Having made an appearance in the NCAA Division I National Championship game three of the last five seasons, the Big Sky Conference has established itself as one of the premier conferences in the Football Championship Subdivision.
By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
Eastern Washington last year went the farthest in the playoffs of the Big Sky schools but lost in the semi-final round to national runner-up Sam Houston State.
The conference will continue with 13 schools and be the largest FCS conference.
With 13 schools, the BSC will look to follow the CAA model for playoff participants. The CAA with 12 teams, seemingly received four or five bids each year and with the Big Sky’s Gridiron Power Index numbers, there is no reason to believe that this will be the case in the future for this premier league in the West.
All teams will again play eight conference games and there will be just one division. Teams can also play conference teams in non-conference games, something that will occur three times this season. Teams will have two rival schools that will be on each year’s schedule but the others will be on a rotating basis.
For the teams that might make a run for the title are last year’s three playoff participants in Eastern Washington, Cal Poly and Montana State. Montana and Northern Arizona return a number of key players and will likely be in the mix as well.
CSN BIG SKY CONFERENCE PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH
1. Montana State
2. Eastern Washington
4. Northern Arizona
5. Cal Poly
6. Sacramento State
7. North Dakota
8. Northern Colorado
9. Weber State
10. Southern Utah
11. Portland State
12. UC Davis
13. Idaho State
Offensive Player of the Year:
DeNarius McGhee, QB, Montana State, Sr.
Defensive Player of the Year:
Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana, Sr.
Biggest Shoes to Fill:
Brad Sorensen, QB, Southern Utah
CSN BIG SKY PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE
Greg Hardin, Sr., North Dakota
Tanner Bleskin, Sr., Montana State
Danny Kistler Sr., Montana
Giovanni Sani, Sr., Cal Poly
Gavin Farr, S. Utah, Sr.
Steven Forgette, E. Washington, Sr.
Ashton Miller, Sr., Eastern Washington
R.J. Rickert, Jr., Northern Arizona
DeNarius McGhee, Sr., Montana State
Zach Bauman, Sr., Northern Arizona
Cody Kirk, Sr., Montana State
Dalton Turay, Jr., UC Davis
Sullivan Grosz, Sr., Cal Poly
Tim Wilkinson, Sr., Northern Arizona
Zack Wagenmann, Montana, Jr.
Zak Browning, Southern Utah, Soph.
Jordan Tripp, Sr., Montana
Ronnie Hamlin, Sr., Eastern Washington
Clarence Bumpas, Sr. Northern Colorado
T.J. Lee III, Sr., Eastern Washington
Anders Battle, Sr., Northern Arizona
Lucky Dozier, Sr., Northern Arizona
Allen Brown, Sr., Eastern Washington
Colton Cook, Sr., Southern Utah
Shaquille Hill, Soph., Eastern Washington
Bobby Zalud, Sr., Cal Poly
CSN BIG SKY GAMES OF THE WEEK
Appalachian State @ Montana, Aug. 31
The Grizzlies lost in Boone last year. Can the Grizzlies send the Mountaineers a loss in their last FCS season?
South Dakota State @ North Dakota, Sept. 7
These two old DII NCC rivals meet in Grand Forks. Will North Dakota use the home field advantage to upend the Jackrabbits?
Northern Arizona @ UC Davis, Sept. 14
This is the league opener for both. NAU never trailed in last year's first-ever meeting.
Southern Utah @ Sacramento State, Sept. 21
Two middle of the pack teams from a year ago meet. Will this win move one of these teams towards the top?
Eastern Washington @ Sam Houston State, Sept. 28
Two of FCS elite meet in Texas in a rematch from the playoff semifinals from a year ago.
Northern Arizona @ Montana State, Oct. 5
Two preseason favorites meet in Bozeman. Can NAU win two straight years in the state of Montana?
Eastern Washington @ North Dakota, Oct. 12
The Eagles make the trip to Grand Forks. Will they handle the long trip and come home with a victory?
Cal Poly @ Montana, Oct. 19
The Mustangs made a splash a year ago in their first Big Sky season a year ago. This game will tell us if they will be a contender again this year.
Eastern Washington @ Montana, Oct. 26
These two rivals meet again in Missoula. Can the Grizzlies handle the Eagles at the friendly confines of Washington Grizzly Stadium?
Cal Poly @ UC Davis, Nov. 2
These two California rivals meet again in the Horseshoe Classic. Can the Aggies use the home field to win this one?
Southern Utah @ Weber State, Nov. 9
These two Utah schools meet in Ogden. The Wildcats lead the series including holding on to win last year's match.
Montana State @ Eastern Washington, Nov. 16
This game will likely decide the Big Sky title. Can the Bobcats travel to Cheney and win or will the home red turf give the Eagles the victory?
Montana @ Montana State, Nov. 23
This should continue to be the best way to end the Big Sky schedule. Will this year's "Brawl" in Bozeman be another classic between these two rivals?