramento State on Nov. 8. North Dakota – which also replaced its coaching staff in the off-season – is coming off a 3-9 season, which included a 2-6 Big Sky mark, while Sacramento State finished BSC play with a 4-4 record last season, 5-7 overall, including a 24-21 setback in overtime against the Thunderbirds.
The final regular season home game for the Thunderbirds will be Nov. 15 when Montana visits Cedar City for the first time and the T-Birds will wrap up the season at rival Northern Arizona on Nov. 22. Montana finished third in the Big Sky last year after going 6-2 in league play; the Griz finished 10-3 after losing a 42-35 decision to Coastal Carolina in the playoffs. NAU went 7-1 in conference play, including a 20-10 win over the Thunderbirds in the regular season finale, but lost to SDSU in the playoffs to finish the season at 9-3 overall.
SUU will be playing its second straight 12-game season and will be playing two FBS-level opponents for the sixth straight year. The Thunderbirds had never played a 12-game schedule until last season.
2014 Southern Utah Football Schedule
|8-30||at Nevada||Reno, Nev.||TBA|
|9-6||at Southeast Louisiana||Hammond, La.||TBA|
|9-13||South Dakota State||Cedar City, Utah||6:05 p.m.|
|9-20||at Fresno State||Fresno, Calif.||TBA|
|9-27||Weber State*||Cedar City, Utah||6:05 p.m.|
|10-4||at Cal Poly*||San Luis Obispo, Calif.||TBA|
|10-11||Eastern Washington*||Cedar City, Utah||1:05 p.m.|
|10-18||at Idaho State*||Pocatello, Idaho||TBA|
|10-25||North Dakota*||Cedar City, Utah||1:05 p.m.|
|11-8||at Sacramento State*||Sacramento, Calif.||TBA|
|11-15||Montana*||Cedar City, Utah||1:05 p.m.|
|11-22||at Northern Arizona*||Flagstaff, Ariz.||TBA|