Head coach Jason Swepson and the Elon football team will face an in-state opponent the first week of September, and will start the Southern Conference schedule facing the top three SoCon teams from 2011.

“I’m very excited, obviously,” Swepson said. “Opening up with (the University of) North Carolina, it’s going to be something that is going to be fun for our kids and our fans and the program in general, then starting the conference with the three top dogs. It will give us an indication of where we’re at.”

In his second season at the helm of the Phoenix ship, the former North Carolina State University assistant coach leads Elon against his old team’s rival Sept. 1 in Chapel Hill. North Carolina will be playing its first game with new head coach Larry Fedora.

Swepson said that game will provide a huge opportunity for recruiting.

“That’s probably the main reason, that in-state kids are going to see us playing Carolina,” he said. “We’re going to try to keep them on the schedule every four years so each class will play them at least once. That’s going to be our goal, and we’ll see if Carolina is up for that.”

The following two games are at home, with the Phoenix taking on North Carolina Central University Sept. 8 in the Hall of Fame game, and West Virginia State University Sept. 15.

Then Elon will take on those “top three dogs,” starting with 2011 SoCon champion Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, Ga. Sept. 22. The Phoenix returns home to face Wofford College Sept. 22 on Family Weekend at Elon, followed by a rematch of last year’s Nov. 19 finale against Appalachian State University.

Swepson said he is not particularly singling out the Oct. 6 matchup in Boone, but it is hard to ignore how much this game brings with it. Since entering the Southern Conference in 2003, the Phoenix has never beaten the Mountaineers in football.

“I’m excited for every game,” Swepson said. “All those games that we lost in conference, obviously, we want to right the ship. And the ones that we beat, we want to keep it that way.”

Following the ASU game, the Phoenix will enter their bye week. Last season, Swepson and his team suffered a late bye week, which negatively affected helping players return from injury. This year, he is happy with the placement.

“We can plan accordingly,” he said of the break that comes the week of Oct. 13. “With having a bye week in the middle of the season, we can have the option to pull a redshirt off a kid if we need to. I think the schedule is set up perfectly for us.”

At home, the Phoenix will then take on two SoCon teams it defeated last season. First up is Western Carolina University on Oct. 20 in the Homecoming game. The Catamounts are in their first season under new head coach Mark Speir, a former Elon assistant coach. Furman University comes to town Oct. 27 to try to avenge the 41-34 loss the Paladins suffered last season when they were ranked No. 19 in the nation.

The season wraps up for the Phoenix away at The Citadel Nov. 3, at home against Samford University Nov. 10 and against the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Nov. 17.

But the game on the docket right now is Sept. 1 against North Carolina, and Swepson recognizes the potential benefits of a win.

“We like to stay with good academic schools,” he said. “That kind of fits what we’re all about. We’re looking for a good fit and maybe a possible chance to win those games.”