Week 9 approaches to continually test the endurance of each Big Sky team. The season nears the three-fourths complete point teams have to be so careful not to spoilt their postseason hopes, if they are still alive. Other teams will be looking for positive notes to finish on and maybe give some Freshmen and Seniors who have not played as much time to shine. Right now Sacramento State and Weber State sit firmly in the drivers seat of the conference, but all that could change in such an unpredictable conference. Counting on any wins or losses is too dangerous for even the top teams to assume. This point of the season is where teams take control of their destiny or prepare for the offseason.
Marquee: Eastern Washington vs. Montana – 12:05 p.m. MT – Missoula, MT
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Montana will likely be without star quarterback Dalton Sneed making this matchup more competitive than previously thought. Eric Barriere is healthy and has been one of the top players in the entire FCS. Despite how potent both teams quarterbacks have been, the running game and how well it is defended will determine the outcome. Marcus Knight for Montana and Antoine Custer Jr. for EWU will have targets on their back all game long. I see EWU escaping WA-Griz by a one score win.
Montana State vs. North Dakota – 12:00 P.M. CT – Grand Forks, ND
Montana State needs to put both feet down on the brakes. If they are not careful the season could continue to slip closer to the edge of the cliff. This is a very talented roster, but going to overtime with Cal Poly and getting slammed by Sacramento State hurt the credibility of this team’s success. Is it a hot start with a cold finish? The Bobcat squad need to have a strong performance against a sturdy opponent like the Fightin’ Hawks for fans to see them as anything other than third at best in the conference. Although UND is a strong team, I see the Bobcats able to pull off a ten point victory if they play close to what they are capable of.
Idaho State vs. Southern Utah – 2:05 p.m. MT – Cedar City, Utah
Southern Utah desperately needs a win in the conference. To be winless in conference is not only a bad mark on the team, but also the reputation of the school in that sport. Southern Utah had success a few seasons ago by sharing the Big Sky title and since then has been on a roller coaster. Idaho State also is not in their most glorious form as they hold a 3-4 record, including last week’s lost to in-state rival Idaho. Both team’s quarterbacks are talented and defenses are competent, but inconsistent offenses lead to disaster. Despite the lack of offensive control, I see the Bengals taking care of business in Cedar City by two scores.
Sacramento State vs. Cal Poly – 5:00 p.m. PT – San Luis Obispo, CA
Sacramento State looks to continue shaping the status of the Big Sky week to week. From a bottom-dweller to now a first place conference team is a huge leap. The Hornets have proved people wrong by showing they have talent, coaching, and a will to win. The million dollar question is how long will this success be sustained? Cal Poly should be a speed bump along the way to their playoff aspirations, but the Hornets will need to be careful to avoid a trap game. Sacramento State should win by 17.
Weber State vs. UC Davis – 5:00 p.m. PT – Davis, CA
Once thought of as the game of the season for conference play is now seen as an uphill battle for UC Davis. In preseason, trying to rank UC Davis or Weber before one another was a challenge. Now, Weber holds a commanding lead, but the Wildcats travel to play in Aggie land. Home field advantage should help. Jake Maier being a talented and explosive quarterback should help. The supporting cast of Ulonzo Gilliam, Wesley Preece, and company should help. The question remains is which team is better. I see the Weber St. offense having just enough to keep the game out of the Aggies reach on their way to a ten point win.
Portland State vs. Northern Arizona – 5:00 p.m. – Flagstaff, AZ
Portland State and Northern Arizona will not be a marquee, as the number three Big Sky team heads to the number nine team, but it will determine some of the unknown. Portland State is nestled in the top five right now thanks to conference wins, but can they sneak past Case Cookus in Flagstaff? NAU is a crafty bunch that either looks like a fringe playoff team or a poorly organized backyard team with college athletes. Week to week the performances are inconsistent at best as both teams struggle with that issue. I see this as a 45-38 type shootout with Portland State leaving Flagstaff triumphant.
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.