Big Sky Conference Previews: Week 7

The Big Sky teams are ready to go into the second half of the season and things look wacky. How the season was supposed to go and how it is going for many of the teams is very different. Going into Week 7 the Montanas’ sit at first and second, while Eastern Washington is ninth and UC Davis is twelfth. This week has a few interesting matchups and I think it is likely we see continue to see the trend that at least one home team will fall this week.

Marquee: Sacramento State vs. Montana State – 2:00 pm MTBozeman, MT.

GAME #7: Bobcats Face Toughest Test Yet as Resurgent Sacramento State Rolls into Bozeman
PC: Montana State Athletics
Sacramento State will be flying into their toughest FCS game yet. Montana State only has one loss in six games that were to FBS Texas Tech. SEMO, Western Illinois, Norfolk State, Northern Arizona, and Cal Poly are among the Bobcats wins this year. Will Sacramento State be added to the list in chilly Bozeman? Sacramento State sees things differently as the run-heavy Cal Poly team was able to overwhelm the Bobcats in a fourth-quarter surge. The Hornets may not be a rush heavy team, but the fact that Montana State was able to be brought to overtime should be encouraging. When analyzing the rosters and strengths Montana State has a significant advantage in roster talent, but Sacramento State has one of the best defenses in the conference including in scoring. I think this matchup will not only be interesting, but the closest contested game of the week since the talent in this game will be high caliber. If this game were to be played in Sacramento I would give the advantage to the Hornets, but I think the atmosphere of Bozeman will be enough to keep the Bobcats prowling on.

North Dakota vs. Idaho State – 1:05 pm MT – Pocatello, ID

NCAA FCS Football 2019: UC Davis vs North Dakota OCT 05
PC: North Dakota Athletics

The North Dakota Fightin’ Hawks may not be a Big Sky team anymore, but they are playing like a team that deserves significant notice. Their two losses this season come from last year’s National Championship teams. Among their wins are decimating Drake 47-7, escaping a hardy Sam Houston 27-23, and shocking UC Davis fans with a 38-36 last-minute field goal. Despite injury and competition Idaho State finally has a stable quarterback in Matt Struck. The last three weeks had encouraging moments, but the only good win and full performance from the Bengals came against Portland State in a 51-24 win. They have two wins on the season technically as they beat Division 2 Western Colorado University. Despite that fact, there seems to be a pattern of the Bengals being only a few steps away from a clean game and win. This is not the week they want to continue that pattern as UND is not a team to start slow or finish softly. Idaho State is one of the teams I worry about not being able to defend the homefront, especially with UND’s possible momentum after upsetting UC Davis.

PC: Portland State Athletics

Idaho vs. Portland State – 2:00 p.m. PT – Hillsboro, OR

This is a necessary game for the conference to see as I feel these two teams and Idaho State are teams still trying to find their success rate and identity. Idaho’s last five games have all been 10 points or fewer in the result. That means one different drive and that 2-4 record could have been improved or worsened significantly. They let D2 Central Washington within ten points, almost upset FBS Wyoming, shocked EWU, dropped a likely win at Northern Colorado, and was six points off upsetting Weber State. Meanwhile, Portland State is 3-3 against a hodgepodge of different teams. The Vikings almost upset SEC Arkansas, whooped D2 Simon Fraser from Canada, let Boise State demolish them, creamed NAIA Eastern Oregon, lost big to Idaho State, and took care of Southern Utah. Both these teams have the roster strength, talent, and athleticism to win games, but practicality and application of those traits have been hit and miss. As it is Homecoming for many schools I suspect a higher level of intensity will be exemplified, but I think Mason Petrino and company have a better shot at victory.

Idaho Idaho 35, Portland State Portland State 31

PC: Cal Poly Athletics

Cal Poly vs. UC Davis – 4:00 p.m. PT – Davis, CA

UC Davis is on a slippery slope to the bottom of the conference if Jake Maier and company can’t right the ship. The once-feared UC Davis Aggies are now seen as just another Big Sky foe. Cal Poly is struggling without the seniors of last year, but their team spirit and hard work were almost recognized last week. The Mustangs brought on a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback to take Montana State to overtime. Their effort would fall just short as the Bobcats secured a touchdown lead in overtime. An already close rivalry the Battle for the Golden Horseshoe will be an even matchup. Cal Poly is optimistic they can battle back from slow starts and UC Davis is hoping their rivals are short enough on position depths to get back to the win column. UC Davis will get back to the win column, but in dramatic fashion with a late field goal and sturdy defense.

UC Davis UC Davis 41, Cal Poly Cal Poly 38

PC: Weber State Athletics

Southern Utah vs. Weber State – 6:00 p.m. MT – Ogden, UT

Southern Utah poses a threat to very few teams in the FCS. Weber State should not be concerned about anything except letting their guard down. Overlooking the Thunderbirds or an onslaught of injuries to starters is the only way I see SUU making it out of Ogden as “happy campers”. It is not for a lack of trying, but few things have gone right for SUU and a miracle at an in-state rival who is ranked in the FCS Top Ten is not where the season will suddenly turn around. Weber’s defense is structurally and schematically sound. The Weber offense is the inconsistency factor that needs to be tightened up for this week. Jake Constantine came back from injury but was less than outstanding. Josh Davis and the running back community may have to pick up the slack, even in a less contested game against SUU.
PC: EWU Student Affairs Office

Northern Colorado vs. Eastern Washington – 2:00 p.m. PT – Cheney, WA

Trap game or blown out? That seems to be the two personalities of Northern Colorado. The Bears may only have one win on the season, but have been competitive in the first half of most games they have played, besides common opponent Sacramento State who beat both teams down. Eastern Washington has been a downward spiral from the national spotlight since Week 3 of the season. With Big Sky teams smelling blood in the water it is time for the Eagles to kick into gear or settle for missing the playoffs for sure. In the season outlook moving forward the Eagles will need at least five of the next six games to be wins in order to get considered for playoffs. This game will be at home, during Homecoming, and historically EWU has dominated the Bears at home. This should be a clean week for EWU with few mistakes, right? I think this game is more likely to spell T-R-A-P than it is to spell C-I-N-D-E-R-E-L-L-A. I do not think EWU will necessarily lose, but if their game plan does not account for deep throws from Jacob Knipp and hard-nosed effort from Milo Hall it will be trouble at the Homecoming dance for EWU.

Eastern Washington Eastern Washington 38, Northern Colorado Northern Colorado 31