Who Will Win The Big Sky?

The Big Sky is one of the deepest conference top to bottom. Predicting a winner is difficult. Last year was my first attempt to take emotion out of it and use analytics to predict the winner. How I did this was combination of a “True Skill Ranking” and “Strength of Schedule” calculation.

Before we get into this year. It is a fair question to ask, How did last year go? How accurate is this? It is a little difficult to compare as I originally completed predicitons before five Big Sky Schools opted out of Spring. Lets look anyway with removing the teams that did not play and adjusting.

Predicted FinishTeamPredicted RecordActual FinishTeamActual Record
1Weber State6-01Weber State5-0
2E.Washington5-12E.Washington5-1
t3UC Davis4-2t3UC Davis3-2
t3N.Arizona4-2t3N.Arizona3-2
5Idaho2-4t5Idaho2-4
t-6Idaho State1-5t5Idaho State2-4
t-6Cal Poly1-57S.Utah1-5
8S.Utah0-68Cal Poly0-3

I will let you all determine if this was succesful or not, especially with last springs circumstances. But at least now you know how it did.

This season will be a test as all 13 current Big Sky Football Conference teams are playing. This is also only looking at the conference schedule. The out of conference schedule has not been included. Also the database used to calculate my True Skill rankings are not released yet. These prediciton are stricly of SOS and leave room for updating before conference kickoff.

Before we get into predicitons, lets take a look at some of the oddities of the 2nd annual Strength of Schedule Tub Table.

Obviously this system is not perfect, I am the first to acknowledge this. As Weber State (Preseason pick to win conference) benefits from not playing themselves and vice versa Northern Colorado and Cal Poly are punished for not playing themselves.

That being said it is the second time in as many seasons Weber State has the path of least resistance to win the championship. Montana State and Eastern Washington have a weird scenario too. Eastern Washington has the toughest schedule at home (Montana,Idaho,Weber & Montana State). While Montana State has toughest road schedule (Portland State, Weber State, Eastern Washington & Montana). Then they swap and Eastern has the least difficult road schedule. While Montana State has by far the easiest schedule at home. sidenote, I honestly wonder how season ticket sales are going with no Choate, 18 months of no football and a lackluster home schedule.

If you are looking for this years dark horse, Northern Arizona harbors 3rd easiest schedule and only by 2 points. The Standard Deviation for strength of schedule is 9.4. Being only 2 points off from easiest schedule is a big benefit to the lumberjacks of Flagstaff. To their defense, Shaun Rainey of SWX Montana and Colter Nuanez of Skyline Sports have been high on Portland State, Even saying they are top four in big sky. They do have 5th easiest schedule in the conference and could be one of those annual dark horses the big sky seems to get every year.

Okay enough of me nerding out over schedule strength statistics that really dont mean anything once the ball is kicked off to what you are all here for… using those useless statistics to make analytical predictions for each team in the conference.

t13. Cal Poly 0-8

t13. Northern Colorado 0-8

11. Southern Utah 1-7

t10. Portland State 2-6

t10. Idaho State 2-6

8. Idaho 3-5

t5.Northern Arizona 5-3

t5. Montana State 5-3

t5. UC Davis 5-3

t3. Eastern Washington 7-1

t3. Sac State 7-1

t1. Montana 8-0

t1. Weber State 8-0

Reminder these are not my predictions. You can tune into our live youtube show August 10th around 8 PT with Skyline Sports Colter Nuanez to hear how myself and the rest of the team think conference season will go.

*** As always I”m not an journalist so, take your gramatical error comments, & put them in a beg some-Where. Hope you enjoyed the content regarless if you maid it too dis disclaimer 😉

2021 All-Tubs Preseason Big Sky Conference Team

Here is our votes for the All-Conference team.

Offesensive Player of The Year: Eric Barriere! (EWU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: None

Defensive Player of The Year: Tre Walker (Idaho)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Jace Lewis (UM)

Quarterback: Eric Barriere (EWU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Tyler Vander Waal (ISU)

Running Back: Ulonzo Gilliam (UCD) | Josh Davis! (WSU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Isaiah Ifanse (MSU)

Fullback: Logan Kendall! (Idaho)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: NONE

Wide Receiver: Tanner Conner (ISU) | Samuel Akem (UM) | Hayden Hatten* (Idaho)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Pierre Williams (SAC), Talolo Limu-Jones (EWU), Hendrix Johnson (NAU), Brandon Porter (NAU)

Tight End: Marshel Martin (SAC)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: McCallan Castles (UCD)

Offensive Line: Lewis Kidd (MSU) | Taylor Tuiasosopo (MSU) |Conner Pettek (UCD) | Ty Whitworth (WSU) | Tristen Taylor (EWU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Braxton Jones (SUU), MAtthew Faupusa (Idaho), Zach Reed (MSU), Terron Carey (ISU)

Defensive Line: George Tarlas (WSU) | Jared Scheiss! (WSU) | Alex Gubner (UM) | Charles Akanno (Idaho)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Bryce Rodgers (UCD), Mitchell Johnson (EWU), Amandre Williams (MSU)

Linebacker: Troy Anderson (MSU) | Tre Walker! (Idaho) | Jace Lewis! (UM) | La’Akea Kaho’Ohanohano-Davis! (SUU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Conner Mortensen (WSU)

Defensive Back: Eddie Heckard (WSU) | Anthony Adams! (PSU) | Preston Smith (WSU) | Desmond Williams (WSU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Jordan Perryman (UCD), Anthony Sweeney (NAU), Morgan Vest (NAU)

Kicker: Luis Aguilar! (NAU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: None

Punter: DJ Arnson (NAU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Daniel Whelan (UCD)

Returner: Rashid Shaheed (WSU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: Nick Romano (Idaho)

Long Snapper:Justin Hathoot* (NAU)

OTHER RECEIVING VOTES: JOhn Aloma (UCD), Matthew O’Donoghue (UM)

Safe to say the Big Sky is pretty deep. The previous team of the decade only has two players selected, it is a testimate to the talent in this conference. As most people would consider EWU to be dangerous again in 2021.

The Numbers By School:

Cal Poly: 0 sad face for Baldwin and co.

Eeastern Washington: 1 MVP, 2 All-Conference, 2 Honorable Mention

Idaho: 1 MVP, 4 All-Conference, 2 Honorable Mentions

Idaho state: 1 All-Conference, 2 Honorable Mentions

Montana: 1 MVP vote, 3 All-Conference, 1 Honorable Metions

Montana State: 2 All-Conference, 3 Honorable Mentions

Northern Arizona: 3 All-Conference, 4 Honorable Mentions

Northern Colorado: 0, sad face for McCaffery and co.

Portland State: 1 All-Conference

UC Davis: 2 All-Conference, 3 Honorable Mentions

Sacramento State: 1 All-Conference, 1 Honorable Mentions

Southern Utah: 1 All-Conference, 1 Honorable Mention

Weber State: 7 All-Conference, 1 Honorable Mention

The Weber State Wildcats lead the way in terms of representation. NAU almost swept special teams. We may have gone to homer on Idaho, I dont think so. Do these coordinate to our preseason conference polls? Take a look: https://tubsattheclub.com/2021/07/23/tubs-preseason-big-sky-poll/

CHRISBRIAN DALLAS
OMVPEric BarriereEric BarriereEric Barriere
DMVPTre WalkerJace LewisTre Walker
QBTyler Vander WaalEric BarriereEric Barriere
WRHendrix JohnsonTanner ConnerTanner Conner
WRSamuel AkemSamuel AkemHayden Hatten
WRBrandon PorterPierre WilliamsTalolo Limu-Jones
TLewis KiddLewis KiddBraxton Jones
TTristen Taylor Tristen Taylor
GMatthew FaupusaTaylor TuiasosopoTaylor Tuiasosopo
GZach ReedTy WhitworthTy Whitworth
CTerron CareyConnor PettekConnor Pettek
TEMcCallan CastlesMarshel MartinMashel Martin
RBUlonzo GilliamIsaiah IfanseUlonzo Gilliam
RBJosh DavisJosh DavisJosh Davis
FBLogan KendallLogan KendallLogan Kendall
PKLuis AguilarLuis AguilarLuis Aguilar
RSNick RomanoRashid ShaheedRashid Shaheed
DTJared ScheissJared ScheissJared Scheiss
DTAlex GubnerAlex GubnerBryce Rodgers
DEGeorge TarlasGeorge TarlasMitchell Johnson
DECharles AkannoCharles AkannoAmandre Williams
OLBTroy AndersonTroy AndersonConner Mortensen
OLBLa’Akea Kaho Ohanohano-DavisLa’Akea Kaho Ohanohano-DavisLa’Akea Kaho Ohanohano-Davis
ILBTre WalkerTre WalkerTre Walker
ILBJace LewisJace LewisJace Lewis
CBEddie HeckardEddie HeckardJordan Perryman
CBAnthony AdamsAnthony AdamsAnthony Adams
SAnthony SweeneyPreston SmithPreston Smith
SDesmond WilliamsDesmond WilliamsMorgan Vest
PDJ ArnsonDJ ArnsonDaniel Whelan
LSJohn AlomaMatthew OdonoghueJustin Hathoot

*** As always I’m not a journalist. so just put your gramatics comments where the sun dont shine (aka Albertson Stadium)

Fixing Idahos Future Schedule

The Big Sky Conference did fans and schools a huge favor last year by releasing the future conference schedules through 2023. Benefiting the schools, by now knowing exactly what dates they have open to schedule out of conference opponents.

For Idaho fans, this is a bit of a downer. You will notice there are not many out of conference games that catch the eye. Even less will be beneficial towards a playoff appearance. I will grade each current schedule, then provide my realistic fixes to each season.

2020 Schedule

Schedule-2020Since the 2020 season kickoff, is in only 7 months, the schedule is set in stone. week 1 Idaho opens the season against a division 2 side in Western Oregon. The week 2 Temple game is a return trip from the 2013 independent season when Idaho hosted the owls and went on to win the game 26-24. The Vandals wrap up in Week 3 with the Battle for the Palouse. This game is a replacement game for the canceled 4 game series made with San Jose State. Who pulled out because of Idaho’s move to the FCS.

Current Grade: C+

Idaho did the best with what they had on short notice. Getting Washington State to pay $550,000 to drive eight miles is an A+. However not getting out of a temple game from 2013 is a C-. Then the Western Oregon game is a D. The conference schedule paired with the Washington State game, the Vandals will leave the Palouse once in eight weeks. During the season Idaho only travels to Philadelphia, Davis California, Pullman Washington, Cheney Washington, Bozeman Montana, Pocatello Idaho. That’s likely only 2 flights. Far removed from the Sun Belt days.

How To Fix it:

Too little too late. But the division 2 game against Western Oregon is a drag to see. At least it only costs Idaho $80,000. Meaning the out of conference schedule will net Idaho $470,000. That helps the budget.

2021 Schedule

In 2021 Idaho opens at home vs Canadian side Simon Fraser. Back-to-back years with week 1 division 2 or lower team to start the season.Then pack their bags for week 2 body bag game against Big Ten program Indiana (will see them again). Closing out the non-conference schedule with another power five game in Corvallis against Oregon State.

Current Grade: C

Any division 2 or lower game from this year forward is to be met with a grade of an F. Idaho needs division 1 wins to qualify for the playoffs. In a conference as tough as the Big Sky. Indiana is an interesting power five game. It isn’t local, but it isn’t bad. Indiana isn’t exactly a world beater, this could be winnable power five program for Idaho. The Hoosers did go 9-0 against the FCS last decade. Indiana is paying Idaho 1.2 Million to go to Bloomington with a outside chance to win. That’s an A- grade for scheduling. To close out the out of conference schedule, Idaho gets to play the Beavers. Arguably, the worst Pac 12 program in the previous decade. A winnable, local power five game, that will pat the coffers with an additional $675,0000. This will get an A+.

Unlike 2020, the Big Sky did Idaho no favors in conference. Idaho will have a bye week in week 4. The Vandals will then have four weeks before they are back in the friendly confines of the Kibbie Dome. Followed by more road games. When week 9 rolls around it will only be the third home game of the year and only second vs division 1 competition.

The budget will be helped by netting 1.875 million before paying Simon Fraser $80,000.

How To Fix It:

Schedule-2021Nothing needs to be done with Oregon State & Indiana. The payouts and winablility of these games are perfect. Even if the Indiana game is an odd match-up. The real trick here is copying what the Vandals pulled off in 2019, with scheduling Eastern Washington out of conference. Due to the Big Sky having protected rivals every three years Idaho will not play Idaho State in the “Battle Of The Domes”. Tubs at The Club has been very vocal on this Issue that Idaho & Idaho State needs to become a rivalry game.

Putting this game week 1 would be a good move. Idaho can do better. The FCS has a weekend all to itself called “Week 0”. The highlight that weekend is the Guardian FCS Kickoff game. Instead of Austin Peay vs Central Arkansas (2020) or Samford v Youngstown State (2019). What if the game featured two In-state rivals? In 2020 the game is to be played in Pocatello & in 2022 it is to be played in Moscow. Creating a conundrum for a 2021 match-up.

Two solutions

First is the winner of the overall battle of the domes in 2020 gets to host the game and repeat this every three years when game is off the schedule. Split the revenue 50/50 after reimbursing travel to road team and operating cost of the host team.

The other options is a bit more controversial. Play it in Boise. Its 235 Miles from Pocatello & 295 Miles from Moscow. Boise is both schools largest alumni base. There is bound to be the “No way we are stepping on that blue field to give Boise State the satisfaction” agruement. I have previously mentioned this will be almost an insult to them if both Schools can sell out Bronco Stadium. Something they have seldom done recently. A nuetral stadium is on the way if the City of Boise can ever get out of their own way in building a beautiful new stadium. This is only going to be an issue every three years.

Get this game on ESPN for Week 0 and showcase The State, The Conference & The FCS level of football.

2022 Schedule

Kicking the Season off with a rivalry game in Pullman. For more money than they paid us in 2020. Then the Vandals return to Bloomington Indiana for the second time in as many years. This time collecting 1.3 Million Dollars. Then Idaho plays its first lower tier FCS program in the newly released schedules, Drake. In 2022 Idaho will play all Division 1 opponents for the first time since 2017.

It is a well spaced out schedule for home games, road games and a mid-season bye week.

Current Grade: B+

Schedule-20222022 currently is the year Idaho gets paid more, to do the same. A+

Anytime Idaho can get Washington State on the schedule every couple of years it is a positive. This is the type of Power five game Idaho should be scheduling. Ideally in a decade Idaho will play Washington State 3-4 times. The Likes of a Washington, Oregon, Oregon State, Colorado, Utah each once. Then a bigger game like Texas A&M, Penn State, LSU or Florida State once just to have the experience.

Indiana is paying Idaho $100,000 more to come play them again in 2022 then they did in 2021. Most would assume this game to be favorable in 2022. More so with a previous appearance in Bloomington just 12 months prior. Grade this game an A.

The Big Skys whacky scheduling means no Montana State this season. That earns a D. Not the Athletic Departments fault, but it is what it is.

How To Fix It:

Drake is what drags this schedule down to a B+. Idaho should be scheduling low tier FCS teams to help with playoff qualification. Problem with the Drake game, Idaho is paying Drake $250,000 to come play in the Kibbie Dome. Taking a large bite out of the Washington State & Indiana earnings. Idaho should try and schedule these types of games as home & homes. Keeping the profit made from bodybag games.

The other change. Find a way to make the games marketable. The fanbase will be as fired up for the Drake game as they were for Western New Mexico State in 2018. Joining the Big Sky-Missouri Valley Challenge would be fun for the fanbase. Might even help with some of the steadfast FBSers. What better school to participate against in Idahos first go at the challenge than the Bobby Petrino led Missouri State Bears? Idaho is in need of a home game to complete the schedule. Putting the first meeting in the Kibbie Dome. The place where Bobby Petrino spent three seasons as QB coach and Offensive Coordinator from 89-91. Before Paul Petrino came to coach WR,QB & RBs from 92-94. Later taking the role as Head Ball Coach in 2013. They have never coached against each other and this would put people in the seats & eyes on the TV.

If Missouri State is not open to the idea. Montana State has week 3 open.

2023 Schedule

Schedule-2023The first year where the Vandals have a true opening where they can pick anyone. As the schedule stands now, the Vandals have no opponents for week 1 or week 3.  Expect a team to be named shortly. Then the Vandals play in Reno Nevada against a former Big Sky and WAC foe in University of Nevada-Reno. Then in week 8 Idaho will face Dixie State in St.George Utah. Who will be a full fledge FCS member, counting as a division 1 game.

Current Grade: A-

Overall a great schedule. Play a former conference rival for the 30th time in the Nevada Wolfpack. In a very fun place for fans to travel to. A+.

You play what should be a lower tier local FCS squad in Dixie State in Moscow. The start of a 3 games series with the Trailblazers. The Big Sky helps out by giving equal spacing between home and away games. It all comes down to Idaho not messing it up by scheduling a bad opponent in week 3 causing a week 1 bye week.

How To Fix It:

Change nothing in the actual schedule except attempt to schedule Dixie State week 3 opening up a later season bye week. Then per my 2022 schedule suggestions return the favor on the home & home with Missouri State in week 1 (currently open)

Bobby Petrino left Western Kentucky after 1 year and the Atlanta Falcons after just 13 games in the middle of the season. The odds he is still coaching at Missouri State in three seasons are slim.

Even Paul Petrino is up in the air at the moment to be at Idaho in 2022. His contract is through 2023. However, is on the hot seat. The 2022 season is the first real strong possibile season he could be fired. If he doesn’t start winning. 2022 is when the amount he would be owed would be reasonable.

Leaving the chance that neither Petrino is at their current job for even the 2022 game. Let alone the 2023 game. Even without one or both of the Petrinos. Missouri State is the type of team Idaho needs to start scheduling if they want to return to being a top flight Big Sky team and perennial playoff contender.

2024, 2025 & Beyond

The Big Sky hasn’t released conference schedules for these years yet. The Vandals do know in 2024 they travel to Dixie State and Oregon. Then host Dixie State and then “Travel” To the Battle of the Palouse. Everything this far out is subject to change.

In Review

Understand the unique position Idaho is in. The Vandals schedule problems are caused by the 2013 independent season. Then compounded upon with move from FBS to FCS.

The suggestions made were realistic changes. Not fantasy changes impossible for Terry Gawlik (Idaho Athletic Director) to deliver. The current scheduling issues are not her decisions. These games were scheduled before she had taken office. The only two scheduling announcements while Gawlik has be the Athletic Director (2022 Drake 2023 Nevada & Dixie State Series). Both announcements were ideal additions to the schedule. The ultimate goal for 2023 is a balanced athletics budget. Allowing future scheduling to be more open, minimize travel, but maximize payouts. The Ideal realistic schedule 2024 and on is Pac 12 School, winnable Mountain West school & home and home with a lower tier FCS program.

Big Sky Podcast Network Big Sky Conference Football Power Rankings: Week Four

Sans Weber State, the nonconference schedule has come to a close. There’s a ton we don’t know about the mid-to-lower tier teams, but the four playoff favorites have separated themselves and begin the hunt for signature wins—starting with UC Davis and Montana. As always, votes come from the many Big Sky Podcast Network contributors and Brian Marceau fills in the rest. 

 

The Elites

 

  1. Montana State

Record: 3-1

Last Week: Win vs. Norfolk State (56-21)

This Week: vs. NAU

 

Coach Jeff Choate pulled the plug on freshman quarterback Casey Bauman with a last minute substitution of sophomore Tucker Rovig, who rewarded MSU with the type of performance (21/27, 221 yards, 4 TDs) that—if repeated—will transform the Bobcats from playoff-lock to championship contender. We’ll have to see if Rovig can deliver against real competition—Norfolk State is a lower tier FCS program—but if MSU’s already elite defense and special teams is now paired with a strong offense, the Bobcats shouldn’t see a close game until the last two weeks of the season (vs. UC Davis and Montana). Montana State was already a heavy favorite this week against NAU, but if the quarterback question is solved and both Troy Anderson and Isaiah Ifanse can return to something around 100 percent, the Bobcats will be the most complete team in the Big Sky, and maybe the entire FCS outside of North Dakota State. 

 

  1. Weber State

Record: 1-2

Last Week: Bye

This Week: vs. Northern Iowa

 

Weber State has looked good in their one FCS win (nonconference over Cal Poly) and two single-score FBS losses. It’s unclear what to think of the Wildcat offense, which scored 41 against Cal Poly, but only 13 combined in their FBS losses. What is clear is how dominant the Weber State defense has been in allowing 43 total points and an average of 345 yards against mostly FBS competition. Coach Jay Hill expects injured quarterback Jake Constantine to return from a knee injury to start this week against top 10 brethren Northern Iowa in a game with playoff seeding implications. 

 

  1. UC Davis

Record: 2-1

Last Week: Loss at North Dakota State (27-16)

This Week: vs. Montana

 

The Big Sky’s best showing this week might have been UC Davis outgaining North Dakota State (422 yards for UC Davis to 354 for NDSU), and trailing by four at the end of the third quarter. Jake Maier’s three interceptions held the Aggies from pulling the upset, but UC Davis more than held their own in Fargo and proved their top five ranking is more than deserved. The Aggies open up Big Sky play hosting Montana in what should be a matchup of two top 15 teams. Montana has not yet underperformed against an FCS team the way UC Davis did in their season opener at San Diego, but their close loss at NDSU has erased concerns about whether the Aggies’ rocky first two weeks would carry into the conference season. 

 

  1. Montana 

Record: 3-1

Last Week: Win vs. Monmouth (47-27)

This Week: at UC Davis

 

The worst we can say about Montana heading into conference play is they haven’t been tested the way Weber State, UC Davis, and Montana State have, though again, Montana looked strong in a convincing 20 point win over Monmouth en route to the Grizzlies’ third FCS win. Dalton Sneed was electric through the air (334 yards, 4 TDs), but maybe more importantly, the immergence of running back Marcus Knight (21 carries, 148 yards, 1 TD) gives Montana one of the league’s better threats on the ground. This week, Montana faces their first FCS elite on the road at UC Davis. A win would catapult Montana into the top 10, but even staying competitive in their first real test of 2019 would go a long way in proving the alleged Return to Dominance has truly begun.   

 

The Inseparables 

 

  1. Idaho

Record: 2-2

Last Week: Win vs. EWU (35-27)

This Week: at Northern Colorado

 

Maybe the narrow loss at Wyoming was a turning point for Idaho. After opening with an embarrassing 72 point loss at Penn State and an uninspiring 10 point win over DII Central Washington, it appeared the Vandals were giving the Big Sky an encore performance from last season’s disappointing squad. Instead, Idaho dominated EWU for three quarters and gave fans a look at what could be the Big Sky’s biggest turnaround team. 

 

It didn’t hurt that five EWU defensive starters were out with injuries, but the Idaho offensive line dominated from start to finish. The Vandals rushed for 223 yards and three touchdowns, though more importantly, by controlling the line of scrimmage, Idaho was able to consistently find themselves in short yardage situations on second and third down. Not only did this allow quarterback Mason Petrino’s short yardage accuracy to become a weapon for the Vandals in a way it never has been in the senior’s two years as a starter, it enabled Idaho to keep EWU’s offense off the field by manufacturing long clock burning drives featuring a ton of easy third down conversions (10/16 on 3rd down). With Northern Colorado on the schedule next week, Idaho should find itself on the right side of .500 for the first time since returning to the Big Sky.  

  1. Sacramento State

Record: 2-2

Last Week: Loss at Fresno State (34-20)

This Week: Bye

 

Sacramento State again looked fantastic in hanging all four quarters with another FBS team that will undoubtedly make a 2019 bowl game. Against both Arizona State and Fresno State, the Hornets received no production from 2018 All-Big Sky running back Elijah Dotson, who will unquestionably find more room to run during the conference season. More concerning for the rest of the Big Sky should be the play of quarterback Kevin Thomson, who has thrown nine touchdowns and completed 61.8 percent of his passes in Sacramento State’s three Division I games. 

 

  1. EWU

Record: 1-3

Last Week: Loss at Idaho (35-27)

This Week: vs. North Dakota

 

Last year’s national runner-up will begin Big Sky play with zero FCS wins thanks to an upset loss at Idaho. The defensive struggles present in the Eagles’ DII win over Lindenwood (31 points allowed) and in their second half collapse at Jacksonville State returned for all four quarters against the Vandals, where the generally tepid Idaho offense gained 463 total yards including 223 on the ground. Missing five defensive starters aided in EWU’s poor defensive outing, but that does little to explain how Idaho’s defense was able to keep the Eagles from moving the ball the entire first half and much of the third quarter. Without question, EWU owns the Big Sky’s most disappointing opening month, and for the Eagles to make a return trip to the FCS playoffs, they may have to finish no worse than 7-1 through the conference season.  

 

  1. NAU

Record: 2-2

Last Week: Loss at Illinois State (40-27) 

This Week: at Montana State

 

Northern Arizona could not move past its dark horse status in a road loss at Illinois State in a game that could have given the Lumberjacks their second FCS win. On the year, quarterback Case Cookus (12 TDs, 4 INTs) has shaken any rust from missing most of last year, but without a top tier defense or any semblance of a rushing attack, NAU will have to win a lot of shootouts if they’re going to threaten for an at-large playoff berth.  

 

The Know Nothings

 

  1. Portland State

Record: 2-2

Last Week: Win vs. Eastern Oregon (NAIA, 59-9 )

This Week: at Idaho State

 

Beyond learning that Davis Alexander would be an elite NAIA quarterback (25/34, 366 yards, 5 TDs), throttling Eastern Oregon tells us nothing about the Vikings. A month into the season, Portland State owns two sub-FCS wins and two FBS losses, meaning no one on Earth has an idea what to make of the Vikings.   

 

  1. Idaho State

Record: 1-2

Last Week: Loss at Northern Iowa (13-6)

This Week: vs. Portland State

Idaho State turned in one of the week’s surprising performances in their one-score loss on the road at No. 9 Northern Iowa. Backup quarterback Gunnar Amos (13/26, 134 yards, 3 INTs) struggled while leading Idaho State to 209 yards of total offense, but the Bengals’ defense shined in holding an FCS elite to 234 total yards and 13 points. ISU’s defense was weak in 2018, but if coach Phenicie and company have made strides on that side of the ball, the (eventual) return of quarterback Matt Stuck and some semblance of an offense would push the Bengals back to where they were in 2018—a dark horse for an at-large playoff berth. 

 

  1. Cal Poly

Record: 1-2

Last Week: Bye

This Week: at Southern Utah

 

If big play passing is now part of the Mustangs’ arsenal (quarterback Jalen Hamler has passed for three touchdowns and 403 yards on 25 total attempts), it might compensate yards Cal Poly purges on defense (496 yards per game vs. two FCS teams).  

 

The Known Quantities

 

  1. Southern Utah

Record: 1-2

Last Week: Loss at South Dakota State (43-7)

This Week: vs. Cal Poly

 

Aside from their week three win over one of the worst FCS teams (Stephen F. Austin), Southern Utah has scored almost no points until trailing by 30 or more in 2019. Those blowouts did come against two top 10 FCS teams (Northern Iowa and South Dakota State) and FBS UNLV, but at the close of nonconference play, Southern Utah joins Northern Colorado as the Big Sky’s two nights off. 

 

  1. Northern Colorado

Record: 0-4

Last Week: Loss at South Dakota (14-6)

This Week: vs. Idaho

 

In two FCS games (Sacramento State and South Dakota), Northern Colorado has scored six points and gained 390 total yards. Yes, they kept it close at South Dakota, but until the Bears have something resembling an offense, Northern Colorado will threaten no one.