I don't mean to get ahead of myself, but I'm going to do exactly that.
The 2020 college football season is far from a sure thing to start on time, with COVID-19 still making its presence felt throughout the country. But the signs are slowly moving into place for the season to start when it is scheduled to in August, with football and basketball players being given the go ahead to get back on campus for voluntary workouts starting in June.
Because of that, I will take this one sliver of hope and talk about the McNeese State football schedule. To be honest, it's not the most exciting schedule. The Cowboys won't travel any farther than about 3 hours away from Lake Charles for any road game, and there won't be any postseason because of NCAA academic sanctions.
That's not to say there aren't any good games with tasty stories and subplots. So in today's column, I will rank the McNeese football schedule from 1-11, with one being the game I'm most intrigued by, and 11 being the least. There are a few factors going into the rankings such as location, stadium, how good I expect the opponent to be, and any other variables.
With all that being said, on to the rankings.
1 Sept. 5 at Louisiana-Lafayette: This one is obvious, right? With no possibility of playoff football this season, this will be McNeese's playoff game. The players and coaching staff may not feel that way, especially because it is the season opener. But older Cowboys fans will absolutely be juiced for this matchup. I predict that, if the Ragin' Cajuns allow fans into Cajun Field to attend the game, it will be sold out to whatever the capacity is, or at least close.
On the field, the Cajuns will be heavily favored, but a McNeese win will put first-year head coach Frank Wilson in the good graces of Cowboys fans forever.
2 Oct. 24 at Sam Houston State: I think the Bearkats, health permitting, should be a playoff team. So with McNeese going on the road to play a team I think will be that good, this game will probably be the Cowboys' toughest against an Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
I have also never covered a game at Bowers Stadium, one of two remaining Southland Conference football venues I can say that about. Hopefully the atmosphere is decent and the game can match.
3 Sept. 12 vs. Northern Colorado: It's McNeese's home opener and the battle of two coaches in their first season at their respective schools (Wilson for McNeese and former Denver Bronco wide receiver Ed McCaffrey for UNC). This should be a winnable game for the Cowboys, but we also don't know how much Northern Colorado has improved. Even with that, it should be tough for a team to come down into the Louisiana early September heat and humidity and play in an atmosphere like Cowboy Stadium.
4 Oct. 3 vs. Central Arkansas: The Bears will come to town as one of the favorites to win the SLC and at least earn a spot in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. It will be a good test to see how McNeese stacks up with the upper echelon of the conference.
5 Oct. 31 vs. Stephen F. Austin: This is the "Postseason Ban Bowl" as poor NCAA Academic Progress Rate scores will keep both teams at home and on the couch when the playoffs start.
In all seriousness, it could be a competitive game, as I do believe SFA will improve under second-year head coach Colby Carthel. The Lumberjacks gave McNeese all it could handle for three quarters last season before the Cowboys scored 20 consecutive points for a 33-10 victory.
6 Nov. 7 vs. Nicholls State: The Colonels lost a lot of generational talent to graduation, but they got another potential program-changing quarterback when Lindsey Scott transferred in from Missouri last season. I think Nicholls takes a step back from its dominance of the past few seasons, but it will still be a good team. This very well could be to see who finishes higher in the standings, and a McNeese win could also very well knock the Colonels out of playoff contention.
7 Nov. 21 vs. Lamar: The season finale against a rival, that alone gives the game some intrigue. That being said, I don't know how good the Cardinals will be. I'm trying to come up with reasons to put this game higher, but I just can't right now.
8 Sept. 19 vs. Abilene Christian: It's McNeese's conference opener, and its last three games against ACU have been separated by no more than one possession. There's no reason to think it won't be a good game, but there's no real pizazz about it. At least I don't have to make that long drive to Abilene, though.
9 Sept. 26 at Southeastern Louisiana: Some of the juicy backstory was taken away from this game when former McNeese head coach Lance Guidry left his defensive coordinator role at SLU to go to Florida Atlantic. I believe the Lions take a step back from what they were last season.
10 Nov. 14 at Northwestern State: I hate making the drive through the forest to go to Natchitoches. The last time I was in Turpin Stadium, it was quite cold and McNeese lost in overtime, breaking a long winning streak against the Demons. At least that game was entertaining.
11 Oct. 10 at Houston Baptist: Just like ULL was a no-brainer for the top of the list, HBU is the exact same for the bottom. Husky Stadium is the other SLC football stadium in which I have yet to cover a game, but I'm not planning on a crazy atmosphere. I also don't think HBU will be any good. This is about as close to a guaranteed win as the Cowboys will have. I might go to the CVS next to the stadium afterward.
David Berry covers McNeese State athletics. Email him at email@example.com