The search for a final opponent to complete the Cal Poly football team’s 12-game schedule for 2014 confirmed something Mustangs head coach Tim Walsh already believed.
The best competition in the country resides in the Big West Conference.
So, Cal Poly capped it’s five-game home slate for next season by scheduling Big Sky rival Portland State to a nonconference game in a year where the Mustangs and Vikings will not meet on the field in conference play.
“Getting them, we get a quality opponent from one of the best leagues in the country,” Walsh said. “So, if we win, it’s a quality win. That’s how the playoff selection committee looks at it.”
Cal Poly announced the Sept. 20 meeting with Portland State along with the rest of next season’s schedule Wednesday. The home portion also includes conference visits from Big Sky powers Montana (Oct. 25) and Montana State (Nov. 1) as well as 2013 playoff participant Southern Utah (Oct. 4) and horseshoe trophy rival UC Davis (Nov. 15).
The Mustangs’ other three nonconference games will all be on the road, including the season-opening Thursday affair at New Mexico State on Aug. 28. The Aggies are the lone FBS opponent on the schedule.
Cal Poly has played two FBS opponents in three of Walsh’s five years in San Luis Obispo, including back-to-back losses at Fresno State and Colorado State last season.
The Mustangs will travel to South Dakota State for a nonconference game Sept. 6 and wrap up the regular season Nov. 22 with a nonconference visit to the University of San Diego, which has opened the season at Alex G. Spanos Stadium each of the past two years.
Coming off a 6-6 season, Walsh said Cal Poly will have to at least split its nonconference games in pursuit of an at-large berth to the FCS playoffs. The Mustangs won a share of the Big Sky title in their first year in the conference in 2012 but had to settle for an at-large berth in the three-way tie.
Cal Poly’s conference schedule annually includes matchups with UC Davis, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona as well as a rotation of five of the other nine Big Sky programs.
This year, that rotation features several title contenders at home. Road games include trips to Northern Arizona (Sept. 27), Weber State (Oct. 11), Sacramento State (Oct. 18) and Idaho State (Nov. 8).
“We have Montana, Montana State, Southern Utah, who was a playoff team this year, and UC Davis all at home,” Walsh said. “That’s good news. I think those are really good things for us as far as looking at the schedule.
“It’s extremely competitive. I look it as a challenge, and I think our players look at it as challenge as well.”