Two FBS Power 5s, Ax Game in Regular Season Finale Highlight 2023 Football Schedule for Thunderbirds

Two FBS Power 5s, Ax Game in Regular Season Finale Highlight 2023 Football Schedule for Thunderbirds

Featured Image Courtesy of Southern Utah Athletics

CEDAR CITY, Utah — Last week, Southern Utah’s 2023 football schedule was announced. The Thunderbirds will compete in a unified Atlantic Sun-Western Athletic Conference in 2023. One automatic bid will be awarded to the FCS playoffs among the nine teams here. SUU will play all full members of the WAC as well as two teams from the Atlantic Sun.

Early Paydays

SUU’s season opens with two straight games against FBS competition, both against Power 5 opponents. For the second time in three seasons, they will travel down to Tempe, Arizona on August 31st to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils of the Pac-12. That game will take place on the Thursday night of Week 1 just as their most recent meeting in 2021. On September 9th, they will head up north to face in-state opponent BYU. The Cougars will be playing their first season in the Big 12. This will be the second meeting all-time for the Thunderbirds against both teams.


Before the Thunderbirds can play their first game of the year at Eccles Coliseum, they will travel to face an old Big Sky Conference opponent. SUU will face UC Davis on September 16th for the first game of a three-game series with the Aggies. The series continues in 2024 in Cedar City and ends in 2025 in Davis. The Thunderbirds will finally play in front of their home crowd on September 23rd when Western Illinois visits for the rubber game of a home-and-home series. Last year’s game resulted in a 17-10 Thunderbird win in Macomb, Illinois.


Conference play begins the following week with a visit from Central Arkansas. After that, the Thunderbirds will head to Texas to face Tarleton State. Following a bye week, another Atlantic Sun Conference opponent comes to town in Austin Peay. The Governors were one of the first teams left out of the FCS playoffs last season and will look to get back there this season. That is the first of a three game homestand that continues with Abilene Christian and then NAIA member Lincoln University. Two road games will close out the season for the Thunderbirds.


Before the Thunderbirds can attempt to bring the Ax back to Cedar City, they will go on the road to Stephen F Austin. The Lumberjacks use the rally cry, “axe em”. This is quite fitting considering who SUU closes out the regular season with. 45 minutes and 51 miles of Interestate 15 separate the heated rivals. By the time the two teams get together on November 18th, the Trailblazers will have held the ax for 368 days, more than 8 times as long as SUU held it. They will be determined to not leave St George without the Ax as that was the only game against an FCS opponent the Thunderbirds lost by more than one possession. This is an area where SUU struggled heavily last season going 1-4 in such games.

A Few Plays Away

Second year head coach Delane Fitzgerald uses the motto “focus, fight, finish”. Can the Thunderbirds use the third word in that motto as a focal point this season? That will go a long way in determining SUU’s success in 2023. Getting some of those games to go the other way would have given SUU a great opportunity to make the playoffs last year. In 2023, they will look to right the ship on that front and play in the postseason for the first time since 2017.

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