ORONO, Maine — If the University of Maine’s football team is going to have a successful campaign, it is going to have to survive a daunting five-game stretch to open the season.

“I’ve played and coached in the (Colonial Athletic Association) and I’ve never seen a schedule like this,” said UMaine offensive coordinator and former University of Massachusetts quarterback Liam Coen.

“If you’re a recruit, this would be a good place to come and play because we play the best competition in the country,” said Coen.

“It’s a blessing. It’s why I came up here … for the competition,” said senior offensive tackle Jamil Demby.

UMaine’s first three CAA games are all on the road and all are against teams that made the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs a year ago, including defending national champion James Madison University of Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Their fourth game is in Orlando, Florida, against the University of Central Florida, a Football Bowl Subdivision team.

The one game among the first five in which the Black Bears are likely to be favored is against visiting Bryant University of Smithfield, Rhode Island. Bryant led the Black Bears 21-0 and 31-14 a year ago before the Black Bears rallied for a 35-31 win in Orono.

UMaine will open against arch-rival New Hampshire in Durham, New Hampshire at 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug, 31. UNH, 8-5 a year ago, is 37-17 over the past four seasons and have the longest current FCS playoff streak of 13 consecutive years.

Bryant, 5-6 a year ago, is next on Sept. 9.

Following a week off, the Black Bears will travel to James Madison on Sept. 23 to take on the Dukes, who went 14-1 a year ago and will bring a 12-game winning streak into the season. JMU won its four FCS playoff games by a combined 175-60. JMU has made three straight playoff appearances and is 38-14 over the past four seasons.

On Sept, 30, the Black Bears will head to Orlando to take on a UCF team that went 6-7 and played in the Autonation Cure Bowl game under first-year coach Scott Frost. UCF was 0-12 in 2015.

Capping off the rugged stretch is an Oct. 7 game at Villanova. Villanova has qualified for the playoffs twice in the past three years and is 26-12 over the last three campaigns.

“It’s going to be a tough one,” admitted UMaine second-year head coach Joe Harasymiak. “But it’s no different than last year when we opened with UConn, Toledo and James Madison.”

UConn and Toledo are FBS teams. UMaine is one of very few FCS teams that schedule two FBS games each year.

“We should be OK. Last year prepared us for this,” said Harasymiak. “Getting off to a fast start is important. That will be the key for us this year. Hopefully we can put ourselves in a good spot for the second half.”

The players are taking it in stride.

“The schedule seems to get tougher every year,” said senior cornerback Najee Goode. “But we take it as a challenge.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said senior wide receiver Jaleel Reed. “Opportunities like this don’t come that often so we’ve got to capitalize.

“We’ve played very well on the road. Coach always says it’s just us, the coaches and the trainers against everybody else. We’re always the underdogs and we’ve started to embrace it.”

UMaine was 4-2 on the road last season and 2-3 at home.

“This will be great exposure for our program and for our guys,” said Demby.

Graduate-student quarterback Max Staver said the coaches have been understandably running a tight ship because of the “daunting” early-season schedule, which requires them to be prepared right from the outset.

“That sets the tone for the rest of the season. They have preached to us the importance of those first five games,” said Staver.

“We don’t have any time to waste,” said redshirt junior quarterback Drew Belcher. “That’s why training camp is so important. UNH knocked us out of the playoffs last year. We’re ready to go. We’re hungry.”

“It’ll be nice to face the defending national champs early to see how we match up with them,” said sophomore running back Josh Mack. “Coach has worked his butt off to make sure we play the best teams in the country. This gives us a chance to display our talents and show people who don’t expect teams up north to be able to play ball that we can.”