Though Hampton will have to wait until 2019 to play a full conference football schedule in the Big South, the newly minted residents of the league will get a preview of what’s come during the 2018 season.
For the first time in several decades, Hampton will compete against conference opponents not affiliated with an HBCU.
The Pirates are scheduled to face Monmouth, Presbyterian and Charleston Southern during its transitional regular season.
While not the best the Big South has to offer, the schedule should prepare Hampton for what life will be like in the years to come.
Here’s a look at the mini Big South slate, from easiest to most challenging.
Saturday, Oct. 13
2017 record: 4-7 (1-4 Big South)
Presbyterian isn’t going to be a longstanding rival after the school announced that it would transition to the Pioneer League by 2021 on the heels of announcing it will no longer issue athletic scholarships.
The Blue Hose averaged just 16.5 points per game, which was good for 107th in the FCS last year. The defense wasn’t any better allowing a shade under 30 points per outing. And this was with 1,000-yard rusher Torrance Marable and starting quarterback Ben Cheek, who threw for 926 yards and four touchdowns a year ago but will not return in 2018.
The Pirates will face Presbyterian after it hosts SIAC opponent Lane (one of five HBCUs on the schedule) the previous week.
Not too many Hampton fans will get up for an opponent that is the Savannah State equivalent in a six-team league
2. Charleston Southern
Saturday, Sept. 29
2017 record: 6-5 (3-2 Big South)
The Buccaneers return eight starters on offense and six on defense under first-year head coach Mark Tucker.
The Pirates will be fortunate enough to face yet another Big South opponent that will trot out a relatively inexperienced quarterback. Junior London Johnson, who has thrown a total of 46 passes in his career, is expected to start in place of Shane Bucenell after he transferred in the offseason.
Saturday, Sept. 8
2017 record: 9-3 (4-1 Big South)
Monmouth made the FCS playoffs a year ago after posting a 9-win season. They return a combined 16 starters to a team that was picked to finish second in the Big South standings behind Kennesaw State.
The second week of the season will provide the first real test for Hampton. It will be a game that likely determines how far away the Pirates are from legitimately competing in the league in 2019 and beyond.