The league released the 2018 football schedules this afternoon.
The schedule is the flip side of the 2017 version and so the cross-division matchups are the same but just at the opposite venue. An interesting quirk is that Rivalry Week, traditionally the week after Thanksgiving, only has one game that is something like a rivalry. That is North Texas visiting UTSA. You could maybe squint and say WKU visiting Louisiana Tech is something like a rivalry game but really it is not.
There are no permanent cross-division rivalries in this league — of course — because it was pulled together in a moment of national conference realignment crisis. The league has tried to keep some of the better matchups near the end of the season, anticipating some scenarios. Unfortunately, this league is difficult to predict and last year’s projected La Tech vs UTSA finale was supposed to be for division supremacy and instead was something like a bowl audition. Not bad, but unexpected.
This season the final week has the juicy NT vs UTSA matchup but odd cross-division games like UAB vs MTSU and ODU at Rice.
It isn’t ideal, but there are quality games mixed throughout. The first real weekend of league play on September 29th has FAU and MTSU, LT and North Texas, and Marshall vs WKU along with the budding rivalry that is UTEP and UTSA.
November 3rd has FAU vs FIU, the intriguing WKU and MTSU, and UTSA at UAB.
The real prestige winning opportunity is not in December, but in September when the league members try to earn some paychecks and some publicity. MTSU has another opportunity vs Vanderbilt, UTSA at Arizona State, and FAU at Oklahoma are all very intriguing. None of those are going to be easy, but the league’s far-and-away best team taking on a CFP entrant will have lots of eyes. If FAU can show some of the same dominance for stretches in that one, the league will win some points with the nation.
North Texas travels to Arkansas and faces Chad Morris for the third straight year, this time with an SEC roster instead of the SMU one that beat Seth Littrell twice in two years. WKU travels to Louisville that will be losing Lamar Jackson and might be ripe for an upset.
La Tech put up a good effort last year against South Carolina and the year before against Arkansas. They will look to do something similar against the in-state LSU. This is a bigger deal for everyone in Ruston, with many stories about the snubs to fill the tailgate parties. La Tech should be better than the team that dropped games but beating LSU is always a big ask.
Fall 2018 will be lots of fun.