Eastern Washington’s toughest opponent next year may be the schedule, which again includes two road trips to FBS schools. But instead of a short hop to the Palouse against Idaho and Washington State, the Eagles will travel to Oregon State and Toledo, teams that qualified for bowls this season.
For good measure, the Eagles will visit the same Sam Houston State program which knocked them out of the playoffs last week and could put the Eagles’ backs to the wall even before the conference season begins.
The bottom line: Even if the Eagles can win at least one of those three contests, they will probably need to match this year’s 7-1 Big Sky Conference record to even make the FCS playoffs.
The schedule, according to Eastern athletic director Bill Chaves, is the product of “balancing a lot of different conversations,” including postseason dreams, increased visibility and a budget that demands some big paydays.
Not that the Eagles don’t thrive on the challenge.
“Our guys do embrace those games,” Chaves said. “We can compete with those guys. It’s not a best of seven. You can look at those games one at a time.”
Those three nonconference games are partially offset by a home game against Division II Western Oregon, a 12-game regular season and expansion to a 24-team playoff field – all things considered, an 8-4 Eastern team would probably make the tournament.
Whether or not that schedule proves too tough, Chaves stressed that “scheduling home-and-home games in the FCS, especially in the West, is not an easy proposition.”