(STATS) - The beginning of the Aaron Best coaching era at Eastern Washington will be particularly challenging.
The defending Big Sky co-champ Eagles announced an 11-game 2017 schedule on Tuesday - Best's first as he succeeds nine-year coach Beau Baldwin, who left Cheney to become California's offensive coordinator.
Best's debut will be on Sept. 2 at Texas Tech - ironically Baldwin's first opponent in 2008. The matchup features the teams that led Division I in passing, quarterback Gage Gubrud and the Eagles on the FCS level and Texas Tech in the FBS.
Eastern will host North Dakota State, the five-time FCS national champion from 2011-15, on Sept. 9 at Roos Field in a rematch of last season's 50-44 Bison overtime win in Fargo.
The Eagles will then end non-conference play by traveling to New York for a first-ever meeting against Fordham on Sept. 16. The Rams feature 2016 FCS rushing champion Chase Edmonds.
The start of the Big Sky schedule doesn't get any easier for the Eagles as they remain on the road at rival Montana on Sept. 23.
Eastern will host Sacramento State (Sept. 30), Montana State (Oct. 14), Weber State (Nov. 4) and Portland State (Nov. 18) in Big Sky games. The other road conference matchups are against UC Davis (Oct. 7), Southern Utah (Oct. 21) and North Dakota (Nov. 11), which shared last year's Big Sky title with the Eagles.
Eastern finished 12-2 last season, reaching the FCS semifinals and finishing No. 4 in the STATS FCS Top 25.
2017 Eastern Washington Schedule
Sept. 2, at Texas Tech
Sept. 9, North Dakota State
Sept. 16, at Fordham,
Sept. 23, at Montana*
Sept. 30, Sacramento State*
Oct. 7, at UC Davis*
Oct. 14, Montana State*
Oct. 21, at Southern Utah*
Nov. 4, Weber State*
Nov. 11, at North Dakota*
Nov. 18, Portland State*
* - Big Sky game