UIW’s presence bolsters schedule quality

Published 2:00 pm Friday, July 1, 2022

July 1 has come and Incarnate Word is officially staying in the Southland, making the conference much tougher.

The Cardinals change the outlook of this coming fall in a lot of ways. For one thing, every team’s schedule in the league will be tinkered and more arduous.

Also, the path to a championship may have taken a turn for the more challenging as well. McNeese State, for instance, will no longer be playing Nicholls State twice a season.

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Instead, the Cowboys will take on UIW, which in itself should be interesting. Last year, between the spring and fall seasons, the teams met three times with a lot of fireworks in each game.

There was the heated postgame exchange between head coaches in the spring after UIW threw for a late touchdown in a 48-20 win in Lake Charles.

That may have kicked off what is now a rivalry that seems to be growing.

In the fall the Cardinals and Cowboys split a pair of games as McNeese gave UIW its lone conference loss.

Of course, both head coaches are now gone, as are both starting quarterbacks. But last year the Cardinals admitted to using the McNeese program as a yardstick to how far they have come.

After winning the league title, the spike is on the other foot this season.

Incarnate Word also brings a third nationally ranked foe to the McNeese schedule. The Cardinals are ranked as high as No. 12 in one Football Championship Subdivision preseason poll.

Led by preseason all-American wide receiver Taylor Grimes, UIW is a program on the rise. Former Nicholls and LSU quarterback Lindsey Scott replaces Cam Ward behind center for the Cards.

McNeese will open the season against the No. 3 team in the country as the Cowboys travel to Montana State to begin the Gary Goff era.

Southeastern Louisiana is the third ranked team McNeese will play. The Lions are ranked somewhere in the twenties depending on which poll you follow.

That gives the Southland a better chance at getting two teams in the FCS playoffs. Both Southeastern and UIW not only made the national playoffs last season but won a game.

Hope is that with the Cardinals staying the league will benefit in the long run. If nothing else, it makes the schedule of the other SLC teams that much more difficult.