If you look at the playoff scenario for the Big Sky Conference at this point in the season you can see there’s a clear mess at the top. The auto-bid right now appears to belong to Northern Arizona with a perfect conference record. Right behind them with one conference loss is Southern Utah, Weber State, and Eastern Washington. Also in the playoff hunt are Montana, Montana State, with a very outside shot to Sacramento State.
Right now there are four ranked Big Sky team, Eastern Washington, Northern Arizona, Southern Utah, and Weber State. Montana fell out of the rankings with their loss at Weber State this past weekend. With a 24 team playoff field typically at least three Big Sky teams have gotten in, with four a possibility. With the teams above having a possibility of playoffs, which ones make it? The next two weeks should clear up a lot of questions.
Getting things started in the Big Sky this week was Montana taking a 54 minute flight from Missoula to Ogden to take on Weber State. Weber State jumped out to a commanding 34-6 lead at the half thanks to several Montana turnovers and miscues. The Wildcats jumped on those early and capitalized. Montana was without starting defensive back Justin Strong, and lost two defensive starters in the first quarter to targeting penalties. Weber capitalized with four straight touchdowns. Montana temporarily stopped the bleeding with a Gresch Jensen touchdown run before the half. Montana fought back in the second half, getting within 14, however a Jensen interception returned for a touchdown by Jordan Preator sealed the deal for the Wildcats. Montana will host Northern Arizona next week while Weber State will be on the road at Eastern Washington.
Southern Utah looked to continue their assault on the Big Sky Conference with a game in Greeley this weekend. The Thunderbirds have already taken down Weber State and Eastern Washington, and Northern Colorado was going to be their next victim. Southern Utah used a strong rushing attack from James Felila (126 yards) and a fine passing attack from Patrick Tyler to take down the Battlin’ Bears 27-14. UNCs Conor Regen, in relief of injured quarterback Jacob Knipp, threw for 392 yards and a score but couldn’t get the Bears into the game. Tyler started off the scoring on a quarterback keeper of 31 yards and the T-Birds never had to look back. Cameron Chambers iced the game with a 13 yard pass from Tyler to end it. Southern Utah will host North Dakota, while Northern Colorado will be at Sacramento State.
Idaho State was looking to keep their name near the top of the Big Sky standings in their trip to Bozeman this weekend. However, the Bobcats had other plans for the visiting Bengals. Bobcat quarterback Chris Murray turned in one of his finer passing efforts of his young career by throwing for 231 yards and two scores. He added 67 yards rushing and a score to aid his effort. The Bobcats owned the first quarter with a pair of touchdowns from Mitchell Herbert and Troy Anderson, but the Bengals weren’t done. Michael Dean and James Madison had touchdowns of their own to knot it at the half. Mac Bignell sealed the game for Montana State by intercepting Tanner Gueller and retuning it for an 18 yard touchdown. Montana Stae will host Kennesaw State while Idaho State will host UC-Davis.
In the Big Sky pillow fight of the week North Dakota made the trip across the Big Sky to take on Portland State. Portland State jumped out to a quick 14 point lead in the first quarter. After that North Dakota ripped off 34 straight points thanks to a combination of John Santiago and Reid Taubenheim. While up 34-14 Portland State attempted to come back, Davis Alexander punched in an 8 yard touchdown. However, North Dakota’s Brady Oliveira answered with his own touchdown to make sure that comeback was short lived. Carter Wilson iced the cake with a 53 yard fumble return touchdown. Portland State will be at Cal Poly in next week’s Big Sky Pillow Fight of the Week, while North Dakota will be at Southern Utah.
Sacramento State was looking to unseat the only team with an undefeated record in Big Sky Conference play, however they were going to have to play lights out for that to happen. Northern Arizona’s defense held the Hornets to 233 yards to stop Sacramento State in their flight pattern. The Jacks jumped out to a quick 17-0 lead thanks to a Case Cookus touchdown and a Wes Sutton interception return. The Hornets came right back with a Joseph Ajeigbe 71 yard touchdown run. Sacramento State made it interesting in the third quarter with Elijah Dotson touchdown catch from Roman Ale to get the score to 20-17. However, the Jacks had other plans getting a score from Joe Logan, then icing the game with a pick six from Kam’Ron Johnson to put it away. Sacramento State will look back on this one and be kicking themselves. Northern Arizona will be at Montana next week, Sacramento State will host Northern Colorado.
In the Big Sky night cap Cal Poly was trying to get into the win column for the first time this season, but to do so they had to beat their in-state rival UC-Davis. The Aggies jumped out to a quick 21-0 lead on three Jake Maier touchdown passes. Two of them to Wesley Preece, one to Aaron Moore. Cal Poly got one on the board with a score from Jared Mohamed. On their opening drive of the second quarter Cal Poly got another sore from Kyle Lewis, hauling in a 42 yard touchdown pass. Davis would answer right back with another Aaron Moore touchdown reception. Poly wasn’t done as they kept chipping away, getting touchdowns from Broc Mortensen and Jared Mohamed, however, that wasn’t enough to get by Davis. Davis was held scoreless in the second half. Cal Poly will host Portland State in the Big Sky Conference Pillow Fight of the Week, while Davis will travel to Idaho State.
Weber State 41
Southern Utah 27
Northern Colorado 14
Idaho State 14
Montana State 28
North Dakota 48
Portland State 21
Sacramento State 17
Northern Arizona 37
Cal Poly 28
UC Davis 31
Big Sky Player of the Week
This week’s Big Sky player of the week is Northern Arizona’s Case Cookus. Cookus was 35/57 for 407 yards and a touchdown in the Lumberjacks’ win over Sacramento State this past weekend.
Big Sky MVP Candidates
Gage Gabrud, QB, Eastern Washington – Idle
Elijah Marks, WR, Northern Arizona – No stats recorded
Tanner Gueller, QB, Idaho State – 17/28 for 193 yards, 1 TD 2 INT
Keelan Doss, WR, UC-Davis – 14 receptions, 145 yards
Gresch Jensen, QB, Montana – 21/42 for 347 yards, 3 TD 3 INT
Big Sky Power Rankings
1. Southern Utah
2. Eastern Washington
3. Weber State
4. Northern Arizona
6. Montana State
8. Sacramento State
9. Idaho State
10. Northern Colorado
11. North Dakota
12. Portland State
13. Cal Poly
Final Thoughts and Hot Takes
The Pillow Fight of the Week is hilarious for the second week in a row. These teams at the bottom of the conference are so bad.
Speaking of bad, it’d be awesome if Big Sky commish Andrea Williams watched her referees and made some changes. All I’m saying on the topic.
The mess at the top of the Big Sky won’t be cleared up for at least a couple of weeks. By then we should see how many Big Sky teams are going to the playoffs. Naturally there will be some bubble teams but I see four BSC teams getting in. I see five teams playing for those four spots.
If Cal Poly doesn’t beat Portland State this weekend I don’t think they’re going to win a game this year. Far fall for the Mustangs.
Saw a game in Ogden last weekend. That was a difference experience. Utah has weird laws in bars, man.
Northern Arizona has played a pretty easy Big Sky schedule so far, their next three games aren’t going to be as nice to them. They’re rolling with a lot of momentum right now and anything can happen, but these next three weeks could make or break them.
Southern Utah, on the other hand, have only one test left. They will be hosting Northern Arizona to end the season. I’d say SUU is lock for the playoffs even if they trip up once in the last three weeks. Or even twice, for that matter.
My picks this week: Montana, Kennesaw State, Eastern Washington, UC-Davis, Southern Utah, Sacramento State, Cal Poly.