(STATS) - Defending Big South Conference champion Charleston Southern has bulked up its non-conference schedule with an eye toward making another splash in the FCS playoffs.
Before they move into conference play, the Buccaneers' schedule - announced Monday - will include road games against five-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State (Aug. 27) in the third annual FCS Kickoff, FBS national power Florida State (Sept. 10), and transitioning FBS member and former Big South rival Coastal Carolina (Oct. 1).
Charleston Southern is 28-10 (with only five FCS losses) in coach Jamey Chadwell's first three seasons, and last year was the Bucs' best season yet as they swept through the Big South and reached the FCS playoffs for the first time. They defeated crosstown rival The Citadel before falling at Jacksonville State in the national quarterfinals, finishing 10-3 and ranked No. 6 in the STATS FCS Top 25.
The 2016 schedule includes six home games - against Division II opponents Kentucky State (Sept. 3) and Albany State (Oct. 8), Bucknell (Oct. 29) and Big South members Presbyterian (Oct. 22), Gardner-Webb (Nov. 5) and Kennesaw State (Nov. 19).
Charleston Southern also has conference road games against Monmouth (Sept. 24) and Liberty (Nov. 12).
The Bucs return significant talent. Junior quarterback Kyle Copeland has competed to take over the team's No. 1 duties, and some pressure will be taken off the new signal caller with the return of a veteran offensive line and a deep rushing attack featuring seniors Darius Hammond and Mike Holloway.
While the defense lost a number of key players, the unit was one of the best in the FCS last season. All-Big South defensive end Anthony Ellis, a junior, is the top returning player.
2016 Charleston Southern Schedule
Aug. 27, at North Dakota State
Sept. 3, Kentucky State
Sept. 10, at Florida State
Sept. 24, at Monmouth*
Oct. 1, at Coastal Carolina
Oct. 8, Albany State
Oct. 22, Presbyterian*
Oct. 29, Bucknell*
Nov. 5, Gardner-Webb*
Nov. 12, at Liberty*
Nov. 19, Kennesaw State*
* - Big South game