San Luis Obispo, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - When Cal Poly announced its 2015 football schedule last summer, the Mustangs probably thought Idaho State might provide a breather in the first half of the season.
That's not even the case anymore after Idaho State's breakout campaign a year ago.
Cal Poly's first six games provide the toughest opening stretch for any FCS program this year. It's saying something that Idaho State, which is coming off an 8-4 record and figures to be a preseason Top 25 team this year, may still be the easiest opponent on paper.
"We have our work cut out for us, no question," Cal Poly coach Tim Walsh said about the schedule, which also includes four 2014 FCS playoff qualifiers and a 10-win FBS program in the opening stretch.
The Mustangs, who were 7-5 last year and led the FCS in rushing yards per game for a second consecutive season, will open their new campaign on Sept. 5 at Big Sky power Montana (9-5 last year), although the game won't count toward either team's conference record. The matchup was moved up from an original date of Oct. 17.
The Mustangs then head to Pac-12 member Arizona State (10-3) on Sept. 12.
That game is followed by their home opener on Sept. 19 against Missouri Valley Football Conference power Northern Iowa (9-5).
Next up are Cal Poly's first three Big Sky games - Sept. 26 at Montana State (8-5), Oct. 3 at home against Idaho State (8-4) and Oct. 10 at Eastern Washington (11-3), the three-time defending conference champion.
At least the Mustangs can come up for air during a bye on Oct. 17. They'll need it.