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 MT – Bozeman, MT.
North Dakota vs. Idaho State – 1:05 pm MT – Pocatello, ID
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.
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.
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.
Southern Utah vs. Weber State – 6:00 p.m. MT – Ogden, UT
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.
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.