Last week we looked into the 2023 AAC schedule and the impact of the league bringing in more than 50% of last season’s Conference USA teams.
That left five teams returning to C-USA with the addition of four others. What does that mean for this small conference and its 2023 schedule?
A lot of unfamiliarity.
That seems to be a theme with this league, as teams make a short appearance on their way to other conferences.
We’ll find out soon enough how this version plays out and where teams stack up in the nine-team, no-division league. But for now, here are some things to note about the 2023 C-USA schedule:
Conference play starting early
It won’t take long for conference play to get underway in the 2023 campaign. There will be two conference contests during Week 0 — Louisiana Tech vs. FIU and Jacksonville State will host UTEP for its first-ever C-USA game. Following this, there’s only one conference game until Week 5.
There’s a plethora of midweek games scheduled. According to the C-USA website, there has been a multimedia deal reached with ESPN and CBS Sports, explaining the nontraditional schedule.
FIU, Liberty, and JSU each have five midweek games while the remainder of the teams have four. I’m not sure how great this is for attendance across the league, but it could be good for certain programs. I know Sam Houston has had good turnouts for their weekday games in the past. It does mean more eyes on the league, however, with not as much competition for viewers. And of course, there will be those viewers that are tuning in just because they have some money on the game.
What else is there to do on a Wednesday night in the fall besides scroll through some online betting odds and watch college football?
Tough nonconference for a couple of teams
Potentially faced with the toughest schedule in the league, Middle Tennessee starts the season with back-to-back games on the road vs. SEC teams traveling to Alabama and Missouri. The Blue Raiders then have two home games (Murray State and Colorado State) before a tough four-game stretch against Western Kentucky, JSU, LA Tech, and Liberty — each a weekday contest.
One of the biggest contenders entering the season, WKU will also see some quality opponents in the nonconference slate when visiting Ohio State and Troy in consecutive weeks. Fortunately for the Hilltoppers, they close out the season with three games that (as of right now) they should win versus New Mexico State, Sam Houston, and FIU.
JSU also has a decent non-conference schedule on tap with games against Coastal Carolina, Eastern Michigan, and South Carolina.
Newcomers to be tested
Only one of New Mexico State’s first five games will be a conference game. However, that trip to Liberty might be its toughest game of the season. Not only that, but the Aggies close out the season with a three-game stretch where they’ll play at WKU and at Auburn before hosting JSU.
While its out-of-conference opponents aren’t powerhouses, Liberty faces a three-game conference stretch that could decide its whole season. First is a date with JSU on the road before hosting MTSU and followed by a trip to WKU. That Oct. 24 matchup vs. the Hilltoppers could shape up to be the best and one of the most important conference games of the season.
What could be Sam Houston’s most significant games will also be played in consecutive weeks. Starting with Week 2, the Bearkats play Air Force at NRG Stadium which will, in a way, be played in place of Battle of the Piney Woods. The Kats follow that up by visiting Houston. It will be the first meeting between the programs since 2005. Following that contest is a matchup with JSU at home and then a trip to Liberty.
It’s going to be a fresh experience for Sam Houston, and a fresh experience for C-USA.