The Big Sky title race appears to be down to four teams, with two of them facing off this week. Surprisingly, that game isn’t Montana vs. Eastern Washington, which would have been the preseason pick for the game of the year. While Grizzly-Eagle match-up might have more national appeal and could have some major playoff implications, it’s North Dakota vs. Weber State that will be the game of the week this week in a battle of conference unbeaten teams in Grand Forks Saturday.
Here are the College Sports Journal’s Big Sky Conference Power Rankings for the week of 10/18/2016. (Last week’s ranking in parenthesis).
1. (1) Eastern Washington (6-1, 4-0)
Last week: Beat Montana State 41-17 on the road
This Week: vs. Montana
The Eagles had another impressive offensive performance on the road in Bozeman last week. This match-up this week against the Griz for the Eagles looks like the toughest left in the regular season.
2. (2) North Dakota (6-2, 5-0)
Last week: Beat Idaho State 28-21 on the road
This Week: vs. Weber State
It is still tough for me to say the Fighting Hawks as UND’s nickname but this team has been on a roll since losing its first two games. UND has rolled off six straight wins and is right in the mix to win the BSC. The six wins in a row are a Division I record for the school and equaled the feat it last is saw in 2007 as a DII member.
3. (3) Cal Poly (5-2, 3-1)
Last week: Beat UC Davis, 21-16 at home
This Week: at Sacramento State
Cal Poly survived its first rivalry game in winning the Golden Horseshoe. Now, the Mustangs face another California rival in Sacramento State on the road. The Mustangs continue to lead the Big Sky in rushing offense, averaging 347.9 rushing yards per game. Joe Protheroe leads the Big Sky in rushing, with 125.5 yards per game.
4. (5) Weber State (5-2, 4-0)
Last week: Beat Southern Utah 37-36 on the road
This Week: at North Dakota
The Wildcats started the season 0-2 and now have rolled off five straight victories. Getting a sixth might be tough in Grand Forks. Coach Jay Hill, however, has won his only two match-ups with UND in the past.
5. (4) Montana (5-2, 2-2)
Last week: Lost to Northern Arizona 45-34 on the road
This Week: at Eastern Washington
The Griz couldn’t solve NAU last week on the road. Can this road test in Cheney be better? Montana can take solace in that it beat EWU last year big 57-16. It is doubtful it will be this lopsided this year though.
6. (7) Northern Arizona (4-4, 3-2)
Last week: Beat Montana 45-34 at home
This Week: Bye
Quarterback Case Cookus, the sophomore sensation, was lost for the season due to injury. His backup in Blake Kemp started off slow but has really picked it up lately. It could be too late for the NAU after starting the season so poorly, but NAU has reeled off three straight wins and just handed the Griz a humbling defeat.
7. (8) Northern Colorado (4-3, 2-2)
Last week: Beat Sacramento State 27-19 at home
This Week: at Portland State
The Bears are still in playoff contention and what looked like a likely loss to begin this season may just be a victory in Oregon’s largest city this week. UNC defeated Sacramento State last week in Greeley.
8. (6) Southern Utah (3-4, 2-3)
Last week: Lost to Weber State 37-36 at home
This Week: at Idaho State
The Thunderbirds had a 36-14 lead at home against rival Weber State, before allowing 23 points in the final eight minutes to against their in-state rival. SUU will look to turn it around this week and gain its first road victory in Pocatello this week against the Bengals.
9. (9) Portland State (2-5, 1-3)
Last week: Bye
This Week: vs. Northern Colorado
The Vikings continue to slide. The big reason for last year’s success was the turnover margin. This year, PSU is last in the league in turnover margin (-1.43). This is the big reason PSU is not at the same level as last year.
10. (10) UC Davis (2-6, 1-4)
Last week: Lost to Cal Poly 21-16 on the road
This Week: Bye
The Aggies started off well last week in gaining an early 6-0 lead after a 61-yard fumble recovery touchdown but could not hang on. UC Davis gets its bye week at a good time.
11. (11) Idaho State (2-5, 1-3)
Last week: Lost to North Dakota 28-21 at home
This Week: vs. Southern Utah
The Bengals made a late charge after training 28-14, scoring with 1:23 left to cut the score to 28-21. However, UND was able to kill the clock after an on-side kick. One stat that Idaho State can take pride in is that Mario Jenkins leads the Big Sky in tackles per-game, with ten per game.
12. (12) Sacramento State (1-7, 1-4)
Last week: Lost to Northern Colorado 27-19 on the road
This Week: vs. Cal Poly
The Hornets are last in the Big Sky in scoring, averaging 18.5 points per game. Sac State is also last in total defense, allowing 500 yards per game. Sac State coach Jody Sears is 0-4 all-time against Cal Poly. This week does not look good for the Hornets.
13. (13) Montana State (2-6, 0-5)
Last week: Lost to Eastern Washington 41-17 at home
This Week: Bye
Montana State took a 17-14 lead early in the second quarter over EWU. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, they wouldn’t score again, as the Eagles closed the game on a 27-0 run, to pick up a valuable road win. MSU gets its bye this week to try to get ready for its last three games.