A pair of trips to face opponents ranked in the final top-25 polls of the 2017 season, three straight road contests and matchups with six schools that played in a postseason bowl game last fall highlight the 2018 University of South Alabama football schedule released by the Sun Belt Conference office on Tuesday.
In league play, the Jaguars will take on both defending co-champions while facing three of the four schools that competed in a bowl game a year ago.
"It's a good schedule that sets up well for us, we will face some great teams. In this conference, every week you have to be ready to play both home and away because the league is good from the top to the bottom team," first-year South head coach Steve Campbell said. "We open up with the challenge of facing two teams that won bowl games, those are games we are excited about playing that will definitely let us know where we are at early. They will help prepare us for a great conference schedule. We just need to take it one game at a time and not look too far ahead, we have to focus on trying to win the first game out of the shoot which is against a good Louisiana Tech football team."
"There is a nice distribution of time between home games this fall, we are pleased that we will not host on consecutive weekends," USA Director of Athletics Dr. Joel Erdmann said. "The strength of our non-conference schedule can be seen with the opening game at home against a team that has been a recent contender for the Conference USA championship, and it's always exciting to have Troy come to Mobile for a rivalry match-up that will be televised nationally. With four of the last six contests at home we will have the opportunity for a strong finish as we look to return to a postseason bowl game."
The campaign will open on Sept. 1 when South plays host to Louisiana Tech, which ended last fall 7-6 following a 51-10 victory over Southern Methodist in the DXL Frisco Bowl. The Jags will visit Oklahoma State — which was 14th in both final polls with a 10-3 mark after defeating Virginia Tech in the Camping World Bowl — the next week, then open Sun Belt action when Texas State visits Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Sept. 15.
A Sept. 22 trip to face Memphis, which went 10-3 a year ago while winning the American Athletic Conference West Division title and ended up in the final national rankings, begins a stretch of three straight games on the road for the Jags. They close the opening month of the campaign at Appalachian State — winner of its bowl game last December, going 9-4 overall after earning a share of the SBC title — then travel to Georgia Southern on Oct. 6.
It's the first time since the program's inception in 2009 that USA will play three consecutive road contests.
"We going to treat that as a challenge and as something we're looking forward to," said Campbell of the stretch. "We're on the road against a great program that won 10 games last year, one that won nine games and its bowl game last season, and one who has won a bunch of national championships. When you come to South Alabama you come to play against great competition, and for us to reach our goals we're going to have to accomplish some tough things. That's a tough little stretch, but it's one we're excited about."
The second half of the season begins with an Oct. 13 visit from Alabama State in the Jaguars' final non-conference match-up. South will play host to Troy — which was 11-2 overall following a bowl win and conference co-champion — in the annual "Battle For The Belt" on Tuesday, Oct. 23, with the game set to be televised live on ESPN2.
The final month of the regular season will open with a trip to Arkansas State on Nov. 3, with the Red Wolves the final opponent the Jags face coming off a winning record and postseason bowl berth in 2017. South takes on ULM in Mobile on Nov. 10, and after a visit to Louisiana the following Saturday will wrap up the regular season on Nov. 24 against Coastal Carolina at home.
The inaugural Sun Belt Conference Championship Game — matching the winners of the league's East and West Divisions — is set for Saturday, Dec. 1, and will be played on the campus of one of the participants. The Jaguars are in the West Division with Arkansas State, Louisiana, ULM and Texas State.
All kickoff times and additional television information we be announced at a later date.