By Kent Schmidt
CSN West columnist
College Sporting News
Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 in the GPI and the major polls. Most likely the winner will get a Top 5 seed and a great chance to host throughout the playoffs.
Being a fan of the West, I couldn’t ask for a better game than this.
How does each of these teams come into this game?
The Grizzlies come into this road game with a 8-2 mark with just losses to begin the season at FBS Tennessee and also a September road loss to Sacramento State. In total, Montana has won their last six games in a row.
The Bobcats come into this home game at Bobcat Stadium with a 9-1 overall mark with their only loss coming, like Montana, to an FBS team to begin their season. MSU lost to Utah but have rattled off nine straight wins to get to their mark.
Montana State is ranked fifth in the current GPI, while Montana is eighth.
And both teams should be well rested as both enjoyed byes last week.
Montana State won 21-16 last year in Missoula in a game that knocked Montana out of playoff contention and ended their consectutive playoff appearance streak.
Who are the prominent players in this game?
Montana State is led by quarterback DeNarius McGhee, who has thrown for 2,189 yards and 21 touchdowns and run for another three scores and 215 yards.
His leading wide-out is Elvis Akpla, who has 43 receptions and 827 yards with 10 touchdowns. The leading ground gainer for the Bobcats is Cody Kirk with 1,188 yards and 14 scores.
On the defensive side for MSU, they are headed by linebacker Jody Owens with 74 tackles with 9.5 for a loss. He also has five sacks and an interception.
For Montana, they are quarterbacked by Jordan Johnson, who has thrown for 1,628 yards and 13 scores. Like McGhee from MSU, he has also used his feet in running for 313 yards and two scores.
The Grizzlies have used a several runningbacks. The top two are Peter Nguyen (566 yards, no touchdowns) and Jordan Canada (474 yards, 5 touchdowns). But Dan Moore with six scores leads the team with his short yardage game.
The leading receiver for the Grizzlies is Sam Gratton, who has 28 receptions for 356 yards and a score. The leading pass yardage gainer, however, is Jabin Sambrano, who has 397 yards on 24 receptions and six touchdowns.
The leading tackler for the Grizzlies is linebacker Caleb McSurdy, who has a whopping 106 tackles with seven for a loss and 3.5 sacks, along with an interception.
In total, MSU is scoring an average over 36 points per game while Montana is scoring just over 32.
The defenses are also good with MSU giving up just over 20 points, while Montana has given up just over 21.
What might the weather be for this Saturday’s noon mountain time kickoff?
This time of year, the weather in any Montana city can be unpredictable. The forecast right now is for a high of near 20 degrees with a chance of snow.
That weather likely does not favor either as both are used to these conditions but with snow in the forecast it is always fun to see.
What are my thoughts on this game?
Given the statistics, this game like most years is an evenly matched one. And as predicted this is my game of the week like it has been most last regular season finales.
I think Montana State holds a slight advantage on the Grizzles with the talent right now but I have seen in the past where Montana could make the same claim and came out losers in this game.
Turnovers will play a big role and likely special teams, and I believe MSU’s kicker Jason Cunningham has the bigger leg than the Grizzlies’ Brody McKnight.
I like the Bobcats by a field goal in this game with a late game winner from Cunningham.
Montana State 31 Montana 28
But like always, I look forward to seeing this game every year. It is truly the best of the west and is only fitting to end this great season with this contest this year.