We are surprisingly at the end of the season and with it comes this year’s last power rankings as we are headed to the playoffs.
There’s a three-way tie for first place in the Big Sky and it’s going to take a lot of math to figure it out, depending on what the win-loss standings look like come Saturday. The last three teams standing are Northern Arizona, Southern Utah and Weber State with the Lumberjacks and Thunderbirds cancelling each other out come this weekend. There’s a high chance that there will be co-champs for the 2017 season, but there’s also a scenario where one team can take all of the bragging rights.
If SUU and WSU both win, they will be co-champs.
If NAU and WSU both win, they will be co-champs.
If WSU loses, the winner of the SUU-NAU game will be the Big Sky champion.
All three teams seemed to be poised to get to the FCS playoffs regardless with Montana possibly getting the BSC’s fourth spot with a win over rival Montana State. And Eastern Washington will also have a chance for a fifth BSC spot with a victory over Portland State but may need some help elsewhere to get in.
1. (1) Southern Utah (8-2 overall, 6-1 BSC)
Last week: Beat UC-Davis 47-27 on the road
This week: vs. Northern Arizona at home
The Thunderbirds are one game away from winning their second conference championship in three years. If Southern Utah can defend its turf and pull out a win versus Northern Arizona, it will win at minimum a share of the Big Sky crown, as well as earn the league’s automatic bid to the FCS Playoffs. The Thunderbirds have won the last three meetings against NAU and hope to make it four on Saturday.
2. (2) Weber State (8-2, 6-1)
Last week: Beat Portland State 63-17 on the road
This week: vs. Idaho State
With a win on Saturday, the Wildcats will get a share of the conference title with either Southern Utah or Northern Arizona. Quarterback Stefan Cantwell has been consistent for the Wildcats, while the Weber State special teams unit continues to keep them in the game. Weber State has its eyes set on not only the league title but a spot in the FCS Playoffs for the second straight season.
3. (3) Northern Arizona (7-3, 6-1)
Last week: Beat Montana State 37-36 at home
This week: at Southern Utah
Northern Arizona hits the road to Southern Utah, as it is returning to the field after a very narrow win over Montana State at home last week. A win over the Thunderbirds would give NAU its first Big Sky title since 2003. It’s simple. NAU wins and it has guaranteed itself a least a share of the title. To do that, NAU will count on sophomore quarterback Case Cookus and senior wide receiver Elijah Marks to lead the Lumberjacks to a title. NAU hasn’t beaten the Thunderbirds since 2013. Coincidentally, it was on the road at Southern Utah and it was the last time NAU advanced to the playoffs.
4. (4) Montana (7-3, 5-2)
Last week: Beat Northern Colorado 44-14 at home
This week at Montana State
Montana is up for the challenge this weekend with a game in Bozeman for the Brawl of the Wild. Led by quarterback Gresch Jensen, who made his return to the field last week, the Griz are in the hunt for their third consecutive win, after beating Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado in its last two outings. Guiding the defense is linebacker Josh Buss as one of the nation’s top defensive players. The all-time series versus the Bobcats is 71-38-5 in favor of Montana. Montana State won the outing last year, 24-17.
5. (5) Eastern Washington (6-4, 5-2)
Last week Beat North Dakota 21-14 on the road
This week: vs. Portland State
After a couple suspensions to some key personnel, the Eagles are coming off of a 21-14 road victory at North Dakota. The Eagles will look to close out the season versus the Vikings with a win in hopes of improving their chances of an at-large bid to the FCS Playoffs. EWU won the meeting over PSU last season, 35-28.
6. (6) Sacramento State (6-4, 5-2)
Last week: Beat Cal Poly 49-14 on the road
This week: vs. UC-Davis
Sacramento State is eying win No. 7 if it can get past UC Davis at home this week. Quarterback Kevon Thomson returned for the Hornets after missing a few games due to an injury. It was like he didn’t miss a beat, as he led Sacramento State to a 49-14 win against Cal Poly. Thomson threw for 247 yards and a trio of touchdowns in the victory. Next up for the Hornets is a game versus a pass heavy UC Davis team. UC Davis leads the all-time series, 45-19, including a 48-30 win over Sacramento State last season.
7. (8) Montana State (4-6, 4-3)
Last week: Lost to Northern Arizona 37-36 on the road
This week: vs. Montana
If there’s a game this season that fans in the state of Montana look forward to, it’s always the Brawl of the Wild, this time taking place in Bozeman. The Bobcats had a chance to beat Northern Arizona last week on a two-point conversion that did not go their way. Now its focus is on its rival Montana. The Bobcats defeated Montana last year in the Brawl of the Wild, 24-17, and look to do the same this weekend. Quarterback Chris Murray is second in the Big Sky in rushing yards with 1,025, as his versatility is a hard matchup for opponents to prepare for.
8. (9) Idaho State (4-6, 2-5)
Last week: Bye
This week at Weber State
The Bengals had an extra week off to prepare for their rival in Weber State. The ultimate prize would be getting a strong road win this weekend and keep their rival from likely getting a playoff seed.
9. (8) UC-Davis (5-5, 3-4)
Last week: Lost to Southern Utah 47-27 at home
This week: at Sacramento State
UC Davis will play at Sacramento State this weekend to close out its regular season. The Aggies control the all-time series, 45-19, including a 48-30 win over Sacramento State in 2016. Sophomore Jake Maier is the only quarterback in the Big Sky to eclipse the 3,000-yard passing mark, while his passing yards has him listed in the Top 10 in the FCS. Wide receiver Keelan Doss is the league leader in receiving yards with hopes of tallying another 100-yard receiving performance come Saturday.
10. (10) North Dakota (3-8, 2-6)
Last week: Lost to Eastern Washington 21-14 at home
This week: Bye
North Dakota completed its last official BSC season last week. The Fighting Hawks struggled throughout the season with injuries to key players, including preseason defensive player of the year Cole Reyes. North Dakota was picked to finish first in the Big Sky – it finished with a 3-8 overall and 2-6 conference record. Running back John Santiago had a strong season for the Fighting Hawks ranking in the top 3 in the FCS in all-purpose yards per game.
11. (11) Northern Colorado (2-7, 1-6)
Last week: Lost to Montana 44-14 on the road
This week vs. Cal Poly
Northern Colorado fell to Montana 44-14 last week, picking up touchdowns in the first and fourth quarters. Anthony Davis busted on the scene with 102 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Frank Stevens had 98 receiving yards on six catches. The Bears host Cal Poly this weekend. The Mustangs are in search of their second win of the season, while Northern Colorado looks to break a six-game skid. Cal Poly has the 10-2 edge in the all-time series, including a seven-point win over the Bears last year.
12. (12) Cal Poly (1-9, 1-6)
Last week: Lost to Sacramento State 49-14 at home
This week: at Northern Colorado
The last time Cal Poly played Northern Colorado it won 55-48 in 2016. The Mustangs plan to repeat that victory this weekend when they head to Greeley. Cal Poly hasn’t had the season head coach Tim Walsh has hoped for, but there is still a chance for the Mustangs to end the season with a win. Running back Jared Mohamed has been a force on the ground for the Mustangs, eclipsing the 1,000-yard rushing mark with 1,065 yards to lead the Big Sky.
13. (13) Portland State (0-10, 0-7)
Last week: Lost to Weber State 63-17 at home
This week at Eastern Washington
Although the season has not turned out anything like head coach Bruce Barnum has hoped, there is a bright spot for the Vikings with the play of Davis Alexander at the quarterback spot. In Davis’ last two games he has thrown for over 300 yards to guide the Vikings’ offense. Receiver Darnell Adams was his top target in the last game collecting six receptions for 137 yards. The Vikings are set to play at Eastern Washington and will try to spoil the Eagles’ playoff chances.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football in the western half of the United States– the Big Sky Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
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