Some intriguing matchups headline the 2016 Cal Poly football schedule that was released Thursday morning by athletic director Don Oberhelman and head coach Tim Walsh.
The Mustangs, who return 87 players from this year’s team that finished 4-7 overall, will begin next season on the road against Mountain West Conference opponent Nevada in Reno. It will be the sixth consecutive season Cal Poly has played an FBS-level school.
The Mustangs played San Diego State in 2011, Wyoming in 2012, Fresno State and Colorado State in 2013, New Mexico State in 2014 and Arizona State this past September.
Cal Poly will host San Diego in its home opener Sept. 10 — one of five home matchups on the 11-game schedule — and then close out nonconference play the following week with a trip to South Dakota State.
“It’s another challenging schedule,” Walsh said in the release. “Once again, we have 11 Division I games. We have chosen not to play Division II schools because we feel that playing only Division I teams is best in the development of our program.”
The Mustangs begin Big Sky Conference play Sept. 24 against Montana at Alex G. Spanos Stadium. Cal Poly won the 2015 meeting with the Grizzlies in Missoula, when freshman kicker Alex Vega made a game-winning 49-yard field goal. Montana regrouped in the second half of the season to reach the second round of the FCS playoffs, eventually falling to four-time defending national champion North Dakota State.
A trip to Grand Forks, N.D., is scheduled for Oct. 1 to play North Dakota, a team that handed the Mustangs their most lopsided loss of the season in the final game of 2015.
Cal Poly gets a bye the week of Oct. 8 and will be back on the road to play Portland State on Oct. 15.
Three of the Mustangs’ final five games will be played in San Luis Obispo, beginning with UC Davis and the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe on Oct. 22. The team will close out October with a trip north to play Sacramento State on Oct. 29.
Eastern Washington visits Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Nov. 5, and Cal Poly will play its final regular season road game Nov. 12 against Weber State in Ogden, Utah.
The Mustangs are scheduled to host Northern Colorado in the regular season finale Nov. 19.
Walsh said North Dakota, Weber State and Northern Colorado are “three of the best up-and-coming teams in the Big Sky.” Cal Poly will not play defending conference champion Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Montana State or Idaho State in 2016.
“Hopefully we will be up to the task against this schedule,” Walsh said, “and I look forward to competing for another Big Sky championship.”
Cal Poly 2016 Football Schedule
Sept. 3 at Nevada
Sept. 10 vs. San Diego
Sept. 17 at South Dakota State
Sept. 24 vs. Montana*
Oct. 1 at North Dakota*
Oct. 8 Bye
Oct. 15 at Portland State*
Oct. 22 vs. UC Davis*
Oct. 29 at Sacramento State*
Nov. 5 vs. Eastern Washington*
Nov. 12 at Weber State*
Nov. 19 vs. Northern Colorado*
*Big Sky Conference game