The final week of the Big Sky regular season came to a close this past weekend. The weekend ended in absolute bananas fashion. In the end Weber State is your Big Sky automatic qualifier to the playoffs. Despite a loss to Montana in the previous week the Wildcats did what they needed to and won their final game. Sacramento State tied Weber State to share the Big Sky title, however, Weber State owned the head to head to decide the auto-bid. This is the first time that Sacramento State has won or shared the Big Sky football title.
As far as the playoffs go the Big Sky got four teams in, and all four of those teams received a seed. Weber State led the way by earning the #3 seed and host the winner of Wofford and Kennesaw State. Sacramento State will be the #4 seed and host the winner of Austin Peay and Furman. Montana State will be the #5 seed and host the winner of Albany and Central Connecticut State. Montana will be the #6 seed and host the winner of Southeast Louisiana and Villanova. The other seeds are North Dakota State at #1, James Madison at #2, South Dakota State at #7, and Central Arkansas at #8. The first round of the playoffs will begin this coming weekend.
In Big Sky action this weekend Montana and Montana State locked horns in the annual Cat/Griz game in Bozeman. The Bobcats got the game started by forcing an almost immediate turnover by the Griz and scored their first touchdown shortly after that. The Cats didn’t take their foot off the gas for four more quarters and dominated the #3 Grizzlies. The Bobcats won their fourth game in a row against the Griz.
North Dakota struggled early on against Southern Utah and eventually capitalized on the Thunderbirds and doubled them up on Saturday. The Fighting Hawks were selected to play in the playoffs as well. Cal Poly won the Big Sky pillow fight of the week by beating Northern Colorado in Greeley. Cal Poly came from behind to save themselves from being the worst team in the conference. After the game on Saturday the Bears informed Earnest Collins that he would not be retained. The Bears will begin their head coach search immediately.
Idaho won a shootout against Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. Mason Petrino threw for six touchdowns in the game. Previously during the season Petrino only had seven touchdowns for the entire season. For Northern Arizona the career of Case Cookus comes to a close. A terrific individual career mired with a team who strived for mediocrity. Cookus had 450 yards and three touchdowns on the day. Weber State took care of Idaho State. Eastern Washington did their part to make a case for the playoffs by beating on Portland State, despite a furious effort by the Vikings in the fourth quarter. The Vikings scored four of the last five touchdowns in the game. In the night cap, Sacramento State took care of UC Davis in the annual Causeway Classic to capture a share of the Big Sky Conference title.
Montana State 48
Southern Utah 18
North Dakota 36
Cal Poly 28
Northern Colorado 21
Northern Arizona 53
Idaho State 10
Weber State 38
Portland State 46
Eastern Washington 53
UC Davis 17
Sacramento State 27
Big Sky Player of the Week
This week’s Big Sky player of the week is Montana State running back Isaiah Ifanse. Ifanse rushed 21 times for 171 yards and three touchdowns as the Bobcats beat rival Montana this past weekend.
Big Sky MVP Candidates
Dalton Sneed, QB, Montana
Kevin Thomson, QB, Sacramento State
Jeff Cotton, WR, Idaho
Ulonzo Gilliam, RB, UC Davis
Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington
Big Sky Power Rankings
The Quad Shot
The playoffs are here and it should seem almost unprecedented that four Big Sky teams got into the playoffs and all of them earned a seed. That’s absolutely crazy. Shows how tough the Big Sky was this season.. but still somehow ranked worse than the Missouri Valley according to Jeff Sagarin. That all being said, it was a dog fight until the final snap of the regular season. According to the Sagarin rankings the Griz finished at 95, Weber State at 96, Sacramento State at 97, and Montana State at 100. That’s tight.
Interesting that North Dakota got into the playoffs. I imagine they were probably the last team to get in. Finished 7-4, so they played one less game than the rest of the Big Sky. The NCAA selection committee uses a formula called the Simple Ratings System to help them decide who’s in and out of the playoffs. They have North Dakota at 23, and Eastern Washington at 15, but somehow it’s the Eagles that are staying home. Furman, Nicholls State, Illinois State and Kennesaw State are also at-large bids to the field and are 24, 25, 29, and 22 respectively. I imagine Eastern Washington probably has a beef with this result, and rightfully so, but when you’re deciding the 20-24 teams there’s always going to be deserving teams left out.
If I can rant for a moment.. I still don’t get the love for the Ivy League. This conference is impossible to measure because they simply don’t play anyone. They play eight conference games and three out of conference games. Their OOC schedule generally consists of non-power 5 FCS conference teams. The power five conferences, if you will, are the Big Sky, Colonial, Missouri Valley, Southland and Southern. Typically those conference get more than one or two teams in the playoffs. Of the eight Ivy League teams only three of them scheduled a game against a power 5 FCS conference. Brown played Rhode Island (a loss), Yale played Richmond (a win), and Pennsylvania played Delaware (a loss). The OOC record of the Ivy League this season was 119-163. Columbia had the toughest OOC, their opponents going 22-13, largely boosted by an 11 win Central Connecticut State. Of those games only one team went outside of the greater Northeast, Harvard played at San Diego. Until the Ivy League starts playing some tough opponents and going for more than a bus ride, we’ll never know how good any of these teams are.
With the playoff bracket being released I’m going to make my predictions. North Dakota State and Sacramento State will face off in one semifinal, while James Madison and Weber State will face off in the other semifinal. In Frisco we’ll see North Dakota State beating James Madison for the title. Again. So predictable.