Idaho Preps With FCS Potential

Big Sky Recruiting of The State of Idaho

The State of Idaho has been steadily growing as a High School Football recruiting ground for College Football. Idaho has produced some phenomenal FBS talents in recent times like Taysom Hill, Leighton Vander Esch, Shea McClellin, Taylor Kelly and Tanner Mangum. We also just had a guy like Jonah Elliss out of Moscow High be highly recruited and looks to possibly be the next NFL guy from the state of Idaho.

But for everyone of those guys, there are so many talented individuals coming from Idaho. I worked with Justin Jackson, the founder of Rare Academy ID, to identify some guys that have FCS potential. Even a few I was cautious to post about. According to Justin, there are some SERIOUS sleepers in this years class.

Big Sky schools are starting to notice the talent in the state as well. There are 72 players from the state currently on a Big Sky roster for the 21-22 season. Maybe the more important stat, the blue bloods of the conference have taken notice.

Big Sky Schools # of Idaho Players
Cal Poly0
Eastern Washington2
Idaho State29
Montana State6
Northern Arizona0
Northern Colorado0
Sacramento State0
Southern Utah0
UC Davis1
Weber State11

Weber State has won the Big Sky 4 years in a row now and in 2019 made the FCS semi-finals. They have 11 players from the State of Idaho. This includes 2x All-Conference and current Preseason All-Conference Junior George Taralas from Borah High in Boise.

Montana State also has dipped their toe in the Idaho waters when head coach Jeff Choate was at the helm. The St. Maries kid and former BSU assistant knew the gems in the gem state. Tucker Rovig of Mountain View led them under center to the semi-finals of the 2019 FCS Playoffs.

Another former Bronco, UC Davis head ball coach Dan Hawkins has been recruiting the Treasure Valley pretty heavy since taking the helm for the Aggies. He may not have won many of the recruiting battles, but he offers a healthy amount of Idaho kids.


Over the course of a couple phone calls and a few of the RARE Academy Idaho camps we has compiled a list of guys in the state that are FCS Prospects.

RARE Academy Idaho is an all-year training academy for kids throughout the whole state. This is not only physical training, but they do alot to help with the mental side of being an athlete and making the move to the college environment. Like many of you, Justin and his team see the potential growing in this State and just want to help these kids get the offers they are capable of. Then have the tools to succeed physically and mentally once on campus.

If you have never checked them out, you should. Its more of a have to see it to believe it. What they do for recruits in this State is amazing and one of a kind. They are only going to continue to grow and help your sons, nephews, neighbors be recognized and preforming at their peak.

The have a staff of former FBS players including Idahos own Brady Strodtbeck who cleared holes for Vandal running backs during the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Some are borderline FBS guys, others could be PWO/D2 type guys. But this is the crop of dudes to keep your eye on and go see if their team is in your area this season.

Davis ThackerWRMeridian
Ethan MikitaWREagle
Kade ThompsonWRRocky Mountain
Trais HigginsWRNampa
Ethan CastilloWRCapital
Garret LavinWRTimberline
Jackson MasonWRRocky Mountain
Gavin CappsWRJerome
Fisher ClementsTEMt.View
Isaiah SawyerTEMt. View
Will VailTEMelba
Gage JonesSEagle
Adam BallRBSt. Regis
Cross AntonnacchiRBMeridian
Taylor MarcumRBTimberline
Brett SpencerQB Weiser
Tiger AdolphoQBRigby
Carter FortinQBCole Valley
Malakai MartinezQBMeridian
Kaimen PeeblesQBSouth Freemont
Owen ToledoOLRocky Mountain
Gunnar ClarkOLMountain Home
Talin TogiaiOLRigby
Seth KnotheLBBishop Kelly
Caden KelleyLBRocky Mountain
AJ EdwardsLBRocky Mountain
Garrett McKennaLBMountain View
Jackson BergerLBCDA
AJ EdwardsLBRocky Mountain
Landyn YoungDLRocky Mountain
Liam ReevesDLTimberline
Jaxson WashingtonDLCDA
Deion TawzerDLRigby
Charles JudyDLSkyview
Jackson BeckDLMountain View
Aiden WhippleDLMountain View
Zachary ClarkDBPost Falls
Alameen AbimdolaDBMountain View
Casey CopeATHVallivue
Tao JohnsonATHThunder Ridge

There is loads of talent on this list. But there are a couple guys I want to highlight. Particularly in terms of Idaho going after them. I’m going to spotlight a few in no particular order.

Adam Ball 6’0 200lbs RB #17 St. Regis

I know this could be looked at as cheating since St.Regis the town is technically in Montana. But it is a border town and Adam is attending the RARE Academy Idaho showcases. He is not just attending, he is preforming. When Justin talks about this kid, you hear it in his voice. He is something special. He is the reason something like RARE exists.

If there is one name to take away from this piece. It is Adam Ball. Justin speaks so highly of this guy I am planning on attending a St. Regis game in person this season. (Scroll down for a list of MUST catch games this fall). Ball has been a standout at every event and is still under the radar. Almost, so much so, I just wanted to leave him off the list and just text our coaches about offering this kid. I just couldn’t not mention him, he deserves the recognition and WILL BE the steal of this class.

Davis Thacker 6’3 205lbs WR # 6 Meridian

Davis is the brother of Damen Thacker who just started 23 games for the Vandal hoops team. We know Paul Petrino is always talking about “family”. He loves recruiting sons, brothers, nephews of coaches, former players etc. Damen Thacker did transfer out and was apart of a different athletics program, but this is a move I would not be surprised to see our athletic department make.

Davis currently does not have any offers.

Taylor Marcum 6’0 185lbs RB #21 Timberline

If you follow prep football, this one is obvious. Taylor Marcum is one of the highly recruited guys in the state. In fact on July 18th he committed to Montana State. But, we have seen recently verbals change before NSD. He has an offer from the Vandals and Idaho is building a bit of a pedigree of giving in-state RBs playing time. Lets not forget the first play of the 2019 season against Penn State, Paul put in true freshman Nick Romano RB from Rocky Mountain and threw the ball to him. He is not afraid to say RBs from the state of Idaho are big time.

Garret Lavin 6’1 180lbs WR #19 Timberline

Yes, back to back Timberline guys. But, me myself, I am a Timberline guy. “The strength of the pack is the wolf and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”

Garrett is another legacy type guy. He comes from a Vandal family and just a guy I would love to see be given a shot. Even if our receiver room is getting crowded.

He does not currently have any offers.

Gage Jones 6’1 185lbs DB Eagle

Likely the best defensive back in the State, Gage is poised to have one heck of a season. With a few seasons now of poor secondary play. Getting this local stud would go along way to sure up the backend.

Jaxson Washington 6’1 260lbs DL #78 Couer D Alene

The kid is just one of those grinders. He has got a gym in the garage at home and from looks of it has spent some time with his second cousin Washington States star RB Max Borghi. He also is a very good wrestler, which is a extra bonus in a lineman. He also won the RARE Showcases events top 6 lineman honors.

The Vikes have put out loads of division one talent in the past decade. It is a program you trust. Our defensive line isn’t getting any younger. We should be looking to add 2 to 3 guys on the line in this class.

He currently has 3 offers from a few NAIA and such schools, some sort of offer from the Bengals in Pocatello. But looks to be getting looks from and Montana. His father is a former walk-on and they are a big Griz Family. They have been exposed to the Vandals and we could get him, but if Montana offers (especially before us) it would be hard to win this recruiting battle.

Malakai Martinez 6’0 180lbs QB #3 Meridian

Maybe a bit under the radar until recently. He is starting to show-up everywhere. He was one of if not the first QB Justin gave me. Then on August 8th he was announced the 6th best QB in The Northwest 9 the QB camp former guest of the podcast Taylor Barton runs.

Right now has no offers, I know Idaho has brought in the likes of CJ Jordan, Gevani McCoy and MacCloud Crowton. But you can never have too many QBs.

Hayden Klincheloe 5’10 215lb RB #23 Homedale

This one is a me pick. I watched Hayden in 3A state semis and final last season. He was hard not to notice. I turned to my friend I was in attendance with and said “this is the type of kid Idaho needs to offer.” I later learn he comes from a deep vandal family.

Feedback I got throught the grapevine is his speed is a concern. Well, if you can’t tackle him it doesn’t really matter does it?!

Hayden Klincheloe in State Playoffs Photo By: Chris Hammond

Games To Catch FCS Talent

For some of you football nuts out there, you want to catch these guys before they may suit up for or against the silver and gold in the coming years. I compiled a list of games to catch to watch some of this FCS talent under friday night lights around this beautiful state.

Week 1

Treasure Valley

Mountain View vs Meridian – Meridian,ID (Mountain View, HS)

  • 9 possible FCS guys

Capital vs Nampa – Boise, ID (Donnar Larson Park)

  • 1 Possible FCS guy

Eagle vs Bishop Kelly – Boise, ID (Bishop Kelly HS)

  • 3 possible FCS guys

Magic Valley

Buhl vs Weiser – Buhl, ID

  • 1 Possible FCS guy

Twin Falls vs Vallivue – Twin Falls, ID

  • 1 Possible FCS guy

Week 2

Spokane-CDA Area

Lakeside vs St. Regis – Plummer, ID

  • 1 Possible FCS STUD

Treasure Valley

Rocky Mountain vs Mountain View – Meridian, ID (Rocky Mountain HS)

  • 13 Possible FCS guys

Nampa vs Skyview – Nampa, ID (Skyview HS)

  • 3 Possible FCS guys

Idaho Falls

Rigby vs Post Falls – Rigby, ID

  • 5 Possible FCS guys

Week 3

Spokane-CDA Area

Koontenai vs St.Regis – Harrison, ID

  • 1 possible FCS STUD

Treasure Valley

Rocky Mountain vs Meridian – Meridian, ID (Rocky Mountai HS)

  • 11 Possible FCS guys

Week 4

Spokane-CDA Area

Clark Fork vs St. Regis – Clark Fork, ID

  • 1 Possible FCS STUD

Post Falls vs Mount Si (WA) – Post Falls, ID

  • 2 Possible FCS guys

Magic Valley

Thunder Ridge vs Rigby – Twin Falls (Thunder Ridge HS)

  • 4 Possible FCS guys

Week 5

Treasure Valley

Skyview vs Rocky Mountain – Nampa, ID

  • 10 Possible FCS guys

Melba vs Cole Valley – Melba, ID

  • 2 Possible FCS guys

Week 6

Treasure Valley

Eagle vs Timberline – Eagle, ID

  • 5 Possible FCS guys

Meridian v Skyview – Meridian, ID

  • 5 Possible FCS Guys

Week 7

Treasure Valley

Timberline vs Rocky Mountain – Boise, ID (Donna Larson Park)

  • 11 Possible FCS guys

Skyview vs Eagle – Nampa, ID (Skyview HS)

  • 4 Possible FCS guys

Magic Valley

Canyon Ridge vs Mountain Home – Twin Falls (Canyon Ridge HS)

  • 1 Possible FCS guy

Week 8

Treasure Valley

Homedale vs Weiser – Homedale, ID

  • 2 Possible FCS guys

Vallivue vs Bishop Kelly – Caldwell, ID (Vallivue HS)

  • 2 Possible FCS guys

Timberline vs Skyview – Boise, ID (Donna Larson Park)

  • 5 Possible FCS guys


Coeur d’Alene v Post Falls – Coeur d’Alene, ID

  • 4 Possible FCS guys

Idaho Falls

Sugar-Salem vs South Fremont – Sugar City, ID

Week 9

Treasure Valley

Rocky Mountain vs Meridian – Meridian, ID (Rocky Mountain HS)

  • 11 Possible FCS guys

*** 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 


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
t3UC Davis4-2t3UC Davis3-2
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 😉

Tubs Preseason Big Sky Poll

We submitted three polls to the conference office. Here is how the three of us voted and why.

1Weber StateMontanaWeber State
2EWUMontana StateEWU
3MontanaWeber StateMontana
4UC DavisEWUSac State
5Montana StateSac StateMontana State
6NAUUC DavisUC Davis
7Idaho StateIdahoIdaho State
8IdahoIdaho StateNAU
10Sac StateSUUSUU
11Cal PolyPortland StatePortland State
13Portland StateCal PolyCal Poly

For those of you that read our Preseason All-Conference Team post you can see our picks for All-Conference lead to our opinions on our polls.

Further Explanations


  • Weber State at 1 – The Wildcats return possibly the best Secondary in the FCS. Three members of the secondary made our All-Tubs Team. Bronson Barron (technically a true freshman still) had barely been on campus and had to compete for starting job last season. That is not the case this fall, he will be receiving all the reps. Pair that with former Jerry Rice Award winner Josh Davis and an emerging stable of backs returning. The Achilles heel of this program, the offense, has to take a step forward. Even if the offense doesn’t improve, they have still won four straight Big Sky titles. Why would I bet against them?

  • Montana at 3 – Look even with some “?” still at QB. This team returns a lot of talent. How bad could it be when you get to throw to Maybe the best WR in the FCS, Sammy Akem. If the QB works out, they could easily win the conference. But right now with Weber returning Bronson & Eastern returning EB3, I gave them the SMALL nod over the Griz. Its going to be a close race this year.

  • Sacramento State at 10 – I understand I’m sticking my neck out with this one. I just think the 2019 season was a flash in the pan. I expect this team to be closer to their 42-28 home playoff loss to start the playoffs, more then the 49-22 win vs the Griz. The Hornets in my opinion benefited greatly from being a sleeper until about half way through the 2019 season, an out of nowhere QB (who has since transferred out) and no one having tape on first time head ball coach Troy Taylor. I expect them to struggle early and maybe make a charge late. Are they the 10th best team in conference probably not, probably a bit better. But weeks 1 thru 6 I expect them to play below where most people have them. Most throw out the easy schedule this year as a reason to have them high. I think the easy schedule will catch them sleep walking with rust early. Though lighting can strike the same spot twice…


  • Weber State at 3 – Defending Big Sky champion Weber State (finally) looks vulnerable. The Wildcats won a single spring game by a margin greater than a touchdown–with all of those nail biters coming against teams that will be picked in the bottom half of this fall’s season–but Weber’s schedule, and Jay Hill’s tendency to just never lose games he shouldn’t, makes a 6-2 (in conference) floor all but locked in.

  • Idaho at 7 – This vote was a strict judgement of talent–which should put Idaho not in the top tier of the conference, but close enough to talk yourself into yet another but maybe this year discussion.

    Which is lunacy.

    We all know the Idaho blueprint from the previous three years: stay competitive at home, but faceplant on the road. Hang with, or knock off a playoff-level team, then stumble in comical fashion against the Northern Colorados, or Northern Arizonas occupying league’s bottom tier. Never mind that Idaho has its toughest league schedule since rejoining the Big Sky. 

    So yes: in my written-in-blood preseason poll, Idaho sits at number seven. And yes: the moment my poll was officially sent, I could not believe their slot was higher than ten.

  • Northern Colorado at 9 – Consider Northern Colorado a composite character of Idaho, Idaho State, Southern Utah, and Northern Arizona: it’s an absolute crap shoot rating any of those teams above each other. Before the Bears land higher than ninth, we’ll need to see the fruits of Coach McCaffrey produce. The talent influx following McCaffrey alone will make Northern Colorado at least good enough to spoil someone else’s playoff hopes, but with the promising spring efforts from other projected lower-tier teams, there’s too crowded a field of candidates to repeat the out-of-nowhere rises of UC Davis and Sacramento State to rate Northern Colorado much higher.   


  • Eastern Washington at 2 – Eric Barriere is one of the best players in the entire FCS, and when you have a quarterback like him running the show, you’re going to have at least a puncher’s chance in every game. Yes, their questionable defense allowed 35 straight points in the first round of the spring playoffs to a weakened North Dakota State. Yes, the receivers drop more passes than they should. Yes, they have an extremely tough conference schedule this year. But, their three toughest games (Montana, Montana State, Weber State) are all in Cheney this year and I’d expect they win two of the three to keep themselves just behind Weber in the conference standings. Even in their last true down year (2015, when Vernon Adams transferred to play his final year at Oregon), they tied for fourth in conference, going 5-3 with two losses to ranked teams.

  • UC Davis at 6 – UC Davis has a deep cast of receivers, a solid defense (as Vandal fans likely remember), and one of the best running backs in the conference. QB Hunter Rodrigues had 21 FCS passes to his name coming into 2021 and may have benefited more from the spring season than any other athlete. So why do I have them sixth? Weber State, Eastern Washington, and the Montana schools certainly look better on paper and should all slot in as top five finishers, even if they trade losses around. I don’t see the Aggies beating Weber State (and yes, I know they had a double digit lead on the Wildcats last season) or Eastern Washington. Even if they beat Sacramento State in the Causeway Classic to finish the year, I don’t think a game in hand on the Hornets helps, courtesy of the absolute gift of a schedule Sacramento State got this year. Nothing against UC Davis, but a top five finish doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

  • Idaho at 9 – Every year it seems I talk myself into Idaho finally becoming a bully in the Big Sky. Take one look at the schedule and you’ll realize why I’m not doing that this year. The Vandals could be favored in three of their four home conference games, but even if they won out at home with an upset of Montana, they will not be favored in a single road game this season. I don’t think they win a single game outside of Moscow this year, even without Paul Petrino’s track record of failure away from the Kibbie Dome. There’s plenty of talent on this team, just like there was in the spring, but I don’t see any reason to believe that it magically clicks this season. 4-4 in conference is the ceiling for this team if things go well, and 2-6 is certainly on the table. We’re looking at another long year.

Goal To Go: Weber State

Welcome to Goal & Go. A new series where I will give my 4 things to watch, know or expect for the Vandals upcoming game and a score prediction.

1st Down: Dome Sweet Dome

The Vandals have been white hot at home since returning to the FCS. They have only dropped 1 in 8 tries to a rival in Montana last year when the season was over. In that time they have knocked off two FCS Stats top 25 teams in #11 Eastern Washington (2019) and #24 North Dakota (2018).

This is with most of the fan base oblivious to the fact that they are missing incredible games by staying in Boise, Coeur D’ Alene, Seattle Etc. Which will most likely be the case again this week.

In the Dome this team plays like the team we wanted them to be in the FCS. Can we add one more top 25 scalp?

2nd Down: Looking In The Mirror with Rose Glasses

Weber State and Idaho are almost the same team. Both rely on super athletic defenses, love to hand it off to the halfbacks.

The stats don’t show it thanks to Penn State. But these defenses are very similar. But we are fooling ourselves if we think Idaho’s is better. They may have better athletes, but Weber’s defense held two FBS teams to 25 COMBINED points. Idaho against two FBS teams gave up 100!

Good news, actually shocking news Idaho’s offense is significantly better then Weber’s….

Passing TD’s: Idaho-7 Weber-4

Rushing TD’s: Idaho-8 Weber -5

Total Yards- Idaho 1906 Weber 1033

*Idaho does have one more game played

3rd Down: Two QB’s

Weber has used two guys at Quarterback this season. Junior Jake Constantine and Sophomore Kaden Jenks.

Constantine was the guy to start the year but after getting dinged up coach Jay Hill made the switch. He may not look back Jenks only has 3 more pass attempts but has thrown 2 more touchdowns for almost 70 more yards.

All this but they don’t really rely on the QB’s. Combined they only have thrown 111 passes, completed 60 for 577 yards. They also don’t turn the ball over, they combined have less interceptions then Mason Petrino threw just last week.

Despite that…. I’ll still take Petrino over Webers Woe-some Twosome

4th down: Season On The Line?

This is a statement game! You beat Eastern and were upset to not receive top 25 votes. Then you lose to Northern Colorado and everyone hoped off the wagon.

Well a win over #4 Ranked Weber State would rejuvenate the fan base. Win here you are back in Top 25 discussion, if not ranked in the 22-25 range. Plus, with Eastern back in the top 25, it would mean two Division 1 wins vs top 15 opponents. That would be quite the resume.

After this week we will be halfway through the season. Meaning only 6 more chances to reach the minimum number of 7 Division 1 wins to be considered for the playoffs. That would mean with a loss here, we would have to win out and hope teams like Sacramento, Montana & Idaho State are as good as they are being hyped to be.

With a win this week you give yourself for a one more slip up down the stretch. But we are running on prayers now. If we win this week it could spark an unprecedented run.

Doesn’t 9-3 sound Good!


Chris: Idaho 21 Weber 19

TJ: Idaho 31 Weber 30

Brian: Weber State 24 Idaho 13

Alex: Weber State 20 Idaho 10





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.