Big Sky Power Rankings Week 6

Reminder this is a “Power Ranking.” It means different things to different people. Some view it as the best team, some view it as hottest team at the moment. At the end of the year, the team that wins the conference may not be No. 1 in our rankings. We had 12 voters this week.

This week [Last Week] | Team | First Place Votes – Points

1. [3] Eastern Washington (12) – 169

Last Week: W Vs #6 Montana 34-28

This Week: @ Northern Colorado

My Ranking: 1

WOW, WOW, WOW! What a show! The wait was worth it. If this truly is a farewell tour, the main event was something to hold onto forever. This will make the best hits album for years to come. The show was so good, maybe this isn’t farewell after all. They have a couple big shows left to maybe show these old souls still have it. That they are more than just their lead guitarist.

2. [1] Montana – 145

Last Week: L @ 28-34 #4 Eastern Washington

This Week: Vs Dixie State

My Ranking: 3

Well shoot. I took Montana in this one and was pretty confident in the pick. Though the one thing I said was Cam Humphrey can’t win this game, and he couldnt. I know Kris Brown was ultimately how it ended, but Humphrey just isn’t a guy to go out and win you a game. Humphrey completed 53% of his passes for 150 yards and a 1 to 1 TD to INT ratio.

Cam didnt lose them the game, he certainly didnt win it either.

That VAUNTED griz defense I thought would give QB Eric Barriere the same types of “fits” Idaho has the past two seasons. (“fits” as in not 400 yards and 4 TDs)

Vs Idaho

2019- Passing: 28/46 365 Yards 2 TDs 1 INT Rushing: 57 Yards 2 TDs 1 Fumble

2020A- Passing: 32/57 339 Yards 2 TDs 1 INT Rushing: 14 Yards 0 TDs

2020B- Passing: 18/38 309 Yards 2 TDs 0 INT Rushing: 54 yards 0 TDs

Vs Montana

2021 – Passing: 26/46 422 Yards 2 TDS 2 INTS Rushing: 41 yards 0 TDs

I guess they kinda did?… But it just wasnt enough.

3. [2] UC Davis – 142

Last Week: W vs Idaho 27-20

This Week: @ Idaho State

My Ranking: 2

UC Davis fans I imagine are okay not being in the top spot after their preformace compared to the ESPN2 showdown. However, #3? My assumption of the 11 other voters is, they rewarded Eastern for the win, didnt want to punish Montana, and the Aggies just played it too close to a team barely in the top 10 of the power rankings.

I made the argument last week in favor of UC Davis having a tougher schedule. Well, what a difference a week can make?! 2 of our top 3 teams are undefeated. Montana (the one with the loss) leads the way in average sagarin ranked opponents, at 130 on average, Easterns’ average opponents ranks 140.75, then UC Davis is a only 193 (out of 258).

Good news for them they only have 1.5 hurdles left to go undefeated.

4. [4] Montana State – 137

Last Week: W vs Northern Colorado 40-7

This Week: Vs Cal Poly

My Ranking 5

You know it is bad when Griz fans were pulling for Montana State. Their opponent last week, Northern Colorado, apparrently ruffled some feathers. People wanted to seem the out of no-where cockiness of the bears cooled down a bit.

The spread was -19.5 Montana State at home. I was one of the people that thought Northern Colorados’ rennassiance was further along and took the spread… Montana State proved they are not.

The Bobcats are sort of sailing under the radar. I think they like it this way. But Bobcat fans beware of flying objects when attending games.

R&R is brought to you by Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Another instant reaction episode, this time Shane Driscoll pinch hits for Thorny and helps Foley give the good, the bad and the ugly from the huge win over Weber State. Thanks to Shane for coming on, and Go Cats! Intro music courtesy of Ugly Duckling
  1. INSTANT REACTION: Weber State
  2. #19 Weber State Preview with Weber State Weekly
  3. Cal Poly Recap
  4. INSTANT REACTION: Cal Poly
  5. Northern Colorado Recap, Cal Poly Preview

5. [5] Weber State – 119

Last Week: W @ Cal Poly 38-7

This Week: Bye

My Ranking: 4

Look for Weber, a backup QB puting up 38 points is a win.

Just werid vibes coming out of Ogden. They are almost in a win or bust situation. They may be able to afford one more loss to a top Big Sky program. But they are running out of statement wins as well. The next 3 weeks are going to be monumental for the Wildcats.

Coming off of the bye, they get Montana State at home which feels like the must win game. Because they follow that up on the road in Cheney. They really need to go 2-0 through that stretch to gurantee playoffs. otherwise it gets iffy and their future may be in others hands. Which is always stressful.

Right now it is a 5 team race for conference title and playoff spots. In 3 weeks it could be narrowed down to 4 teams and some “SadCats” – Hot Take Nate

FOOTBALL GAME DAY: Montana State vs. Weber State w/ R&R Cat Cast's Thorny & Foley Weber State Weekly

The end of the bye has finally come and it's time for the Wildcats to face another top ten opponent at Stewart Stadium. This time, it's the Montana State Bobcats who have been taking care of business this year and come in ranked #9.We chat with fellow Big Sky Podcast Network members Thorny and Foley from the R&R Cat Cast to learn more about what the Bobcats bring to Ogden and where the Wildcats will have to play tough to grind out a dub.For more Bobcats commentary or to hear WSW's take on their show, check out R&R Cat Cast on Twitter or their website.Special thanks to our sponsor, WildcatRack.com. Visit their website to check out all their latest Wildcat gear and follow them on Facebook or Instagram.Don't forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or join the Wildcat Fans FB group.
  1. FOOTBALL GAME DAY: Montana State vs. Weber State w/ R&R Cat Cast's Thorny & Foley
  2. Back from the Bye: Junior DE George Tarlas
  3. #MakeOgdenPurple w/ Weber State Alumni Association Board Member Amir Jackson
  4. #AceState: Sophomore Outside Hitter Dani Nay
  5. FOOTBALL GAME DAY: Weber State @ Cal Poly, 10.02.21

6. [6] Sacramento State – 96

Last Week: Bye Week

This Week: Vs Southern Utah

My Ranking: 10

I seriously dont get it?! We punish teams like Davis for beating Idaho by 7. We punish teams like Weber for losing to Top 10 programs. Yet, 2-2 Sac State with a 2 point win vs 206th ranked Sagarin team and an 8 point win vs 222nd sagarin ranked team, just keep being named the best team outside of the elite teams? PEOPLE, they barely beat the team we ranked last this week! So if Sac State is SOOO good why did we punish Idaho State (fell 3 spots). They fell by a 4th quarter field goal. This wasnt ISU making it look close in garbage time. This was Sac State having to come from behind vs (apparently) the worst team in the Big Sky.

#ComeOnMan

7. [7] Portland State – 92

Last Week:W @ Southern Utah 20-13

This Week: @ Idaho

My Ranking: 6

The love everyone seems to give Sac State, should be given here. Portland State is the team it appears the rest of the Big Sky Podcast Network thinks Sac State is.

QB Davis Alexander is #2 in yards, #4 in TDs.

RB Malik Walker is #7 in yards (Sac State RB not even on list), #2 in TDs

WR Beau Kelly #4 in yards , #2 in catches, #1 in TDs

WR Nate Bennet #6 in yards, #4 in catches, T-#2 in TDs

Yup, I did just take half of Portland States space to continue the tar and feathering of Sac State. Sorry, Colter, they arent quite top 5, but looking to be top 6…ish

8. [t-11] Northern Arizona – 76

Last Week: W vs Idaho State 48-17

This Week: Bye

My Ranking: 8

This team has fluctuated lots this season. Been as high as #6 and as low as #12. Which seems to be fitting honestly as no one seems to have a grip on who they are.

I was celebrity guest host on BSPNS’s NAU Sports Show last week and predicited an Idaho State W, but left door open for NAU win. Classic hedge.

Well NAU players and fans can mail me my crow meal. They were Tiger Kings this weekend.

9. [9] Idaho – 67

Last Week: L @ #7 UC Davis 20-27

This Week: Vs Portland State

My Ranking: 9

They move none and match my ranking. Out of 13 teams the only teams I agree with positioning are #1 Eastern, #8 NAU and #9 Idaho.

I know majority of the eyeballs reading this are Vandals, and probably skipped right on down to this point, and Im sorry.

I know we just hung with the #7 team in the country with legit shot to win. But, we didn’t… Look talent wise we proved we might be top 3 in the conference. Hell, just look at recent draft picks and NFL guys since we rejoined the sky in 2018. In 3 seasons we have 3 guys in NFL and the only Big Sky school with a guy who most likely will be leaving early to be drafted (Tre Walker). The worst part in 2018 all 4 of them were on the team together! in 2019 3 of them were on the team together! How can we not win games with this level of talent?oh wait, Coaching.

I’m starting to think you could go down position matchups every week and pick Idaho in the majority. The one I am starting to think we can no longer check is head coach. I have been a defender of Paul for 8.25 seasons… I can’t anymore. No more excuses. we aren’t Independent, we arent transtioning to Sun Belt, we are recruting to a program kicked out of the Sun Belt, we aren’t transitioning to FCS with less scholarships, we arent getting use to another new conference in the Big Sky, we aren’t in a shortened spring season, we dont have QB issues anymore, we have no more excuses.

We SHOULD have won on saturday, the players did…

10. [8] Northern Colorado – 50

Last Week: L @ Montana State 7-40

This Week: Vs #4 Eastern Washington

My Ranking: 8

Well they lost me money this weekend (*Allegedly). Maybe the bears aren’t as far along as some (maybe just me and Bears fans) thought.

Montana State showed the difference between top flight Big Sky team and the pile up between 11ish and 6.

After that ass kicking, I doubt they are enthused with Eastern coming to town. Going to be a sad homecoming. But seriously, lets dive into this. Who in their right mind schedules Eastern for Homecoming? Like, Why? Do you understand you are suppose to win homecoming? is this concept foreign to you? Are you secretly a NAU grad? A Raiders Fan? Christian McCaffery stole your girl? I dont get it? It really makes me want to break a clipboard and throw it. As a “Souvenir” of course.

11. [t-11] Southern Utah – 42

Last Week: L vs Portland State 13-20

This Week: @ Sacramento State

My Ranking: 12

Please refer to the WAC Podcast Networks coverage of this team.

12. [13] Cal Poly – 25

Last Week: L vs #19 Weber State 7-38

This Week: @ #10 Montana State

My Ranking: 13

I mean, not sure how they moved up. They are my 13, though maybe I should just permenently make SUU my 13, becasue screw SUU. (Exept their Social Media team, they are fire. Please dont roast me)

13. [10] Idaho State – 23

Last Week: L @ Northern Arizona 17-48

This Week: Vs UC Davis

My Ranking:11

Well Bengals, You made me look like a fool. Fool me once shame on me, Fool me can’t get fooled again.

*** 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 

😉

Big Sky Power Rankings Week 5

Reminder this is a “Power Ranking.” It means different things to different people. Some view it as the best team, some view it as hottest team at the moment. At the end of the year, the team that wins the conference may not be No. 1 in our rankings. We had 9 voters this week.

This week [Last Week] | Team | First Place Votes

1. [1] Montana (9)

Last Week: W Vs Cal Poly 39-7

This Week: @ #6 Eastern Washington

My Ranking: 1

Unanimous numero uno! But the first real FCS test is this week on the windy inferno in Cheney on ESPN2. Look they have looked good against, you know bottom dwelling FCS teams sagarin ranked 172 & 218 (out of 258). Then of course the Husky elephant in the room a win against power 5 Washington who are 2-2 and just beat Cal in OT 31-24. Meanwhile Cal beat Sac State by only 12 the week prior.

They are getting the respect they deserve, but man oh man a win in Cheney would be huge to real quall my doubts. Per Colter Nuanez on ESPN Missoula “The red turf was installed in 2010 at Roos Field in Cheney, WA. The Griz are 0-5 since then on the Inferno.”

Not only would a win this week quall my doubts, but would probably help beat away some of the 2010s ghosts beating around Missoula. You break your 5 games lose streak to the Eagles, that game for another streak breaker November 23rd becomes less mental.

2. [2] UC Davis

Last Week:W #19 Weber State 17-14

This Week: v Idaho

My Ranking: 2

UC Davis was my darling pick this fall to be a dark horse and they are looking to be every part of it. All they have done so far is take care of business. 4-0 with FBS win, Top 15 FCS win, and two blowouts of lesser FCS opponents.

The game last week vs Weber may have just secured them a playoff spot, pending a colossal collapse. Their playoff resume sits at 4.5 wins.

QB Hunter Rodrigues is proving to be the next step at QB after Jake Maier took them to national prominence. Pair that with a top 3 RB in the Big Sky (Ulonzo Giliam Jr) and some stud pass catchers (Jared Harrell & McCallan Castles).

They have a more impressive resume than Montana, and probably have a legit gripe with these rankings and not receiving a 1st place vote. The Sagarin rankings of the teams they have beat 86, 243, 117, 228. Very comparable to Montana but with the extra win and one being Top 25 in the FCS.

Aggies fans are staring to pop out of the woodwork online and should be proud of the progress this team has made.

3. [4] Eastern Washington

Last Week W @ Southern Utah 50-21

The farewell tour headliner is this weekend at the home venue. Tickets are expensive, capacity is being added. Can Eric Barrierre have a performance like we are used to? Or will Montanas physical front 7 cause the issues for Barrierre and the band have had in the past.

The home fans and all the groupies circles this show when the calendar came out. This show is the show of shows on the tour. They have been waiting since 2016 to have this show back at home.

They need a good show. They have really only been playing smaller intimate shows. Wins vs sagarin ranked 172, 197, 144 and a team not ranked due to being D2.

They due have one comparable which is absolutely, totally and unequivocally going to show how Saturdays game will got.

Montana 42 Western Illinois 7

Eastern Washington 62 Western Illinois 56

4. [3] Montana State

Last Week: W @ Portland State 30-17

This Week: vs Northern Colorado

My Ranking 5

This one should stir some drama. You view it as either Montana State maybe having a bit of a letdown vs Portland State, or handling a “top 5 Big Sky Program” in Portland State.

When the real story is this game went exactly how it was suppose to. Spread was -13… boom, that’s a push.

For Bobcat fans, you are correct a 29 point win at Southern Utah vs 13 point win at Portland State doesn’t quite seem different, or impressive enough to justify being jumped in the poll. Then you see I have you at 5 and divert your energy to me, realizing it is probably my fault.

Look love me some Bobcats. But you guys just haven’t beaten anyone worth a damn. Sagarin ranked 244, 186, 243. By far the easiest schedule so far in the Big Sky. Just keep winning and you will move up.

5. [5] Weber State

Last Week: L vs #8 UC Davis 14-17

This Week: @ Cal Poly

My Ranking: 4

From the easiest schedule in the big sky to the hardest. Weber State has had to face two top 8 teams and a potential Pac-12 south champion. They have not had an easy time of it. To make things harder they lost their starting QB Bronson Barron for the those ranked matchups.

Not going to make excuses for them. They were suppose to be better than 1-3 entering week 5 this year. They have made it to the FCS Semi-finals before with below average QB play.

Good news is their schedule gets easier from here on out. With only 2 games that should even challenge them with 1 at home. that said they can really only afford to lose 1 more from here on out. Weber is reeling.

Oh and that ball was defiantly uncatchable.

6. [7] Sacramento State

Last Week: W @ Idaho State 23-21

This Week: Bye Week

My Ranking: 9

I still don’t quite understand why everyone else in the Big Sky Podcast network still has this team even close to floating around the top 5.

To be fair, there is a clear top tier this year and a large middle with some a few stragglers.

Right now, Sac is the king of the middle I guess.

7. [9] Portland State

Last Week: L vs #11 Montana State 17-30

This Week: @ Southern Utah

My Ranking: 6

Not a fan of losing a game and moving up in the standings. But it happens. Call it the Montana Effect. You play a team from the state of Montana and play ok, you will move up.

8. [12] Northern Colorado

Last Week: W Northern Arizona 17-10 OT

This Week: vs #11 Montana State

My Ranking: 7

They are like that Katy Perry song. They are hot, then they are cold, up and then down, in then out.

Dylan McCaffery is back in and they win the game. Without him they lose to a team like Lamar.

But even so, NAU seems to be having some struggles. They needed a bigger win to really look threatening for this season. But it appears they will play a playoff spoiler role this year. Which is better then cellar dweller like they had been.

9. [11] Idaho

Last Week: Bye Week

This Week: vs #8 UC Davis

My Ranking: 8

Talk about benefiting from some bad, bad play in front of you. When you have a -84 scoring margin in your two most recent games, probably shouldn’t move up. But hey, this pulls them closer to where I have them ranked. So maybe more people just calmed down, and looked at actual talent on the team and not the scoring margin?

10. [10] Idaho State

Last Week: L vs Sacramento State 21-23

This Week: vs Northern Arizona

My Ranking: 10

The Bengals did me dirty. 0-3 to start the season with a loss to Sac State. Just…no.

t-11. Southern Utah

Last Week: L vs #6 Eastern Washington 21-50

This Week: vs Portland State

My Ranking: 12

SUU just can’t put it together. Had a chance to catch EWU sleeping. That didn’t happen.

t-11. Northern Arizona

Last Week: L @ Northern Colorado 10-17 OT

This Week: vs Idaho State

My Ranking: 11

Just look lost on offense. Which is shocking because they are DEEP at Wideout and seemed to find the guy running the rock in Hall.

13. Cal Poly

Last Week: L @ #4 Montana 7-39

This Week: vs #19 Weber State

My Ranking:13

I mean, people believe in Baldwin, just not yet.

*** 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 

😉

Big Sky Power Rankings Week 4

Reminder this is a “Power Ranking.” It means different things to different people. Some view it as the best team, some view it as hottest team at the moment. At the end of the year, the team that wins the conference may not be No. 1 in our rankings. We had 15 voters this week.

This week | Team | Point total (First Place Votes)

1. Montana

Last Week: Bye

This Week: vs Cal Poly

My Ranking: 1

Still Riding high after the stunner against the puppies on Lake Washington, where I may have been only FCS personality to take the Griz confidently. And Yes! I will continue to toot my own horn about it!

They get a warmup this week against Cal Poly before a top 10 FCS clash under the lights on ESPN next weekend. Rumor has it College Gameday may attend…

2. UC Davis

Last Week:W vs Dixie State 60-27

This Week: @ #14 Weber State

My Ranking: 2

UC Davis having a storybook OOC. Beat a Tulsa team that in 2020 played top ranked Cincinati for the AAC Title. Blow out rival San Diego and then pick up a 2nd FCS win last week vs Dixie State. The Aggies playoff resume sitting at 3.5 games after 3 weeks is huge.

If they can pick up a road win vs #13 Weber State, they will have an argument for the top spot next week.

3. Montana State

Last Week W vs San Diego 52-10

This Week: Bye

My Ranking 5

Bobcats had an impressive showing vs Wyoming (so did Idaho two seasons back…) and then beat up two teams that according to the VS Simulator would lose at home to Central Washington. The wins may count towards the playoffs, when Central Washington does not. But EWUs win over CWU is more impressive than either of Montana States.

As you can tell I am more in the minority here for the Big Sky Podcast Network as I have them as the tail team of the big 5 that should make the playoff, but as a last 4 in type of squad.

Matt McKay does look like an improvement from years past. But a 65% completion percentage against the teams he has faced does nothing to give this team a nod over the teams behind them on this list in my opinion.

4. Eastern Washington

Last Week: W @ Western Illinois 62-56

This Week: @ Southern Utah

My Ranking 4

The farewell tour for this band is off to a great start. The first three tour stops include a big showing in Vegas a gig that people from outside might be suprised by, but those that know the band, know they had it in them. Then they have a small show at their local bar and it goes as expected. Followed up with a bit of a mess last week where show went off, but not without so hiccups and eyebrow raising from its fans.

They get an amphitheatre show this week down in the desert. Should be a pretty tame show, but they can’t get caught looking ahead to maybe their headline show next week.

5. Weber State

Last Week: L vs #3 James Madison 24-37

This Week: vs #12 UC Davis

My Ranking: 3

They have lost to the teams they should have, and dominated the teams they should have. So what are they?

Photo: Chris Hammond

They are likely still going to grab a share of the Big Sky Title. You know you are the king when people start rooting against you, simply to make them feel better about their teams. Ask any Montana fan, they have been dealing with it for decades. But that is where people seem to be with Weber State. Starting to get some irrational takes that seem to be said, simple to try and speak them into existense. And I understand things dont last forever. But with Jay Hill still their, I am a little baffled people have turned on Wildcats so much. But like I mentioned earlier, alot of it feels like people just rooting against them out of either hope, fear or fatigue.

I still believe in this team more than most. They may actually preform better in the undercat role. A win vs a SURGING UC Davis team would probably put them back in the spotlight. a loss to UC Davis and expect them to be on the back peddle a bit and most likely fall out of top 5 next week.

6. Northern Arizona

Last Week: W @ Arizona 21-19

This Week: @ Northern Colorado

My Ranking: 7

This one is tough. NAU has gotten curb stomped by the teams they needed to beat and beat a team that really doesnt do anything for them. Im sure Lumberjack fans will disagree with me, but I would trade the UA win last week for a win vs South Dakota and a competetive game or W vs Sam Houston.

I dont think they are worthy of being this high. But everyone below them has done nothing to justify being at the 6 spot either.

If they lose to Northern Colorado and go 0-3 vs FCS to open the season they could find themselves at 12 or 13 next week.

7. Sacramento State

Last Week: L @ Cal 30-42

This Week: @ Idaho State

My Ranking: 11

It appears others in the Big Sky Podcast Network are coming around to the Sac State is back to being in a building stage, not a competing stage. 2019 was a flash in the pan and a few years early. Kevin Thompson had this team rolling in 2019, and when he went out, they didnt look the same.

Well he is gone now and that trend continues even with STUDS like Pierre Williams and Elijah Dotson.

Just to cement this point more.

Dixie State 7 Sacramento State 19

Dixie State 3 Weber State (& their awful offense) 41

Dixie State 27 UC Davis 60

8. Southern Utah

Last Week: W @ Tarleton St 40-35

This Week: vs #6 Montana

My Ranking: 13

Look, the Thunderbirds were about 1:41 seconds from being undefeated in the Spring Season. La’kea Kaho Ohanohano-Davis is a NFL type guy, Landom Measom is Mr.Realiable and Justin Miller is improving. Yet the rest of the team is just simply not good enough to compete vs middle to upper tier sky schools.

Not to mention they sold away their OOC playing two bodybag games within 5 days to open the season. Like, Why?!

9. Portland State

Last Week: W v Western Oregon 21-7

This Week: vs #13 Montana State

My Ranking: 8

#BarnysBeerGarden was a great pubilicty stunt to get students into the game and give this team a chance to win them over.

Not sure the 21-7 win vs D2 W.Oregon was the result to keep them there. Unless Barney brings this promotion back and adds Dots Pretzles to the mix, I think “Top 5 Big Sky Program” Portland State may be a team with about 500 fans and a .500 record.

10. Idaho State

Last Week: Bye

This Week: vs Sacramento State

My Ranking: 6

People are down on the Bengals, but not his guy.

They may be 0-2 to start the year but those loses are to #10 North Dakota and MWC frontrunner Nevada.

I think others will come around to Vanderwaal and the Bengal-Cats if they can pull off a thorough stomping of Sac State.

11. Idaho

Last Week: L @ Oregon State 0-42

This Week: Bye

My Ranking: 9

Look Idaho has done nothing to earn a higher spot on this list. But much like Weber they are exactly where we thought they would be.

The glass half full outlook is 1-2 with a lower division win (tighter) and P5 blowouts losses (by more) was how the 2016 Vandal campaign started. They ended the year 9-4 on a 5 game win streak with the crown jewel being 2 touchdown dogs and blowing out a MWC side in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

If you want to know more listen to our podcast episode this week.

12. Northern Colorado

Last Week: L vs Lamar 10-17 (OT)

This Week: vs Northern Arizona

My Ranking: 10

Start the year down, put together some road preformance that got people to take notice and then they lose home opener vs a bad Lamar side.

Northern Colorado may just be Northern Colorado still. The hope was fun while it lasted.

13. Cal Poly

Last Week: L vs South Dakota 14-48

This Week: @ #4 Montana

My Ranking:12

I mean, people believe in Baldwin, just not yet.

*** 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 

😉

The Big Sky Podcast Network Power Rankings: Week Zero

By Brian Marceau

Our power rankings are made up of voters from all of the independent Big Sky Podcast Network contributors. The rankings are democratic, the write-ups are authoritarian and our page space is devoted to the teams that interest us and our listeners the most.

Enjoy.

The Contenders

  1. Eastern Washington (75 percent of first place votes)

On paper, our consensus top team has a lot to prove after the second-most successful season in program history. The Eagles lost thirteen starters from last year’s national runner-up finish, though the number is deceiving for those who followed EWU throughout the playoffs. Yes, Jay-Tee Tiuli (Defensive Player of the Year), all first-teamers Nsimba Webster, Keenan Williams, Roldan Alcobendas, and 10 other All-Big Sky selections graduated, but many of their replacements saw extended play during the FCS playoffs and did not disappoint.  A particularly impressive 2018 injury replacement was quarterback Eric Barriere, who accounted for 32 touchdowns in his 10 starts, six of which came against playoff teams. With a full season under his belt and a significantly easier slate for his next ten games, expect the junior to look even better in 2019.

Teaming up with Barriere to give EWU an elite threat on the ground will be Antoine Custer Jr., a former preseason All-Big Sky running back who missed much of last season to injury.

With the array of offensive firepower at EWU’s disposal, it’s easy to forget this team allowed only a point-and-a-half more per game in 2018 than noted defensive juggernaut Weber State. Until someone proves otherwise, the Eagles and their soft-on-paper 2019 conference schedule puts them easily a top our rankings.

  1. UC Davis (25 percent of first place votes)

After doubling their 2017 win total from five to 10 in 2018, the next step for the Aggies is another deep run in the FCS playoffs. Head coach Dan Hawkins returns one of the top quarterbacks in the FCS in senior Jake Maier, along with All-Big Sky pass catchers Jared Harrell (WR), Wes Preece (TE) and dual-threat running back Ulonzo Gilliam. With so many elite players across the offense, expect UC Davis to score around 40 points per game just like they did in 2018. A limiting factor for the Aggies, in terms of playoff seeding, could be their schedule which offers as many 2018 FCS playoff teams, four, as games versus teams with sub-.500 2018 marks.

(Likely) Playoff Bound

  1. Weber State

It’s incredible that Weber State could graduate nine All-Big Sky performers and still be a consensus top-10 team in just about every preseason poll, but that’s where the Wildcats find themselves. Even with the listed attrition, head coach Jay Hill’s squad still returns eight All-Big Sky selections, including FCS STATS Freshman of the Year Josh Davis and the conference’s most electric special teams talent, junior Rashid Shaheed (34.3 yards per kick return). Whether Hill has managed to (again) reload should be answered within the first four weeks when Weber State plays two FBS teams, Northern Iowa, and Cal-Poly (non-conference).

The main knock against Weber State, compared to UC Davis and EWU, is the Wildcats’ offense. Weber State has proven it doesn’t need to score a ton of points to regularly win games, but it’s hard to ignore the scoring gap between the Wildcats, who only scored 44 touchdowns last season compared to Eastern Washington’s 86 touchdowns, and UC Davis hitting paydirt 67 times. Expect Weber State to make a fourth consecutive trip to the FCS playoffs, but we’ll need to see the Wildcats prove they’ve reloaded or show a little more on the offensive end before we consider them on par with EWU or UC Davis.

  1. Montana State

There’s significantly more optimism about the Bobcats 2019 outlook than for their rivals in Missoula. Based off the success of 2018, a lot of that enthusiasm is warranted. Head coach Jeff Choate won nearly as many games last season (eight) as he did in his first two seasons in Bozeman combined (nine). This includes a first-round playoff win over Incarnate Word. The Bobcats return 17 starters from last year, including five preseason All-Big Sky selections, and with only one conference match-up against a 2018 Big Sky playoff team their 2019 schedule is favorable on paper.

A closer look at 2018 does indicate that last year’s Bobcats absolutely hit their ceiling. Montana State finished 4-1 in games decided by one score or less, which will hard to repeat a second consecutive year. It’s not shocking that a team whose identity is found on the defensive and special teams side of the ball will find itself in more close games than teams like Eastern, but for a team ranked around the top 15 in most national polls whether the Bobcats can score enough to live up to their quite high expectations is a serious question. Last season, Montana State finished sixth in the Big Sky in scoring (28.6 points per game), though that was only roughly only five more points per game than last-ranked Northern Colorado. Fourth-ranked Montana scored nearly 34 points per game.

It’s possible that starting a true pocket passer at quarterback will give Montana State enough of an offensive bump to not need to pull out so many close wins. Starting redshirt freshman Casey Bauman under center will also allow junior Troy Andersen to move back to linebacker, his natural position, where he’ll join seniors Bryce Sterk (LB) and Brayden Konkol (S) and maybe improve on Montana State’s already stout defense which allowed the fourth fewest points per game in the Big Sky in 2018. Without question the Bobcats have talent, and are a team most fans are reasonably penciling the Bobcats into the FCS playoffs in 2019. Though, its’ not clear at this point whether their current top-15 rankings are a reflection of real growth or a near universal rounding up of 2018’s extensive series of fortunate events.

  1. Montana

2018 was an archetypal ‘what if’ season for the Grizzlies. The term Jekyll-and-Hyde is used to describe teams that look great one moment then awful the next, but using last year’s Grizzlies as an example, Jekyll-and-Hyde teams are truly Mr. Hyde teams, which is why Montana missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season in spite of finishing with the fourth-best scoring offense and the fifth-best scoring defense in the Big Sky.

There’s reason to believe 2019 should be different. In truth, the Grizzlies were two plays away from finishing 8-3, which would have guaranteed at least one FCS playoff game at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. Head coach Bob Hauck returns 19 starters, including Buck Buchanan Award nominee Dante Olson (LB), Big Sky Newcomer of the Year Dalton Sneed (QB) and arguably the Big Sky’s best receiver in Samuel Akem. Those three will be joined by maybe the best wide receiver group in the conference: Jerry Louie-McGee, Samori Toure and Gabe Sulsar. But what Grizzly fans will likely find most reassuring is the potential improvement on the offensive line. Last season, the Grizzlies’ front five weighed an average of 281 pounds. The addition of new recruits and growth from returning underclassmen has grown that average to about 316 pounds. Size alone will not buy Sneed more time in the pocket, it’s the progress from underclassmen and an influx of talent in the trenches which should improve Montana’s margin for error compared to 2018.

The biggest on-paper difficulty the Grizzlies face this year will be their schedule. Montana will face all four of the Big Sky’s FCS playoff participants from 2018, while also taking on South Dakota, Oregon, North Alabama, and Monmouth in non-conference play, meaning Hauck’s squad will have to hit the ground running in 2019. If the squandered promise of last year’s 6-5 run can materialize more positively for the Grizzlies this time around, expect to see more of the Montana that led UC Davis 21-6 through the first 44 minutes of play, but until we see it, this is still the same Montana team that was outscored by 62 points in the fourth quarter throughout 2018.

Their Horses Might Be Dark

  1. Northern Arizona

First-year head coach Chris Ball returns 17 starters from last year’s disappointing 4-6 finish, which started out with high expectations after a 2017 FCS playoff appearance and an opening-week win against FBS opponent UTEP.

From this far away, the brightest spot for the Lumberjacks is the return of senior quarterback Case Cookus, who missed most of 2017 due to injury. The former FCS STATS Freshman of the Year threw 50 touchdown passes in his first 15 starts, only to see multiple seasons cut short due to injury. If Cookus returns to his freshman form and avoids landing his second targeting ejection (no other quarterback in football history has one), NAU could be the surprise team that moves into the upper crust of the conference.

  1. Idaho

It will be tough for Idaho to have any more of a disappointing season than it had in 2018, when the Vandals picked up a total of three Big Sky wins. Whether there’s a turnaround lurking in Moscow is unclear. On the offensive side of the football head coach Paul Petrino will again start the year with a quarterback platoon, though until further notice expect coach Petrino’s son Mason to eventually win the starting nod. If that’s the case, Idaho will continue to struggle on the offensive end, in spite of having strong receiving talent, particularly senior Jeff Cotton and sophomore Cutrell Haywood, just like it did in 2018. The Vandals averaged about 25 points per game, good for third-worst in the conference.

Where Idaho could be intriguing is on the defensive side of the ball. In 2018, the Vandals gave up the second-most points per game in conference and were vulnerable essentially everywhere. That defense may not exist anymore. Paul Petrino brought in a lot of FBS transfers with defensive lineman Noah Eliss, a former Mississippi State signee being the prized recruit. If the Vandals defense takes a significant step forward this year, Idaho might finish around .500. The limiting factor will circle back to offense. Junior Colton Richardson has the arm to stretch the field, but struggled with injuries, turnovers and a very short leash in 2018. Senior Mason Petrino is an intelligent player who makes few mistakes but does not have the arm to threaten defenses with even intermediate throws. Early indications from Paul Petrino give his son a leg up to remain being the starter in 2019. If that’s the case, the Vandals will need a defense in the mold of Montana State and Weber State to compete for the playoffs. We doubt they have that, but expect more from the Vandals in 2019 than we saw in 2018.

  1. Idaho State

The Bengals return two All-Big Sky wide receivers in seniors Mitch Gueller and Michael Dean, but it’s unclear who will get the ball to them. Coach Rob Phenicie has not yet named whether senior Gunnar Amos, a former Vandal and Coeur d’Alene native, or junior Matt Stuck will start at quarterback. With the Bengals opening 2019 with a week one bye it’s unlikely we’ll learn the answer anytime soon. No matter who starts under center, the Bengals have made steady progress in two years under Phenicie and will look to finish with their second consecutive winning season for the first time since 2002-03.

Penciled in Wins

  1. Portland State

There’s talent in Portland, no question. Tight end Charlie Taumoepeau might be the best NFL prospect in the Big Sky and the Vikings recruiting class this year was ranked No. 13 in the FCS by HERO Sports. Portland State showed it can compete by beating Montana 22-20 at the Grizzlies’ homecoming game in 2018, but otherwise only looked okay when playing the worst teams in the conference.

  1. Cal Poly

After a 1-4 start, Cal Poly discovered its form and finished the season on a 4-2 run, including a win against Idaho State which kept the Bengals out of the playoffs. Head coach Tim Walsh will have to find a way to replace the dearly departed Joe Protheroe (1,810 rushing yards) if the Mustangs are to again lead the FCS in time of possession. On the other side of the ball, the linebacker combo of sophomore Matt Shotwell and senior Nik Navarro (173 combined tackles) will need some help to keep Cal Poly from surrendering points more efficiently (36.4 points per game allowed in 2018) than the rest of the conference.

  1. Southern Utah

Good luck projecting these guys. Southern Utah went 9-3 in 2017, then 1-10 last season with their lone win coming in the Battle for the Bottom against Sacramento State. The Thunderbirds started four quarterbacks last season due to injury and the projected starter Chris Helbig, the only returning starter who tossed more touchdowns than interceptions, should play more than five games this year. Though, he won’t do much to shore up the Big Sky’s worst defense from 2018.

Every Week is a Bye Week

  1. Northern Colorado

The Bears are another team that can chalk up part of last season’s struggles to quarterback injuries. If senior Jacob Knipp can stay healthy then that alone should improve Northern Colorado’s league-worst scoring offense (23.8 points per game) which scored 14 points or less in six games. Though, it won’t be enough to keep the Bears from hanging out around the Big Sky cellar.

  1. Sacramento State

Sacramento State and first-year head coach Troy Taylor have nowhere to go but up after winning exactly zero conference games in 2018. Injuries, particularly to starting quarterback Kevin Thomson, undoubtedly played a part in the Hornets anemic offense. Luckily, offense happens to be Taylor’s specialty. Getting a full year out of Thomson, the former Bobby Hauck recruit at UNLV, and the return of first team All-Big Sky running back Elijah Dotson (115 rushing yards per game) should help the Hornets look a little closer to their 2017 selves when Sacramento State finished 6-2 in conference. But with maybe the roughest schedule in the conference, don’t expect the Hornets to come close to reaching their sixth winning season this century.