Bowling Green, Ky. — The Western Kentucky University football team will not waste any time challenging itself as it begins a two-year transition period to the NCAA Division I-A (Football Bowl Subdivision) level, as the Hilltoppers will open the 2007 season with a game against defending national champion Florida on Sept. 1.
That will be the first of 12 contests for the Toppers in the fall, with half of those coming against other NCAA Division I-A schools. That includes three match-ups against future Sun Belt Conference opponents.
WKU’s game against UF — a 41-14 winner over previously top-ranked Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game in January — will mark the second time in as many years that the Hilltoppers will begin the season at a Southeastern Conference school after facing Georgia to kick off the 2006 campaign. The Tops have also played Auburn twice since 2003 as well.
The Toppers will open a three-game road stretch, all against FBS opponents, with a Sept. 20 (Thursday) date at Middle Tennessee. It will be the 58th meeting between the two schools, but first since 1991. WKU will also take on Mid-American Conference members Bowling Green on Sept. 29 and Ball State on Oct. 13 during that stretch.
And, the Hilltoppers will play host to Troy — last year’s Sun Belt champion and winner of the 2006 New Orleans Bowl — on Nov. 10 while closing out the season Nov. 24 at North Texas.
“We were looking for a balanced schedule as we began the transition, and I think we have been able to accomplish that with six games against Division I-A opponents,” said Dr. Wood Selig, WKU Director of Athletics. “We’re excited that the defending Sun Belt champion will be visiting Bowling Green — I think that is a positive sign in regards to the types of schools we will be able to play at home once we have completed the transition. With the competition we’ve lined up for this fall, our fans can look forward to seeing WKU play an annual schedule that includes some of the best teams not just in the region, but in the country.”
The Tops will face West Virginia Tech Sept. 8 in the first of five home games in the fall, while the 84th edition of the “Battle of the Bluegrass” against Eastern Kentucky will take place the following Saturday. North Carolina Central will visit Smith Stadium on Oct. 27, with Morehead State the opponent on Senior Day Nov. 17.
Other WKU road games include trips to Indiana State on Oct. 20 and Chattanooga on Nov. 3.
All game times will be announced at a later date.
“We are excited about our 2007 schedule. This is obviously the most challenging schedule in the history of WKU football with six I-A programs as well as the six non-I-A schools that are all quality programs,” Topper head coach David Elson said. “These are both historical and changing times for WKU football. Our staff and players are extremely excited about leading the program into the future as a I-A institution and look forward to seeing our fans at Smith Stadium this fall for five exciting home games highlighted by “The Battle of the Bluegrass” as well as defending Sun Belt Conference champion Troy.
“It will be an exciting atmosphere as we unveil our new state-of-the-art video replay scoreboard, and as we literally see the new side of Smith Stadium rise out of the ground as we raise our program to new heights at the I-A level.”
The Hilltoppers begin their transition period having posted a winning record 11 years in a row after concluding the 2006 season with a 6-5 mark. They will be eligible to compete for the SBC title and a bowl berth beginning in 2009.