This week will feature some monster matchups that will give a solid forecast of who may be in or out of the playoff contention. Sacramento State and Weber State will face off to see who takes control of the Big Sky reigns. Meanwhile, Portland State will look to make a Hail Mary effort to stay in playoff hopes by knocking off Montana. While Montana is equipped to finish off the Vikings, the Griz need to win since Weber State and Montana State remain in the later part of their schedule. Portland State has to win out, while Montana can technically take two losses and be okay, but every win matters in these next few weeks.
Marquee: Weber State vs. Sacramento State – Sacramento, CA – 7 pm PT
A great match of #1 versus #2 in the Big Sky should be full of excitement and interest as a strong Hornet offense will meet a a strong Wildcat defense. The Kevin Thompson and Elijah Dotson combo has been a potent combo maybe not for yards, but definitely for scoring touchdowns. Conversely, the Wildcats scrape out whatever they need to do offensively to win as their defense dismantles opposing game plans and athletes alike. While the clash will be entertaining from the stands, TV sets, and radio channels the action on the field will be fierce and relentless. With both teams fighting tooth and nail for the victory I think Weber will pull ahead at halftime, but Sacramento State will control the second half leaving the game winner up to Trey Tuttle from deep. I suspect the Wildcats can prevail, but the nasty Weber State defense has to show up.
Weber 34, Sac State 31
Southern Utah vs. Montana State – Bozeman, MT – 12 pm MT
Southern Utah was impressive last week as they finally looked like a team worthy of even being called a bottom dwelling Big Sky team. This week things will go back to normal as Montana State will pick up a win and a confidence boost, while Southern Utah’s only redeeming quality will be Chris Helbig. Southern Utah could theoretically pull an upset in Bozeman with some sulking Bobcats not paying attention, but it is unlikely that the Thunderbirds will be able to overcome the size and strength of Montana State.
Montana State 42, Southern Utah 24
Northern Arizona vs. Eastern Washington – Cheyney, WA – 2:05 pm PT
This matchup would usually have postseason implications written all over it, but both programs are experiencing more speed bumps than freeways this year. A loaded EWU roster led by a freakishly athletic quarterback in Eric Barriere versus a scrappy, never quit NAU team led by a field general style quarterback in Case Cookus. While this game is more of a fans’ game rather than marquee, the action should still be high intensity. Both rosters have a handful of key injuries to make game plans more complicated and the youthful players have to step it up. Another consideration of how similar these teams can be is the fact that they know how to make a comeback. I won’t even go into the possible game scenarios here because these two teams could play 10 times and neither result would look the same. My best guess is home field advantage will decide the edge of the game.
EWU 38, NAU 31
Northern Colorado vs. Idaho State – Pocatello, ID – 2:30 pm MT
If Northern Colorado wants to prove the Idaho game was not a fluke it needs to be this week. The Bears need to sweep the state of Idaho to show some reason as to why this team deserves to be a Big Sky team. Rough season after rough season, close game after close game, at some point things need to click or be replaced. Idaho State will not be a chump matchup, despite a big loss to Southern Utah last week. Quarterback Matt Struck will have likely learned from his mistakes and will be far more calculated this week. The Bears seem to falter against deep throws and resilient running backs. This is their post-Halloween scare they will have to power through and prove wrong. Despite how bad UNC needs this win for their own sake and just to stay relevant I’m still going to pick Idaho State until proven otherwise.
Idaho State 41, Northern Colorado 27
Cal Poly vs. Idaho – Moscow, ID – 3 pm MT
Several game this week are coin flips. While Idaho seems like the sure thing it all depends on which version of the Vandals and Mustangs show up. Some weeks the Vandals are red hot and look like they could play on any field and do well. Other weeks it looks like a team sized punching bag that gets hit and stops in its tracks. Cal Poly has seen continued success with their triple option, but the lack of passing game has hurt them in recent weeks. The lack of diversity could impair them this week as Christian Ellis looks to tear apart any Mustang in his way.
Idaho 35, Cal Poly 24
Montana vs. Portland State – Portland, OR – 3 pm PT
Portland State desperately needs a win. If the Vikings cannot upset the Griz this week their playoff hopes are crushed for sure. The Griz have a tough end to their schedule and will need to hold strong this week as they can only afford two losses at most to get into the playoffs. No matter the quarterback the Griz are solid at most positions that aren’t thin due to injury. Dante Olson and Robby Hauck have made a daunting pair to bear witness to this season on defense. It will take a truly polished and ironclad gameplan to knock off the Griz.
Montana 38, Portland State 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.