Big Sky Preview 2015.12

BSC  Week 12 Preview

Kris Kallem & Lance Berndt, BSC  Contributors | November 19, 2015

Lance says-

#19 Montana @ Montana State
For a while it was looking like the 115th Brawl of the Wild was going to only have implications on the rivalry itself and nothing beyond that. The Griz have picked up two key wins, though, and a win against the Cats would give them a very good chance at being selected into the playoffs, while also having an outside chance at being a conference champion. For most of the season, it was looking like this was setting up to be a very high scoring game. Both teams have picked up their defense lately, and the defenses almost always step up in the Brawl. Mac Bignell has become one of the cornerstones of the Bobcat defense and being from Drummond, Montana, this rivalry means more to him than many others who will be playing. Bignell comes from a family of Bobcat football alumnae and from a football powerhouse school that has produced stars for both Montana and Montana State. On the Griz side, I have to mention Brady Gustafson, but first and foremost, Connor Lebsock comes to mind. With three older brothers and a father who all played for the Griz, the Lebsock family has proudly stamped itself in Montana football lore. Now with Brady Gustafson, being the starting quarterback in the Brawl of the Wild has been a title for many graduates from the city of Billings. Gustafson will become the next man in line for that job after spending 3 seasons on the sidelines and 18 years before that dreaming of playing in this game. All three players and many more on both rosters represent the kind of history that this game is all about. On the field, this should be yet another exciting game. The Montana task will be stopping Dakota Prukop, especially considering his mobility. Montana has struggled defending mobile quarterbacks. The Bobcats have struggled against the run, so players like John Nguyen, Jeremy Calhoun, and Joey Counts could factor greatly into the Grizzly offense. With Gustafson back, the crazy Stitt offensive scheme will also be in full force.

#16 Northern Arizona @ #13 Southern Utah
The Grand Canyon rivalry is a relatively new one, but the game has had playoff implications for the last several seasons. This year, the Big Sky championship is on the line. If Southern Utah wins, they will be the sole champions. If Northern Arizona wins, they will share it at least with the T-Birds, and also possibly with Portland State or Eastern Washington, and Montana if they can win. Also, with both teams having a pretty weak D2 opponent on their respective schedules, they both need this game to have a much better chance to reach the playoffs. You couldn’t have more of a difference in age at the QB position between the two starters. Case Cookus is just a freshman and a 2014 HS graduate. Ammon Olsen graduated high school back in 2009, and to put that into perspective, when he started his senior season, George Bush was still President. On the field, Cookus plays like a veteran, though. Just recently he broke a freshman record previously held by Ricky Santos. For FCS fans, that’s quite an achievement to outperform the former New Hampshire legend. Ammon Olsen has been able to hold his own as well this season and has been an intricate part in the T-Birds success this season. While NAU may have the advantage on offense, Southern Utah likely has the better defense. Up front they have Buck Buchanan candidate James Cowser and also solid stronghold Taylor Nelson. In the middle are stars Mike Needham and Miles Killebrew, while Matt Holley controls the back end. The T-Bird defense has held their Big Sky conference opponents an average of 16 points under their season points per game average. Southern Utah does have the home field advantage, but in this rivalry, that hasn’t mattered since Northern Arizona won at home in 2009. It should be a great game in Cedar City.

UC-Davis @ Sacramento State
Sure it’s a battle for last place in the conference, but the Causeway Classic is still a rivalry game with a long history. This will be the 63rd matchup in the series with UC-Davis winning 18 of the last 23. The Hornets have faced a very tough schedule this season, but have competed better than expected considering they lost so much of their offense from last year. Since taking over the reins of the QB position midway through the season, freshman Nate Ketteringham has done pretty well. Shane Harrison has become his favorite target, and they will have one more game to play together. For UC-Davis, it may very well be redshirt freshman CJ Spencer, who held his own passing for 300 yards against Cal Poly last weekend. The two teams are 12th and 13th in scoring offense, so defensive players could be the big playmakers in this game. Hornet senior Darnell Sankey should be the leading contender to make a difference. He leads the conference with 136 tackles and also has 3.5 sacks on the year.

Kris Says-

Abilene Christian @ Northern Colorado
Despite the 3-7 record, Abilene Christian nearly knocked off top 5 McNeese and is coming off of a nice win last week against Southeastern Louisiana. The Bears have a chance for their first winning season since moving up to Division I. Both teams are near the bottom of the FCS in total defense, so expect a high scoring affair.

Idaho State @ Weber State
After three straight, two-win seasons, it’s good to see the Wildcats bounce back this year. With quality victories against North Dakota and Montana, they are probably just a missed field goal at Eastern Washington away from making the playoffs. Idaho State on the other hand has had a miserable season and has been looking to next year for quite some time now. The Wildcats should roll.

Portland State @ Eastern Washington
In just two weeks, Eastern has gone from talk of being a potential seed to desperately needing a win just to have a shot at making the field of 24. Portland State IS still playing for a potential seed and perhaps a top 4 at that. Portland State’s rushing attack creates a huge mismatch for the Eagles who are to second to last in the Big Sky in stopping the run. But Eastern’s bigger problems might lie with an offense that is scoring less than 20 points per game over the last three.

North Dakota @ Cal Poly
This is a strength on strength matchup as the nation’s leading rushing attack in the Mustangs faces the #7 rushing D in North Dakota. If North Dakota wins, they have a very real shot at receiving an at-large bid. Cal Poly is way better than their record indicates and would love to prove it by spoiling North Dakota’s playoff ambitions. This has the makings of a really great game.


2:00 PM Abilene Christian @ Northern Colorado  Big Sky Conference
2:00 PM Montana @ Montana State Root Sports
3:00 PM Idaho State @ Weber State Fox Sports Arizona
5:00 PM Northern Arizona @ Southern Utah  Big Sky Conference
5:05 PM Portland State @ Eastern Washington SWX Spokane
5:30 PM UC Davis @ Sacramento State Comcast Sportsnet CA
9:05 PM North Dakota @ Cal Poly  Big Sky Conference

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