WKU's first season in the Mike Sanford will begin with a rivalry renewed.
Western Kentucky will kick off the 2017 season on Sept. 2 at Houchens-Smith Stadium when it hosts in-state rival Eastern Kentucky. The meeting will mark the first since 2008 and will be the 85th contest between the two programs. The Hilltoppers, winners of two straight and 11 of the last 15 versus the Colonels, lead the overall series 46-35-3.
WKU will travel to Champaign, Ill., the following weekend to face Illinois. This will be just the second meeting between the two, with the Illini winning a 2014 game 42-34.
A home game against Ball State and a road game at Vanderbilt complete the Hilltoppers out of conference slate. Ball State leads the series 1-2, with the last meeting coming in 2007. Vanderbilt, which won 31-30 in Bowling Green last fall, leads the series 4-1.
The Conference USA schedule will begin on Sept. 16 with a visit from Louisiana Tech. The game will serve as a rematch of the 2016 C-USA title game won by Western Kentucky. The series between the two league rivals is split 4-4.
The Hilltoppers will also host league games against Charlotte, Florida Atlantic and rival Middle Tennessee. WKU will face its first league road test with an Oct. 7 trip to UTEP. It'll also travel to Old Dominion and Marshall before closing the regular season at Florida International on Nov. 25.
Sept. 2 - EASTERN KENTUCKY
Sept. 9 - at Illinois
Sept. 16 - LOUISIANA TECH*
Sept. 23 - BALL STATE
Sept. 30 - Bye
Oct. 7 - at UTEP*
Oct. 14 – CHARLOTTE*
Oct. 21 - at Old Dominion*
Oct. 28 - FLORIDA ATLANTIC*
Nov. 4 - at Vanderbilt
Nov. 11 - at Marshall*
Nov. 18 - MIDDLE TENNESSEE*
Nov. 25 - at FIU*
Home games in ALL CAPS
* - indicates Conference USA game