GAME PREVIEWS – Big Sky Conference – September 25th

The Big Sky Conference made plenty of headlines during out-of-conference play with four wins against FBS competition. While the Big Sky top performers stole the show the conference enjoyed the faces of new transfers, starting quarterbacks, and headline-worthy coaches. Now that the Big Sky’s schedule turns inward for conference competition what can we expect for conference play? If it is anything close to the spring season, C-H-A-O-S.

Eastern Washington (3-0)

Last Week: Win @ Western Illinois 62-56

The Eagles feature on ESPN’s “Bad Beats” was half warranted as they scored 55 points in the first half and only seven in the second half while allowing 35 points from the Leathernecks. What should have been a blowout by the top ten competitors turned out to be a six-point difference. EWU may have an elite offense, but will the defense doom them later in the season?

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Photo via EWU Athletics.

This Week: @ Southern Utah 6pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: 700-AM ESPN & 105.3-FM in Spokane/Cheney

Fearless Prediction: EWU will be a favorite in nearly every game they play this season. To say they are a favorite against SUU is an understatement. Justin Miller and Kobe Singleton may be extremely talented players, but the lack of depth and chemistry for the Thunderbirds will put them at a disadvantage despite hosting EWU. Eric Barriere will have to be wary of a shifty secondary, although he should be able to gain significant rushing yards this week. EWU 45, SUU 12

UC Davis (3-0)

Last Week: Win vs. Dixie State 60-27

A 36-13 halftime score was just not enough points for the Aggies as they would rush to another 24 points. UCD dropped a whopping 60 points on FCS newcomer Dixie State. 27 points are respectable for a newer FCS team against a Power 3 team, but the 33-point margin more than explains why UCD is a team to fear this year.

Trent Tompkins in action vs. Dixie State
Photo via UCD Athletics.

This Week: @ Weber State 6pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, KJZZ, Radio: Sports 1140 KHTK, Radio: 103.1 “The Wave”

Fearless Prediction: UC Davis is teed up perfectly to be the Cinderella of the Season. What do they have to do to accomplish this? Just win, baby. Weber State has been dropping in confidence and in the national polls. As the Wildcats are now deemed to be mortals Big Sky teams across the conference will be even hungrier to knock the five-time defending champs off the repeat path. Hunter Rodrigues and Ulonzo Gilliam are poised to score a boatload of points and will hope that Jordan Perryman and company can play the best damn red-zone defense they have all year long. UCD 45, Weber 38

Montana (2-0)

Last Week: Bye Week

Marcus Welnel
Photo via UM Athletics.

This Week: vs. Cal Poly 1pm MT

How to Follow: TV: Fox/ABC Montana, SWX, ESPN+ Radio: Montana Grizzly Radio Network, Radio: ESPN Radio 1280AM/101.7FM

Fearless Prediction: Cal Poly has proved itself to not be just some pushover that will get automatically steamrolled. Meanwhile, Montana is attempting to cement itself as a National Powerhouse just like their glory days. The Griz are a fearsome bunch who can run, pass, and create turnovers at will. Cal Poly will have to summit Mount Everest in order to spoil the Griz Homecoming. Montana 49, Cal Poly 23

Montana State (2-1)

Last Week: Win vs. San Diego 52-10

The Bobcats put on a full-scale clinic for the Pioneer League power team San Diego. The gap between Big Sky powers and other leagues continues to show why the top of the conference earns Top 25 recognition on a weekly basis. San Diego’s tough out-of-conference schedule could keep them out of the Pioneer League title hunt if they do not perform fantastically in conference play.

Ryan Davis No. 48
Photo via MSU Athletics.

This Week: @ Portland State 3pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: Bobcat Radio Network,

Fearless Prediction: Anthony Adams is an elite-level talent in the Big Sky, but Portland State will need more than one all-star to take the cake against the Bobcats. The diverse rushing attack and sometimes deep ball of the Bobcats is an offense to fear from the mountain tops to the valley lows. Davis Alexander is one of the most highly motivated players to ever come through the Big Sky, yet he will need more than an iron will to win. MSU 38, PSU 23

Idaho (1-2)

Last Week: Loss @ FBS Oregon State 42-0

Oregon State had every number in Idaho’s playbook. A systematic rout of the Vandals will hurt the fan base’s confidence going forward that they are somehow different than the disappointing spring season. The offense will have to find a way to score against opponents bigger than Simon Fraser if they expect to avoid the bottom of the conference.

This Week: Off, Next Game 10/2 @UC Davis

Sacramento State (1-2)

Last Week: Loss @ FBS Cal 42-30

While it was a race towards garbage time Sacramento State did a great job scaring the Golden Bears on their way to a guaranteed win. Cal knew they would win the game, but Dunniway taking the majority of the quarterback time made the difference as O’Hara could focus on doing his specialty of running and quick moves.

FIVE FACTS FOR FOOTBALL AT CAL
Photo via Sac State Athletics.

This Week: @ Idaho State 1pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: KISU

Fearless Prediction: Idaho State’s transfer QB Tyler Vander-Waal set the passing attack on fire last year, but so far this year he has struggled a lot more than thought. The sophomore slump could not come at a worse time as all the opponents are back to play including Sac. State. Another struggling star is Elijah Dotson for the Hornets as he just has not complied the numbers the country was hoping for as he was an honorable mention All-American. While the Bengals are the gracious hosts, I see Sac. State taking this W unless Vander-Waal finds another gear. SAC 31, ISU 21

Northern Colorado (1-2)

Last Week: Loss vs. Lamar 17-10 in OT

UNC found a way to turn an 18-point favoritism into disaster. The Bears had several defensive players and assistant coaches test positive and also false positive during COVID protocols. On top of this debauchery, Dylan McCaffrey was not cleared to play and ultimately had to sit out a “gimmie win”. Conner Martin did his best to create any offense, but the most exciting part of the whole game for Bears fans was the stadium and program record 57-yard field goal.

Ben Raybon
Photo via UNC Athletics.

This Week: vs. Northern Arizona 1pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: 1310 KFKA, 103.1 FM

Fearless Prediction: Northern Arizona will be strolling into Nottingham Field with extremely hot heads as they slew in-state FBS foe Arizona last week. Despite the Lumberjacks’ confidence, this series has been tied to whoever hosts the game as the winner of this rivalry since 2013. Does NAU’s sense of fulfillment break the host wins rule? Dylan McCaffrey is healthy and cleared for this week so I will not dare bet against him when Widener has lacked consistency and production for the Lumberjack offense. UNC 23 NAU 20

Portland State (1-2)

Last Week: Win vs. Western Oregon (D2) 21-7

An underwhelming win against a Division II opponent is not what Vikings wanted to see going into conference play. They had two close FBS losses which should translate to a strong performance against teams lower than that, but the stats sheet did not show that against the in-state foe.

VJ Malo celebrates
Photo via PSU Athletics.

This Week: vs. Montana State 3pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: Bobcat Radio Network

Fearless Prediction: Anthony Adams is an elite-level talent in the Big Sky, but Portland State will need more than one all-star to take the cake against the Bobcats. The diverse rushing attack and sometimes deep ball of the Bobcats is an offense to fear from the mountain tops to the valley lows. Davis Alexander is one of the most highly motivated players to ever come through the Big Sky, yet he will need more than an iron will to win. MSU 38, PSU 23

Southern Utah (1-2)

Last Week: Win @ Tarleton State 40-35

Another WAC and FCS newcomer tried their best against a future WAC team and did quite well. One of the truly competitive games throughout the conference showed us that Southern Utah should fit in well in the WAC as they are only a few steps ahead of the newcomers. This could allow SUU time to create a new identity in football.

Brandon Schenks
Photo via SUU Athletics.

This Week: vs. EWU 6pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: 700-AM ESPN & 105.3-FM in Spokane/Cheney

Fearless Prediction: EWU will be a favorite in nearly every game they play this season. To say they are a favorite against SUU is an understatement. Justin Miller and Kobe Singleton may be extremely talented players, but the lack of depth and chemistry for the Thunderbirds will put them at a disadvantage despite hosting EWU. Eric Barriere will have to be wary of a shifty secondary, although he should be able to gain significant rushing yards this week. EWU 45, SUU 12

Cal Poly (1-2)

Last Week: Loss vs. South Dakota 48-14

Right when the Mustangs find their groove they find a way to stumble into the ground. South Dakota is having an uncharacteristically good year. It seems as though every four years the Coyotes play far above their level and end up having very good seasons. Cal Poly should be so lucky to hope for such success.

Cal Poly players celebrate playoff win at Montana in 2005.
Photo via Mustang Athletics.

This Week: @ Montana 1pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: ESPN Radio 1280AM/101.7FM

Fearless Prediction: Cal Poly has proved itself to not be just some pushover that will get automatically steamrolled. Meanwhile, Montana is attempting to cement itself as a National Powerhouse just like their glory days. The Griz are a fearsome bunch who can run, pass, and create turnovers at will. Cal Poly will have to summit Mount Everest in order to spoil the Griz Homecoming. Montana 49, Cal Poly 23

Weber State (1-2)

Last Week: Loss vs. James Madison 37-24

Weber State had one of the few early season marquee FCS-FCS matchups. Unfortunately, it turned into a horror movie for the Wildcats after an embarrassing quarterback fumble that resulted in a JMU 99-yard scoop-and-score. The game could have been all tied at 10 apiece, yet that sequence gave away the lead and Weber State could not regain it.

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Photo via CSJ.

This Week: vs. UCD 6pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+

Fearless Prediction: UC Davis is teed up perfectly to be the Cinderella of the Season. What do they have to do to accomplish this? Just win, baby. Weber State has been dropping in confidence and in the national polls. As the Wildcats are now deemed to be mortals Big Sky teams across the conference will be even hungrier to knock the five-time defending champs off the repeat path. Hunter Rodrigues and Ulonzo Gilliam are poised to score a boatload of points and will hope that Jordan Perryman and company can play the best damn red-zone defense they have all year long. UCD 45, Weber 38

Northern Arizona (1-2)

Last Week: Win @ FBS Arizona 21-19

The Lumberjacks played above their level and Arizona looked like a mid-tier FCS team despite a fancy stadium, fancy uniforms, and a fancy way of losing to an FCS team. This marks four FBS wins for the Big Sky Conference as the conference took a big step forward in playing FBS teams.

Luis Aguilar
Photo via NAU Athletics.

This Week: @ Northern Colorado 1pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, 1310 KFKA

Fearless Prediction: Northern Arizona will be strolling into Nottingham Field with extremely hot heads as they slew in-state FBS foe Arizona last week. Despite the Lumberjacks’ confidence, this series has been tied to whoever hosts the game as the winner of this rivalry since 2013. Does NAU’s sense of fulfillment break the host wins rule? Dylan McCaffrey is healthy and cleared for this week so I will not dare bet against him when Widener has lacked consistency and production for the Lumberjack offense. UNC 23 NAU 20

Idaho State (0-2)

Last Week: Bye Week

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Photo via ISU Atheltics.

This Week: vs. Sac State 1pm MT

How to Follow: ESPN+, Radio: KISU

Fearless Prediction: Idaho State’s transfer QB Tyler Vander-Waal set the passing attack on fire last year, but so far this year he has struggled a lot more than thought. The sophomore slump could not come at a worse time as all the opponents are back to play including Sac. State. Another struggling star is Elijah Dotson for the Hornets as he just has not complied the numbers the country was hoping for as he was an honorable mention All-American. While the Bengals are the gracious hosts, I see Sac. State taking this W unless Vander-Waal finds another gear. Sac 31, ISU 21

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