Willie Simmons wants his FAMU football program to embrace the challenge of playing tougher teams.
The Rattlers coach gets his wish in 2022.
FAMU's 11-game schedule, released Monday by the school, features games against North Carolina in Chapel Hill, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) champion Albany State, and MEAC/Celebration Bowl champion South Carolina State.
Additionally, the Rattlers must navigate their eight SWAC games, led by conference champion Jackson State in the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami and rival Bethune-Cookman in the annual Florida Classic in Orlando.
FAMU, which went 4-0 at Bragg Memorial Stadium last year, will play five home games in 2022.
"We feel we have one of the toughest schedules in all of FCS football this coming fall, but to be the best, you have to beat the best," Simmons said in a statement.
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FAMU finished 9-3 last season, capped by an FCS playoff berth.
The Rattlers open week zero Aug. 27 at North Carolina, which missed out on securing a third consecutive winning season under coach Mack Brown in 2021 at 6-7. UNC opened the season ranked among the top 10 nationally and picked to win the Coastal Division in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
(Week Zero is the opening week of college football games, even though a small number of games are played. The majority of teams open their season in "Week 1.")
FAMU will then travel to Miami for the Orange Blossom Classic against reigning SWAC champion Jackson State and coach Deion Sanders for the second consecutive year.
Jackson State edged the Rattlers 7-6 last year en route to an undefeated league mark (8-0) and an overall 11-2 record.
The Rattlers will return home for three straight home games against Albany State, Alabama A&M, and Mississippi Valley State.
FAMU then returns to the road at South Carolina State, which thumped Jackson State 31-10 in the Celebration Bowl, and at Grambling State.
The Rattlers will return to Bragg Memorial for their final two regular-season home games against Arkansas-Pine Bluff for homecoming Oct. 29 and Southern.
FAMU closes out its schedule at Alabama State and in Orlando against Bethune-Cookman.
The Rattlers are the visiting team in both Classics.
FAMU finished No. 24 in the final FCS Coaches poll in 2021. However, it ranked No.1 in an NCAA HBCU power rankings poll, declaring itself Black college football national champion.
Returning linebacker/defensive end Isaiah Land received the 2021 Stats Perform Buck Buchanan Award as the nation’s top defensive player.
2022 Florida A&M Football Schedule
Aug. 27 - at North Carolina (6-7 in 2021)
Sept. 4 - vs. Jackson State (11-2, Orange Blossom Classic in Miami)*
Sept. 10 - vs. Albany State (10-2)
Sept. 24 - vs. Alabama A&M* (7-3)
Oct. 1 - vs. Mississippi Valley State* (4-7)
Oct. 8 - at South Carolina State (7-5)
Oct. 15 - at Grambling State* (4-7)
Oct. 29 - vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-9, Homecoming)*
Nov. 5 - vs Southern* (4-7)
Nov. 12 - at Alabama State* (5-6)
Nov. 19 - Bethune-Cookman (2-9, Florida Classic, Orlando)*
Home games in bold
* SWAC games
FAMU honored 18 seniors at its recent banquet:
Ellrie Allen; Markquese Bell; Bishop Bonnett; Jalen Brayboy; Antwan Collier; Renaldo Flowers Jr.; Keenan Forbes; Troy Hilton; Chad Hunter; Jay Jackson-Williams; Chris Jerry; Christian Mastramico; Derrick Mayweather; Blake Simpson; Jalen Spady; Zoron Wade; Monroe Watson; Savion Williams.
This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: FAMU football schedule 2022 includes trip to North Carolina