If the Southeast Missouri State football team is to improve on last year's 3-8 record, it won't come from a helpful schedule.
The Redhawks' schedule released Tuesday features three nonconference opponents -- one Division I-A school and two I-AA schools that had winning records last year -- in addition to the usual eight Ohio Valley Conference foes.
Southeast's 11-game slate includes five home games, including a Thursday night opener Sept. 1 against powerful Southern Illinois.
SIU was the nation's top-ranked Division I-AA team for most of last season and ended the postseason No. 9 in both major polls. The Salukis went 10-2 and rolled to the Gateway Conference title at 7-0.
The Redhawks then take on their only Division I-A opponent -- after playing two last year -- when they visit Kent State on Sept. 10. The Golden Flashes from Ohio were 5-6 a year ago, including 4-4 in the Mid-American Conference.
Southeast completes its nonconference schedule at Missouri State -- formerly Southwest Missouri State -- on Sept. 17. The Bears were 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the Gateway Conference last year. The squads had played each other six straight seasons before not meeting last year.
"Those are three very tough nonconference games," Southeast coach Tim Billings said. "But last year we had to play two I-A schools and this year we only have one, so that's good.
"It's good to have Missouri State back on the schedule because it's a great rivalry, and to play regional rival and highly touted Southern Illinois at home will be big for our fans."
The Redhawks, 3-5 in OVC play last year, have their first conference game on Sept. 24 when two-time defending champion Jacksonville State (9-2, 7-1) visits Houck Stadium for a Family Weekend contest.
Other OVC home dates are the Hall of Fame game with Eastern Illinois (5-6, 4-4) on Oct. 8, the Homecoming contest with Murray State (7-4, 6-2) on Oct. 29 and a matchup with Tennessee State (4-7, 2-5) on Nov. 12.
Conference road games are with Samford (4-7, 3-5) on Oct. 1, Eastern Kentucky (6-5, 6-2) on Oct. 22, Tennessee-Martin (2-9, 1-7) on Nov. 5 and Tennessee Tech (6-5, 3-4) in the finale on Nov. 19.
* Sept. 1 -- Southern Illinois, 6 p.m.
* Sept. 10 -- at Kent State, 3 p.m.
* Sept. 17 -- at Missouri State, 6 p.m.
* Sept. 24 -- Jacksonville State*, 6 p.m.
* Oct. 1 -- at Samford*, TBD
* Oct. 8 -- Eastern Illinois*, 6 p.m.
* Oct. 22 -- at Eastern Kentucky*, TBD
* Oct. 29 -- Murray State*, 1 p.m.
* Nov. 5 -- at Tennessee-Martin*, TBD
* Nov. 12 -- Tennessee State*, 1 p.m.
* Nov. 19 -- at Tennessee Tech*, TBD
* -- Ohio Valley Conference game
* Dropped from last year's schedule: Bowling Green, Central Michigan
* Newcomers to schedule: Kent State, Missouri State
* Homecoming game: Oct. 29