CSJ’s 2018 Week 1 Game Preview: Northern Iowa at Montana

Northern Iowa at Montana
When: Saturday, September 1st, 7:00 PM MDT
Where: Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Missoula, MT
TV/Streaming Coverage: ABC/SWX Montana, Altitude2/ Montana Web

Northern Iowa: CSJ’s 2018 Preview Capsule

Northern Iowa tries to get off to a fast start–something that the Panthers are notorious for not doing but then finishing strong and squeaking into the FCS playoffs.

Also,  UNI is winless in six meetings against Montana. The Panthers are 0-4 all-time in Missoula. Although one of the Montana wins was vacated–the 2011 playoff game in Missoula.

Key Player: DE Rickey Neal Jr.,  who led the Missouri Valley in sacks last season, should have a key game upfront as the Montana offensive line is very inexperienced.  He will also try to help his own youthful defense as behind that front, guys like Blake Thomas, Chris Kolarevic, Roosevelt Lawrence and Austin Evans will be making their first career starts in the linebackering and defensive backfield.

Fantasy Bonus Baby: QB Eli Dunn may have a very good statistical game in the passing game.  Last year, he threw for  2,704 yards last year and with a young Grizzly defense, he should be able to find several open receivers.

Montana: CSJ’s 2018 Preview Capsule

Montana welcomes back Coach Bobby Hauck in this game in what should be nearly 25,000 faithful in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.  Hauck generated an 80-14 record in his first stint as Montana’s head coach, leading the Grizzlies to three FCS championship games. He left after the 2009 season to become head coach at UNLV.

Montana is 5-2 all-time against teams from the Hawkeye State, with all five wins coming over Northern Iowa. The only two losses have been against the Big 10’s Iowa.

Key Player: LB Josh Buss has the question of if he will or if he will not play.  If Buss does not play, Montana will open the game with three new starters at linebacker.  Buss was the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year last year but has been nursing an undisclosed injury and the senior is needed for some leadership on a youthful defense.

Fantasy Bonus Baby: QB Dalton Sneed will make his first Division-I start since October 29 of 2016 when he started for UNLV against San Jose State. Sneed started in four games for the Rebels that year, leading them to a pair of wins over Fresno State and Hawai’i  and has an ability to both pass and run.  He broke a UNLV school and Sam Boyd Stadium record with a 91-yard touchdown run – the longest offensive play in Rebel history – narrowly avoiding being sacked in the end zone for a safety.  He posted the second-most total offensive yards on the team that season, passing for 632 yards and rushing for 348 more for a total of 980 total yards in nine games, an average of 108.9 per game.

Fearless Prediction: All the statistics say that Montana should win this one having never lost to the Panthers and actually two years ago defeated UNI in Cedar Falls.  And the fact that UNI typically starts seasons slow.  But with so many question marks for the Griz, UNI looks like a more complete team coming into this one.  This game that is the only one to match two Top 25 ranked FCS teams will likely go to the final minutes before being decided but UNI winning by a field goal Northern Iowa 34, Montana 31

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