This is a big week across the FCS as it is rivalry, make it or break it for playoffs, a chance to end on a high note for the regular season, or all of the above. The famous Brawl of the Wild holds an all of the above label as Montana State needs a win to secure their spot in and Montana needs a win for State pride in ending the three year losing streak. Montana will be seen as a power team no matter what, but the Bobcats will want to prove a point. The Big Sky Championship also is dependent upon the game as a three way tie is very possible.
Marquee: Montana vs. Montana State – Bozeman, MT – 12 pm MT
This game is huge. It is one of the top FCS rivalries of all time, decides in part who is the automatic qualifier, and could decide how high or if Montana State gets in. Montana State has the home field advantage and will need every bit of it as Montana’s play style will be harder to defend. The Bobcats rushing ability is a top force in the Big Sky, but the Griz have a sustainable passing attack and hard-working running back community. Even when Dalton Sneed went down Cam Humphrey was able and successful at finding Samuel Toure and company. The game should be fantastic through the first 40 minutes, but I expect the Griz to finally enact the revenge they have been building for three years of losses to the Bobcats.
Montana 38, Montana State 27
Southern Utah vs. North Dakota – Grand Forks, ND – 12 pm CT
Southern Utah was given a dim chance against NAU, yet they were equal to make a splash with a one point win. Again the Thunderbirds are against the odds and Grand Forks in the Alerus Center is a nasty place to play. It would be a Cinderella ending to a retched season if Southern Utah could spoil any last hopes of UND’s playoff chances. Nate Ketteringham and company will not go down without a fight as they have overcome a great deal just to be in the talks of playoffs. The Fightin’ Hawks will likely pull off a very physical win as they claw for one of the last possible at large bids a committee may consider them for with a win.
North Dakota 45, Southern Utah 33
Cal Poly vs. Northern Colorado – Greeley, CO – 12:05 pm MT
This game may be the most unpredictable on the schedule as these two teams had a few ups and a whole lot of downs during their year. Cal Poly suffered greatly this season without their stars from last year. In 2018, the Cal Poly running game was a force to behold and simply hope to stop. This year the run game is still apparent, but with a deep lack in explosiveness. Northern Colorado had a deep roster turnover with new faces in abundance this year. That along with a new offensive coordinator should have made things go more smoothly, but things just did not add up that way in many games. Blame it on coaching or young talent or Jacob Knipp’s sixth year being a year too many. Choose which excuse you may, but the Bears have done the best with what they have to get this far. Earnest Collins could really use another win in his book as only one more year remains on his contract and locals are tired of waiting for the success the Bears had in DII to return.
UNC 31, Cal Poly 30
Idaho vs. Northern Arizona – Flagstaff, AZ – 2 pm
Northern Arizona dropped the ball at Southern Utah, literally. Another loss would be considered unacceptable by many Lumberjack fans. Early season expectations were to compete for a late playoff spot for Case Cookus as a great send off for him. Cookus will have to settle for being a finalist in post season awards and preparing for the NFL, if he so chooses. Idaho fans are feeling similar disappointment as their second year back in the FCS is not a stellar welcome. A combination of things not going well and a tough schedule limited the Vandals.
Idaho 28, NAU 24
Idaho State vs. Weber State – Ogden, UT – 2 pm MT
Weber State should handily take care of business, but no game is an absolute until the clock hits zero. Matt Struck stepped up early in the season and delivered big for the Bengals, but since then has been a let down as the offense cannot close games. Weber State had an awful week in Missoula and Jake Constantine will need to regroup to lead the team into the playoffs on a high note. Kaden Jenks should also be considered a viable option for quarterback as Constantine was more destructive than helpful against Montana.
Weber State 35, Idaho State 10
Portland State vs. Eastern Washington – Cheyney, WA – 2:05 pm PT
The Dam Cup rivalry writes its next chapter in Cheyney, WA. Both teams have suffered inconsistent seasons, but are eager to beat the other down. It is one of the most competitive rivalry games in the country at a record of 20-20-1 overall. Eastern Washington looks to tie the lead for longest win streak and take the overall lead this weekend. Eric Barriere will not get another shot at the National Championship this year, but is still a candidate for post season awards. The Eagles should be able to soar to a win behind Eric Barriere.
EWU 42, Portland State 31
UC Davis vs. Sacramento State – Sacramento, CA – 3 pm PT
If someone asked about this game in the preseason I would have told them it would be a no-contest win for UC Davis. When I look at the matchup now it is hard to deny Sacramento State a double digit win. Jake Maier is a great quarterback, but Sacramento State’s defense has been unruly this entire season. The Hornets out-play and out-smart the opposition. Ulonzo Gilliam of UC Davis and Elijah Dotson of Sacramento State could determine the game. The rushing attack from both schools has been consistently high volume and if one of those falters it could hinder the offense into risky situations and turnovers. I see Sacramento State escaping by a score or two.
Sacramento State 27, UC Davis 20
My name is Ben Schleiger and I’m your representative for the Big Sky Conference. I have done work for multiple newspapers and sports blogs including The Johnstown Breeze, The University of Northern Colorado Mirror, and Mile High Maniac. I am a proud alumnus of the University of Northern Colorado with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Political Science. In my free time, I like watching sports, playing video games, and trying new foods.