(STATS) - The addition of two of the more intriguing FCS non-conference games of the 2016 season are highlights of Jacksonville State's 11-game schedule that was announced Tuesday.
The Gamecocks, who went 13-2 as the national runners-up this past season, will host Coastal Carolina on Sept. 17 and visit Liberty on Sept. 24 in preparation for the Ohio Valley Conference, where they are the two-time defending champions.
"We feel like playing teams like Coastal Carolina and Liberty will be good matchups from a national standpoint across the FCS football landscape," interim athletic director Greg Seitz said.
Jacksonville State has never faced Coastal Carolina, which went 9-3 last season. The Chanticleers will play as an FCS independent this year in their final season before rising to the FBS level as a Sun Belt Conference member.
Liberty was Coastal's rival in the Big South Conference. Despite finishing 6-5 last year, the Flames were 5-0 at home with wins over two Top 10 opponents. The Flames and Jacksonville State last met in 1982 when Liberty was known as Liberty Baptist.
Before those matchups, coach John Grass' Gamecocks will kick off the season by hosting Division II power North Alabama on Sept. 1 and then will visit LSU on Sept. 10 in a previously announced FBS game.
"We are extremely excited about our non-conference schedule," Seitz said. "We have built our schedule around some quality opponents and we feel like our fans are going to be very excited to see the Gamecocks face these traditional football national powers."
After Jacksonville State finished second in the FCS in average attendance (20,598) last season, the Gamecocks will play six regular-season games at home for just the second time in their Division I history. Within the OVC, they'll host Tennessee Tech (Oct. 8), Austin Peay (Oct. 15), Eastern Illinois (Oct. 29, Homecoming) and UT Martin (Nov. 19).
Their road conference games will be against Eastern Kentucky (Oct. 22), Southeast Missouri State (Nov. 5) and Murray State (Nov. 19). They are not facing Tennessee State in conference play.
2016 Jacksonville State Football Schedule
Sept. 1, North Alabama
Sept. 10, at LSU
Sept. 17, Coastal Carolina
Sept. 24, at Liberty
Oct. 8, Tennessee Tech*
Oct. 15, Austin Peay*
Oct. 22, at Eastern Kentucky*
Oct. 29, Eastern Illinois* (Homecoming)
Nov. 5, at Southeast Missouri State*
Nov. 12, at Murray State*
Nov. 19, UT Martin*
* - Ohio Valley Conference game