Big Sky Preview - Week 2
I've never been so happy to be wrong as I was last week. Portland State and Montana State both shocked the college footbal world, by upending their IA foes on the road. PSU and MSU both used similar gameplans - dominate defense and control the football. Both squads shut out their respective opponents in the second half.
After week 1, I am 7-2.
Standings are as follows:
1. Montana State 1-0 0-0
2. Portland State 1-0 0-0
3. Montana 0-1 0-0
4. Idaho State 0-1 0-0
5. Weber State 0-1 0-0
6. Northern Arizona 0-1 0-0
7. Eastern Washington 0-1 0-0
8. Sacramento State 0-1 0-0
9. Northern Colorado 0-1 0-0
Eastern Washington @ #6 West Virginia
- Ummm, yea. EWU was creamed by a mediocre Oregon State squad last week, 17-56. But the Eagles did themselves in with four very early turnovers, to find themselves in 35 point hole by halftime. The Eagles finished with -14 rushing yards and just 140 through the air. Ryan Cole had 29 yards and a score, on 13 carries. With the first game jitters out of the way, the Eagles face perhaps the toughest IA opponent any Big Sky squad faces this year, West Virginia. The Mountaineers rushed for 312 yards against Marshall last week, and there is no reason they can't equal that this week. While Eastern is a respectable 7-13 against IA competition, this is going to be a slaughter.
What to watch: Anything else that you can get your eyes on, this ain't gonna be pretty.
#4 Cal Poly @ Weber State
- The Mustangs boast one of the best defenses in the country, and showed it last week vs DII Fort Lewis, blanking them 44-0. Fort Lewis didn't even cross the 50 until well into the 4th quarter. LB Kyle Shotwell is a potential Buchanan Award winner. The Wildcats couln't find any offensive ryhthm last week at Colorado State, and it wouldn't be out of line to say the Mustangs defense is superior to CSU's. Thanks to sacks, the Wildcats had an outstanding -38 total rush yards, and it doesn't get any easier this week. With senior RB Zach Hall out for the season, the Cats will rely on seasoned veteran Adrian Conway to get them going offensively. The Wildcats defense played fairly well against the run Saturday, but Cal Poly is a run, run, run, sometimes pass then run some more team. Phew. They racked up 347 yards and boast one of the best young backs in the nation, James Noble.
What to watch: Ian Pizzaro needs to get more protection, and if he does he could have a decent day. If he has trouble finding WRs or getting time, the Wildcats are going 0-2.
Chadron State @ #9 Montana State
- The Bobcats pulled off possibly the biggest upset in college football last week by going into Boulder and dominating the Buffs defensively, holding them to just 216 yards of total offense, and allowing just 8 completions by 5th year QB James Cox. Kramer has been a very busy man this week, basking in what could be the most amount of media attention the school has ever received. This could make it a little harder to focus on practice. The CSC Eagles won their opening against DII newcomer St. Mary's with a solid ground game led by all-everything Danny Woodhead, who rushed for 181 yards on 27 carries and 2 TDs, and boasts legit 4.4 speed. Add to that the fact that I am not sold on MSU's run defense, although they allowed just 105 yards to IA Colorado, they did give up nearly 5 YPC, but didn't allow a run over 13 yards, either. I'm sure the Eagles were a bit nervous to hear the final of the MSU/CU game, and they should be. Chadron will come in with the same plan as the Bobcats had for CU. The Bobcats are now the big bad D1 squad, and the Eagles assume the role of the Bobcats in the previous week. A letdown here is something past Bobcat teams might let happen, but I do not think it will happen this week, against a middle-of-the-road DII Eagle squad. Cory Carpenter had a coming out party of sorts against CU, having the best day in Bobcat history in a first start, throwing for 229 yards on 22-31 passing and a TD, and his trio of receivers had to have been wearing sticky glue against the Buffs, dropping less than 3 passes.
What to watch: With starting RB Evin Groves out, the Bobcats will rely on a pair of sophmores, with Isaiah Taito expected to get the start, but UTEP transfer Jon Lane should see plenty of actrion as well.
Northern Colorado @ #19 Portland State
- The first conference game of the season will have the PSU Vikings hosting the newly joined UNC Bears. NoCo played a very tough UC-Davis squad last week, and didn't play very well. Four turnovers plagued the Bear offense, and the Aggies were able to stick to the Bears on the road, 38-7. The offense took a hit with the injury to star wideout Andy Birkel, and the Bear defense gave up 366 total yards to a very talented Aggie team. The Vikings still have a lot of question marks offensively, but are coming off one of the biggest wins in school history, a 16-6 shocker against IA New Mexico. Mu'Ammar Ali, who was expected to be an ample replacement for All-American Joe Rubin, has injured his shoulder and is out at least 4 weeks. His backups are a couple guys with names that are even harder to pronounce, thank God I only have to type them: Kelena Ho'okano rushed for 35 yards against New Mexico, and Olaniyi Sobomehin added 8. QB Sawyer Smith came on strong at the end of last year, and played pretty well against the Lobos, tossing 2 TD passes and 173 yards. Even though the Lobos outgained the Vikings 339-233, they could not find the endzone, and did not score in the second half. Credit the Vikings defense who may have proven they are #1 in the Big Sky. LB Adam Hayword registered 10 tackles, 4 sacks and forced a fumble. I like the Vikings at home for this one, their defense is stout and the Bears offense has yet to find itself.
What to watch: Last time these two teams met, Joe Rubin racked up 356 yards and 5 TDs. This time around, the Bears have the better back in Andre Wilson, who is going to have to play a huge game if the Bears want to hang around.
South Dakota State @ #5 Montana
- South Dakota State may have just suffered one of the worst losses in school history Saturday. The Jackrabbits lost their season opener at home to DIII Wisconsin-La Crosse. The field conditions were soggy and wet, but a D1 program should never lose to a DIII program. DII losses are forgivable but not acceptable. Regardless, the Jacks should bounce back, but they face a very tough task visiting WA-Grizzly stadium tomorrow. The Jacks used a pair of QBs, Andy Kardoes and Ryan Berry, who would throw 4 INTs between them. While the Jacks were losing a game they were supposed to win, the Griz were losing one they were supposed to lose. The Griz traveled to Iowa City to play the Hawks, and got trounced 41-7. The Griz played admirably for 2 and a 1/2 quarters, coming as close as 17-7, but it went downhill from there. Josh Swogger has reportedly broken his non-throwing hand, but Bobby Hauck won't tell anyone the injury report, not even his own mother. So with potentially their starting QB out, their starting RB, and from what I have heard, starting WR (though he didn't play at Iowa) out for at least the first half (or not, I'm so confused on this whole thing), the Griz offense may revert to last years dismal output. Cole Berquist would/will take the helm if Swogger isn't good to go, who had a less than stellar freshman campaign a year ago. So what is the good news? The Griz defense played pretty well at Iowa, and returning to their hometown in front of their crowd, they are going to play very well. I wouldn't be suprised at a game very similar to last years.
What to watch: Nobody has proven themselves worth to replace Hilliard yet, but you couldn't expect anyone to against a nationally ranked IA team. It will be interesting to see who steps up, Reggie Bradshaw or Greg Coleman, or both.
Northern Arizona @ Utah
- Can it be? Is it true? Is Jason Murietta finally the QB we all thought he was in 2003? He showed glimpses in the Jacks opening loss to #24 Arizona State. He threw for 259 yards, 2 scores on an impressive 15-20 passing. But 206 of those yards, not to mention both scores came from WR Alex Watson, who earned national player of the week awards. NAU also had the best daying running the ball against IA foes, gaining 109 yards on the ground, though 31 came from Murietta. The game was tied in the 4th quarter until ASU blew it open. Utah may not be as tough as opponent as ASU, but the Jacks will still be overmatched in this one. Utah's Eric Weddle is one of the bestDBs in the MWC, and should match up well with Watson. While I applaud NAU's effort at ASU, I don't think they can repeat that performance. Well at very best they can match it, and still lose 35-14. I'm sick of talking about these IA games, but we still have several left on the schedule.
What to watch : Jason Murietta played exceptional versus top25 Arizona State - can he repeat thtt performance and regain his status as an elite QB in the BSC?
Fort Lewis @ Idaho State
- ISU played much better than the score would indicate. A closer look indicates the defense played awful, and the offense couldn't convert third downs. ISU's defense has finished in the bottom half of the conference for the last few years, and if this game is any indication, that trend should continue. Pago Togafu might be the only bright spot by the seasons end. Matt Gutierrez got himself off to a good start, finishing the week with the most yards in the Sky, 260, with 1 TD, 1INT on 17-32 passing. ISU is going to be very explosive this year against IAA foes, but they don't get to test those waters for another week, as they take on DII Fort Lewis. The Skyhawks were blanked 44-0 by national championship contender Cal Poly, and don't face a much easier task this week by traveling to Pocatello to take on the Bengals. They would be able to muster up just 79 yards of offense, and will find ISU's defense a breath of fresh air after the swarming defense of the Mustangs. They will be able to put some points on the board, but ISU has far too many weapons on offense to keep this game close. Gutierrez will have a big day connecting with a talented group of wideouts lead by senior Akilah Lacey, and the ever potent duo of Josh Barnett and Ken Cornist will rack up at least 150 yards.
What to watch: Matt Gutierrez had an impressive day against a talented UNLV defense, and could have his biggest day as a collegiate QB yet.
Possible upset of the week: Weber over Cal Poly
Best matchup: Cal Poly @ Weber
Worst matchup: EWU @ West Virginia