Liberty University vs Brevard in its first home game September 13, 2014. Photo by David Duncan
AP Photo
August 21, 2015

ATLANTA (STATS) - If you want a scouting report on Big South power Coastal Carolina, ask somebody from Liberty.

"High-powered offense. Consistent talent level," quarterback Josh Woodrum said. "They show that year in and year out that they can win 10, 11, 12 football games. They're always going to be a threat in our league. "

If you want a scouting report on the other Big South power, Liberty, ask somebody from Coastal Carolina.

"Liberty's awesome, obviously," running back D'Angelo Henderson said. "They're a great bunch of guys on that team. They play ball. Smart, physical, exciting."

The two 2014 Big South co-champs have won or shared seven titles each in a conference that only formed in 2002, and they have aspirations that extend to the national scene.

Coastal has 24 wins in the last two seasons, second only to four-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State - which has eliminated the Chanticleers in each of the last two national quarterfinals.

Liberty is coming off its first playoff bid and first playoff win, which star defensive end Chima Uzowihe says lifted a weight off the Flames. Their program is one of the more prepared to make a future move from the FCS to the FBS level.

"Rivalry is the first thing that comes to my mind," Woodrum said of Coastal and Liberty.

Coastal claimed the slight favorite's role in the Big South's preseason poll. Each team placed eight players on the conference's preseason team, while no other program had more than four.

Appropriately, the league title could be decided on the final day of the regular season when the schools meet at Liberty and separate their 6-6 all-time series record. A year ago at Coastal, Uzowihe blocked a potential winning field-goal attempt on the game's final play to lift Liberty to a 15-14 win, ending the Chanticleers' perfect record at the time and sending the Flames to the playoffs.

But for everyone connected, it's time to move forward, with an eye toward the other.

"We need to be focus on 'right here, right now,' being in the present," said Coastal quarterback Alex Ross, the reigning Big South offensive player of the year. "And everything else is going to pan out."

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PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH=

1. Coastal Carolina

2. Liberty

3. Charleston Southern

4. Presbyterian

5. Gardner-Webb

6. Monmouth

7. Kennesaw State

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TEAM CAPSULES=

1. COASTAL CAROLINA CHANTICLEERS

LOCATION: Conway, South Carolina

STADIUM: Brooks Stadium

COACH: Joe Moglia (32-10 in three seasons at Coastal Carolina)

LAST SEASON: 12-2 overall, 4-1 Big South (Tie/1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

KEY LOSSES: LT Chad Hamilton, LG Mo Ashley, C Kevin Hart, LB Quinn Backus, DB Denzel Rice, DB Pernell Williams, PK Alex Catron

OFFENSIVE STAR: Alex Ross, QB, Sr., 6-1, 205 (271-for-422, 3,389 yards, 20 TDs, 7 INTs; 154 carries, 691 yards, 9 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Roderick Holder, DE, Sr., 6-1, 235 (48 TT, 12.5 TFL, 6.5 SK, 1 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: De'Angelo Henderson, RB, Jr., 5-8, 205; Bruce Mapp, WR, Jr., 6-0, 210; John Israel, WR, Sr., 6-0, 200; Tyrell Blanks, WR, Sr., 6-11, 165; Craig Weick, TE, Sr., 6-5, 240; Thomas Pauciello, TE, Sr., 6-6, 240; Voghens Larrieux, LT, Jr., 6-5, 290; Sam Ekwonike, RG, Jr., 6-2, 350; Calvin Hollenhorst, DE, Sr., 6-3, 235; Leroy Cummings, DT, Sr., 6-0, 296; Marcus Crowder, DT, Sr., 6-1, 265; Rayshaud Shields, LB, Sr., 5-11, 195; Kamron Summers, CB, Jr., 5-11, 185; Richie Sampson, S, Sr., 6-2, 195; C.J. Thompson, Nickle, Jr., 5-9, 190; Datarius Allen, Nickle, Sr., 5-10, 185; Ryan Granger, PK, Jr., 5-11, 175; Devin Brown, KR/WR, Jr., 5-8, 170

OUTLOOK: The offensive firepower returning for the Chanticleers surely scares everyone else in the Big South. Ross, the conference's offensive player of the year last season, is back as a third-year starter at quarterback, owning a 25-5 career record as a starter but also coming off offseason shoulder surgery. He's joined by RB Henderson (1,823 yards from scrimmage, 21 TDs) in the backfield and gets back his trio of wide receivers, Mapp, Blanks and Israel, who combined on 169 receptions and 16 TDs. If there is concern, it's replacing three starters on the offensive line, but Moglia has built depth there. On the 4-2-5 defense, the Chanticleers lose LB Backus, who won three straight Big South defensive player of the year awards, but Shields is primed for a breakout season at the position. The return of DEs Holder and Hollenhorst will contain quarterbacks inside. National quarterfinalists the last two seasons, the Chants have a manageable non-conference schedule. Within the Big South, playing both Charleston Southern and Liberty on the road is tricky. Still, the three-time defending conference co-champs are ready to make more waves.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Furman

Sept. 12 - at South Carolina State

Sept. 19 - vs. Western Illinois

Sept. 26 - vs. Bryant

Oct. 3 - vs. Alabama A&M

Oct. 10 - vs. Presbyterian*

Oct. 24 - at Monmouth*

Oct. 31 - at Charleston Southern*

Nov. 7 - vs. Gardner-Webb*

Nov. 14 - vs. Kennesaw State*

Nov. 19 - at Liberty*

* - Big South game

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2. LIBERTY FLAMES

LOCATION: Lynchburg, Virginia

STADIUM: Williams Stadium

COACH: Turner Gill (23-14 in three seasons at Liberty; 48-63 overall)

LAST SEASON: 9-5 overall, 4-1 Big South (Tie/1st)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

KEY LOSSES: WR Gabe Henderson, C Greg Ray, DT Dominique Davis, LB Nick Sigmon, FS Jacob Hagen

OFFENSIVE STAR: Darrin Peterson, WR, Sr., 6-2, 190 (85 receptions, 1,379 yards, 12 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Chima Uzowihe, DE, Sr., 6-2, 250 (42 TT, 14 TFL, 8 SK, 1 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 3 FF, 2 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Josh Woodrum, QB, Sr., 6-3, 225; D.J. Abnar, RB, Sr., 5-10, 185; Desmond Rice, RB, R-Sr., 5-8, 195 (injured last season); Dante Shells, WR, Jr., 6-1, 175; Max Sommer, LT, Sr., 6-6, 300; Jonathan Burgess, RG, Sr., 6-2, 305; Tanner Hartman, RT, So., 6-4, 290; JaRon Greene, NG, Jr., 6-2, 310; Nick Newman, LB, Jr., 6-4, 210; Avery "A.J." James, SS, So., 6-0, 180; Alpha Jalloh, FS, Jr., 6-1, 195; Wesley Scott, CB, Jr., 5-10, 175; Justin Guillory, CB, So., 6-0, 180; John Lunsford, PK, Sr., 6-1, 180; Trey Turner, P, So., 5-11, 195

OUTLOOK: The Flames finally - yes, finally! - reached the FCS playoffs for the first time last season, and they enjoyed it so much that the Big South co-champs defeated James Madison on the road before falling to Villanova. With an explosive offense returning, the Flames could soar even higher. Woodrum, in his fourth season as the starting quarterback, is a pro prospect, on pace to become the Big South's all-time passing yardage leader as he teams up with first-team All-America WR Peterson. The running game is particularly potent: Rice rushed for 967 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2013 before missing last season with an ACL tear, allowing Abnar to step in to rush for 1,289 yards and 15 TDs. The Flames took some hits on defense, but DE Uzowihe will challenge for top honors in the Big South. On special teams, no team in the conference has a kicking combo as good as Lunsford and Turner, with Lunsford kicking three of the five longest field goals in Division I last season, including the long of 60 yards. Like Peterson, Lunsford and OG Burgess were preseason All-Americans.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - vs. Delaware State

Sept. 12 - at West Virginia

Sept. 19 - vs. Montana

Sept. 26 - at Southern Illinois

Oct. 3 - at Georgia State

Oct. 10 - at Gardner-Webb*

Oct. 17 - at Monmouth*

Oct. 24 - vs. Kennesaw State*

Nov. 7 - vs. Presbyterian*

Nov. 14 - at Charleston Southern*

Nov. 19 - vs. Coastal Carolina*

* - Big South game

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3. CHARLESTON SOUTHERN BUCCANEERS

LOCATION: Charleston, South Carolina

STADIUM: Buccaneer Field

COACH: Jamey Chadwell (18-7 in two seasons at Charleston Southern; 43-28 overall)

LAST SEASON: 8-4 overall, 3-2 Big South (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (9 offense/5 defense)

KEY LOSSES: RB Christian Reyes, RG Clayton Truitt, DE Dylan Black, NT James Smith, NT Isaac Lowrance, LB Gabe Middlebrook

OFFENSIVE STAR: Austin Brown, QB, Sr., 6-1, 207 (126-for-241, 1,848 yards, 11 TDs, 11 INTs; 100 carries, 254 yards, 5 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Aaron Brown, WLB, Sr., 6-0, 220 (81 TT, 9 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 QBH)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Mike Holloway, RB, Jr., 5-8, 195; Ben Robinson, RB, Jr., 5-7, 183; Darius Hammond, RB/KR/PR, Jr., 5-10, 192; Nathan Perera, WR, R-Sr., 6-3, 210; Kevin Glears, WR, R-Sr., 6-0, 185 (injured last season); Larry Jones III, WR, R-Jr., 6-2, 200 (injured last season); Erik Austell, LT, R-Jr., 6-3, 285; Benny Timmons, RT, R-Sr., 6-2, 300; Anthony Ellis, DE, So., 6-1, 245; Caleb Batchelor, DT, Jr., 6-3, 250; Zane Cruz, MLB, So., 6-2, 215; Gerald Turner, DE/OLB, So., 6-2, 250 (South Carolina transfer); Troy McGowens, CB, Jr., 6-1, 190; Malcolm Jackson, CB, Sr., 5-11, 180; Corbin Jackson, FS, R-Jr., 6-0, 195

OUTLOOK: Lurking in the Big South race, the Buccaneers are a potential spoiler, if not more, as their 18 wins under Chadwell represent the best two-year stretch in program history. They are focused on reaching the FCS playoffs, and home games against both Coastal Carolina and Liberty provide the opportunity. The Bucs are retooling on defense, and the addition of DE/OLB Turner could help compensate for the loss of key seniors. Aaron Brown is an All-Big South linebacker, and CBs McGowens and Malcolm Jackson split eight interceptions last season. With a more seasoned Austin Brown returning at quarterback, and WRs Glears and Jones healthy again after ACL tears, the offense should fend off the loss of Reyes, the school's all-time leading rusher. Holloway and Robinson both rushed for over 500 yards a year ago, and they will work behind four returning starters on the offensive line, led by Austell. The Bucs were the best in the FCS at controlling the ball, averaging 34 minutes, 5 seconds of possession.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - vs. North Greenville

Sept. 12 - at Troy

Sept. 17 - vs. East Tennessee State

Sept. 26 - at The Citadel

Oct. 10 - vs. Monmouth*

Oct. 17 - at Presbyterian*

Oct 24 - at Gardner-Webb*

Oct. 31 - vs. Coastal Carolina*

Nov. 7 - at Kennesaw State*

Nov. 14 - vs. Liberty*

Nov. 21 - at Alabama

* - Big South game

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4. PRESBYTERIAN BLUE HOSE

LOCATION: Clinton, South Carolina

STADIUM: Bailey Memorial Stadium

COACH: Harold Nichols (15-49 in six seasons at Presbyterian)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 3-2 Big South (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (4 offense/9 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Heys McMath, RB Demarcus Rouse, WR Tobi Antigha, OL Devinn Ritter, LB Isaiah Lynn

OFFENSIVE STAR: Darrell Bridges, TB, R-So, 6-1, 200 (85 carries, 396 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Donelle Williams, LB, R-Sr., 6-0, 200 (81 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2.5 SK, 3 PBU, 1 QBH)

KEY PLAYERS: Tamyn Garrick, QB, R-Sr., 6-3, 200; Kaleb Griffin, QB, R-Sr., 6-2, 205; Blake Roberts, TB, R-Jr., 5-10, 190; Craig Bryan, FB, R-So., 6-1, 250; Jordan Hallums, WR, Sr., 6-1, 180; Austin Allen, LT, Sr., 6-4, 300; Ryan Bristow, RT, R-Jr., 6-5, 270; Ugonna Akoh, DE, R-Jr., 6-3, 230; Khari Rosier, DE, Jr., 6-3, 230; Derrick Washington, DT, Jr., 6-2, 300; Mitchell Anderson, DT, R-Sr., 6-3, 230; DaRon Dickey, LB, R-Sr., 5-10, 180; Steve Osondu, CB, So., 5-11, 180; Ed Britt, CB, Sr., 6-0, 185; Shonquille Byers, CB, Sr., 6-0, 170; Brandon Morrow, PK, So., 5-9, 151; Stephen Doar, P, R-Sr., 6-0, 180

OUTLOOK: The Blue Hose's first winning season on the FCS level included impressive wins over Southern Conference programs Furman and Western Carolina, as well as a road triumph over Charleston Southern. But to increase that momentum, Presbyterian will have to improve on an offense that averaged only 15.9 points per game. It won't be easy with the loss of seven offensive starters. Either Garrick or Griffin, both redshirt senior quarterbacks, are going to have to raise their game, working behind a retooled offensive line. Bridges impressed in his first season and will combine with fellow TB Roberts to supply the run game. The disciplined 4-3 defense shined last season, and that shouldn't change with the return of nine starters, including two of the conference's best in LB Williams and CB Britt, the only player in Big South history to have return touchdowns on an interception, fumble and blocked field goal. The road portion of the Blue Hose's schedule is particularly daunting.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at Miami (Ohio)

Sept. 12 - at Charlotte

Sept. 19 - vs. Campbell

Sept. 26 - vs. Chattanooga

Oct. 3 - at Western Carolina

Oct. 10 - at Coastal Carolina*

Oct. 17 - vs. Charleston Southern*

Oct. 31 - vs. Gardner-Webb*

Nov. 7 - at Liberty*

Nov. 14 - at Monmouth*

Nov. 21 - vs. Kennesaw State*

* - Big South game

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5. GARDNER-WEBB BULLDOGS

LOCATION: Boiling Springs, North Carolina

STADIUM: Spangler Stadium

COACH: Carroll McCray (12-13 in two seasons at Gardner-Webb; 27-52 overall)

LAST SEASON: 4-8 overall, 0-5 Big South (6th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 19 (8 offense/11 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Lucas Beatty, RB Juanne Blount WR Kenny Cook, TE Seth Cranfill, KR/PR J.J. Hubbard

OFFENSIVE STAR: Mike Estes, TE, R-Jr., 6-4, 240 (34 receptions, 408 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: O.J. Mau, NG, Sr., 6-2, 319 (60 TT, 10 TFL, 3 SK, 2 FR, 1 FF, 1 BLK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Tyrell Maxwell, QB, So., 6-2, 213; Kerry Bernard, RB, So., 5-9, 206; Khalil Lewis, RB, So., 5-10, 201; Matt McAlvin, OT, R-Sr., 6-5, 278; David Sutton, OT, R-Jr., 6-3, 297; Jebrai Regan, DE, Sr., 6-2, 263; Phillip Fata, DE/NG, R-Sr., 6-3, 304; Aaron Cook, LB, Jr., 6-1, 233; Tanner Burch, LB, R-Sr., 6-3, 244 (injured last season); Chad Geter, LB, R-Jr., 6-2, 242 (injured last season); Ivan Toomer, CB, R-Sr., 6-1, 199; Spencer Havird, FS, 6-2, 192, R-So.; Andrew Komornik, P, R-So., 6-5, 225; Paul Schumacher, PK, So., 5-10, 172

OUTLOOK: First the good news. Then the bad news. Then the other bad news. The Runnin' Bulldogs return their entire starting defense and get back standout LBs Burch and Jeter from injuries. Their front seven will wreak havoc with All-America NG Mau and playmaking LB Cook adept at getting into opposing backfields. The problem for the offense is that its three losses among the starters are significant, especially All-America WR Cook. Maxwell is stepping in at quarterback, and he's mobile (63 carries, 255 yards, 3 TDs) with a good arm. His safety valve is TE Estes, but opponents will come after Maxwell considering the Runnin' Bulldogs allowed an almost-unfathomable 55 sacks last season. Having gone 7-5 in McCray's first season in 2013, G-W hopes to get back to a winning way. But the Runnin' Bulldogs are ineligible for the FCS playoffs because of NCAA APR penalties.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - at South Alabama

Sept. 12 - vs. Elon

Sept. 19 - vs. Virginia Union

Sept. 26 - at Wofford

Oct. 10 - vs. Liberty*

Oct. 17 - at Kennesaw State*

Oct. 24 - vs. Charleston Southern*

Oct. 31 - at Presbyterian*

Nov. 7 - at Coastal Carolina*

Nov. 14 - vs. East Tennessee State

Nov. 21 - vs. Monmouth*

* - Big South game

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6. MONMOUTH HAWKS

LOCATION: West Long Branch, New Jersey

STADIUM: Kessler Field

COACH: Kevin Callahan (126-102 in 22 seasons at Monmouth)

LAST SEASON: 6-5 overall, 1-4 Big South (5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (6 offense/9 defense)

KEY LOSSES: QB Brandon Hill, RB Kwab Asante, WR Neal Sterling, OL Reece Johnston, DE Pat O'Hara

OFFENSIVE STAR: Lavon Chaney, RB, Jr., 5-9, 180 (173 carries, 835 yards, 8 TDs; 49 carries, 359 yards, 2 TDs)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Mike Basile, SS, So., 6-1, 185 (78 TT, 4 TFL, 1 SK, 4 INTs, 5 PBU)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Devin Ray, QB, Jr., 6-3, 215 (Rutgers transfer); Cody Williams, QB, So., 6-4, 180; Matt Choi, WR, Jr., 6-1, 190; Darren Ambush, WR, Jr., 5-8, 170; Hakeem Valles, TE, R-Sr., 6-5, 235; Alex Thompson, C, So., 6-4, 285; Hunter McHugh, OG, Sr., 6-3, 280; Keith Kleutz, LT, Sr., 6-7, 290; Sam Bell, RT, Jr., 6-5, 300; Rotchill Medor, OL, Sr., 6-6, 325; Dimitrius Smith, DL, Jr., 6-2, 295; Darnell Leslie, DL, Jr., 6-2, 225; Tyler Thompson, MLB, Sr., 6-0, 230; John Sieczkowski, OLB, Sr., 6-2, 215; Payton Minnich, OLB, Jr., 6-3, 240; Anthony McDonnaugh, LB, Sr., 6-1, 230; Joe Johnson, DB, Sr., 5-10, 175; Marcus Leslie, DB, So., 5-10, 180; Kevin Butler, DB, Jr., 5-11, 190; Agbai Iroha, DB, So., 5-9, 190; Kamau Dumas, DB/RS, 5-9, 175

OUTLOOK: Having gone through a first season in the Big South, the Hawks will be better prepared this year. They were 5-1 out of conference, only to lose four straight Big South games before beating Gardner-Webb to claim a winning record for the first time since 2008. Callahan believes his team is deeper and he wants it to be more physical. The defense is solid, returning its top nine tacklers. SS Basile is coming off Big South rookie of the year honors, DE Darnell Leslie provides a consistent pass rush and LB Sieczkowski scoops up tackles. The quarterbacks don't have much game experience as Hill started for three straight seasons, but RB Chaney led the Big South in all-purpose yards per game (135.1) and will keep running the ball behind an experienced line. Losing WR Sterling was big, though. Monmouth isn't taking it easy out of conference, and the Hawks will face an FBS program for the first time, Central Michigan on Sept. 12. Starting the conference schedule with Charleston Southern, Liberty and Coastal Carolina is reason to wince.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 5 - vs. Holy Cross

Sept. 12 - at Central Michigan

Sept. 19 - at Wagner

Sept. 26 - at Fordham

Oct. 3 - vs. Bryant

Oct. 10 - at Charleston Southern*

Oct. 17 - vs. Liberty*

Oct. 24 - vs. Coastal Carolina*

Oct. 31 - at Kennesaw State*

Nov. 14 - vs. Presbyterian*

Nov. 21 - at Gardner-Webb*

* - Big South game

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7. KENNESAW STATE OWLS

LOCATION: Kennesaw, GA

STADIUM: Fifth Third Bank Stadium

COACH: Brian Bohannon (first season)

LAST SEASON: None (2015 is first season)

STARTERS RETURNING: None

KEY LOSSES: None

OFFENSIVE STAR: Trey White, QB, R-Jr., 6-0, 205 (The Citadel transfer)

DEFENSIVE STAR: Dez Billinglea, LB, R-Fr., 6-2, 220

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jake McKenzie, QB, R-Fr., 6-0, 190; Jae Bowen, RB, R-Fr., 5-11, 190; Steven Johnson, RB, R-Fr., 5-9, 180; Michael McIntire, RB, R-Fr., 5-8, 195; Xavier Harper, WR, R-Fr., 6-0, 185; Justin Sumpter, WR, R-Fr., 6-3, 200; C.J. Collins, LT, R-Fr., 6-3, 270; John Pearson, LG, R-Fr., 6-3, 275; Malik Letatau, C, Jr., 6-2, 275; Lorenzo Adger, RG, R-Fr., 6-2, 290; Ryan Warrior, RT, R-Fr., 6-3, 260; Luther Jones, NT, R-Fr., 6-0, 285; Braylon Young, DT, R-Fr., 6-0, 265; Mason Harris, DE, R-Sr., 6-3, 235; Dustyn Moore, DE, R-So., 6-0, 225; Izzy Sam, LB, R-So., 5-11, 225; Wes Simonton, LB, R-So., 6-0, 205; Raymone Jennings, CB, R-Fr., 6-0, 180; Dante' Blackmon, CB, R-Jr., 5-11, 185; Taylor Henkle, FS, R-Fr., 5-11, 185; Derrick Farrow, FS, Jr., 6-2, 200; Shawn Reynolds, SS, R-Fr., 6-2, 180; Jordan Genovese, PK, R-Fr., 6-5, 205

OUTLOOK: Kennesaw State has taken all the necessary steps in building its new program, so there is hope for success in Year 1. Bohannon, a Paul Johnson disciple who arrived from Georgia Tech in the spring of 2013, will rely on redshirt freshmen with some transfers mixed in. White, from The Citadel, is expected to start at quarterback. He stood out in the spring game, even rushing 30 times out of the spread option. His line isn't big and figures to be vulnerable as the Owls develop on offense. The primary defense is a 4-2-5. It hopes to rely on speed against the bigger Big South offenses. Big crowds at Fifth Third Bank Stadium await the Owls, whose first-ever game is at East Tennessee State, a program returning to football for the first time since 2003. A softer non-conference will help the Owls, who simply hope to keep improving.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3 - at East Tennessee State

Sept. 12 - vs. Edward Waters

Sept. 19 - vs. Shorter

Sept. 26 - at Dayton

Oct. 10 - vs. Point

Oct. 17 - vs. Gardner-Webb*

Oct. 24 - at Liberty*

Oct. 31 - vs. Monmouth*

Nov. 7 - vs. Charleston Southern*

Nov. 14 - at Coastal Carolina*

Nov. 21 - at Presbyterian*

* - Big South game

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