Week 1 Schedule
Thursday, September 1, 2022
The Wildcats kickoff their 2022 campaign with a substitute opponent after James Madison opted to play a full FBS slate right off the bat. Weber State found the trustworthy Division II Western Oregon Wolves to fill in for the Dukes for an inevitable shellacking. There might be looming questions on the validity of the passing attack, but this will be a perfect tune-up game to build confidence before a true test at Utah State the following week.
NAU found the best of Arizona (FBS) last year and want to complete the All-Arizona sweep. This year Arizona is ranked 70 on the Sagarin ratings, but Arizona State (FBS) is twice as good at 35 overall. Where does NAU rank? 155. “Fear the FCS” wins are always a good thing for all FCS schools across the country, but this is a tall feat for any team. The Lumberjacks should focus on measuring RJ Martinez’s strengths and weaknesses after an offseason of development on the talented Sophomore.
San Jose State may barely crack the Sagarin Top 100 at 93, but that is still 79 spots better than the Vikings. Bruce Barnum needs to convince the rest of the conference why Portland State matters after many seasons of disappointing performance. Portland State has ranked extremely high in recent recruiting classes, but a lack of capitalizing on the talent leaves the conference unsure of what to expect from the Vikings. Anthony Adams is the only thing keeping Portland State on the map.
Cal Poly is 134 spots behind Fresno State on the Sagarin Ratings, but at least it is only a two and a half hour drive North to Fresno. This game will be lopsided and Beau Baldwin should focus on developing schemes and player health. A payday game is always good for the athletic department as a whole, but playing the game sensibly, even if not a full effort, can be the most responsible approach. Rotating out starters in the second half will give the back ups a necessary wake up call to what high caliber talent looks like at the FBS level and how to prepare for tough conference games.
Saturday, September 3, 2022
Albeit an interesting matchup of unlikely teams Montana will still put on a strong showing on both sides of the ball. The unfamiliar opponent and it being the first game of the season may account for a slow Griz start, but the end of this game will be a multi-score Montana blowout. This Southland Conference team was 3-8 (3-5 SLC) with two wins against Houston Baptist and a surprise win against McNeese State. NW State averages 19.5 points per game against competition easier than the Big Sky Conference. Montana will likely score their last season’s average in the first half alone.
Eddie George and company are doing all they can to restore TSU to a competitive program. EWU are going to do everything they can to reinvent themselves into a playoff team once again despite losing Walter Payton Award winner Eric Barriere. While the playing field will be more even with the loss of talent like Barriere, the Tigers are likely still a few seasons away from beating a mid-tier Big Sky Conference team. This game should be competitive in the first half, but the EWU depth will help them soar to a victory.
UC Davis is a roller coaster team type that can fluctuate from beating Tulsa (FBS) one year to fighting to stay above .500 another year. Dan Hawkins has found his grove at his former stomping grounds. Now all Hawkins needs is a tad bit more success and consistency for the Aggies to be a true conference powerhouse. Cal did not have an outstanding 2021 season at 5-7, but the majority of their games were close including Oregon and USC. Sacramento State came within 12 points of the Golden Bears and the Aggies should expect a similar result if Cal plans to play to the level of their opponent each week.
Last year, UNC blew out the Huskies 45-13 in Houston, Texas. This year the two play in Greeley and I expect the Bears to put on a similar performance if they expect to claim any respect in the conference this year. HBU has struggled at the Division I level similar to UNC, but their most notable year was two years ago with former quarterback now current New England Patriots Bailey Zappe. UNC needs to prove the offense has become more creative and the defense has plugged glaring holes.
McNeese State has been on a downward trajectory in recent years with limited success. Montana State was last year’s National Championship Runner-Up. The difference in success and consistent talent is as wide as the Grand Canyon. Lake Charles has faced adversity over recent years with hurricanes, living in Coach Orgeron’s shadow in the media, and inconsistent performances. The Bobcats should be able to rotate freely at most positions to treat this as a preseason game to evaluate the talent they have across the board. This would be a good time for the backup quarterbacks to find a niche and the running backs to form a community identity until Isaiah Ifanse is healthy enough to return.
Less than 10 miles separate these two teams, but the scoreboard will reflect a very different number. Idaho is reinventing itself under the Jason Eck Era, but still may not have a starting quarterback that satisfies all their needs against Washington State, despite where they transferred from or what their recruiting grade was. This combined with obvious size differences and mismatches at certain positions will lead to a disadvantage for the Vandals. If the Vandals learn enough about themselves to improve against Indiana (FBS) the next week that could be enough for a moral victory.
Utah Tech, formerly Dixie State, is literally still finding their identity while they attempt to not get stung in Sacramento. The Hornets should be excited for an opener with low expectations, but should be wary to avoid this turning into a trap game. First game of the season everyone is undefeated and confident. If Sacramento State lets their ego get ahead of themselves playing a transitioning team this could be an ugly week. The Hornets have bigger fish to fry in the next two weeks with Northern Iowa and Colorado State (FBS) so they better keep a disciplined approach to build their fundamentals.
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.