Big Sky Preview - Week 3
After week 2, I am 13-3.
Standings are as follows:
1. Portland State 2-0 1-0
2. Montana 1-1 0-0
3. Idaho 1-1 0-0
4. Montana State 1-1 0-0
5. Sacramento State 0-1 0-0
6. Weber State 0-2 0-0
7. Eastern Washington 0-2 0-0
8. Northern Arizona 0-2 0-0
9. Northern Colorado 0-2 0-1
Let's get right to it.
#14 Portland State @ Cal (#21 in that BS)
- The Vikings are playing as well as anyone in the conference right now. They have held their two Division I opponents to a total of just 9 points, 6 of those coming at the hands of IA New Mexico. In totaly, they have outscored their foes 62-9. But they haven't found much sucess running the ball, with their top three backs running for just 186 yards in two games, with a long of 16 yards. QB Sawyer Smith has played well enough, but nothing that will win him any accolades. The defense has been dominating, forcing 7 turnovers in two games and not giving uyp a single touchdown. But all that will change this Saturday, as a very talented Cal offense will have a chance to strut their stuff. Heisman candidate Marshawn Lycn has rushed for over 200 yards already, and looks to have a big game. I think the Vikings have a shot at keeping this one close, but this Cal team is for real this year.
What to watch: If the defense can contain Lynch, QB Nate Longshore and the WR tandem of DeShawn Jackson and Lavelle Hawkins, they have a shot at the upset. No big deal, right?
Dixie State @ Northern Arizona
- The Jacks finally get some relief, after a two-week road stint against stiff IA competition, the boys get to stay home and play in their dome, against DII Dixie State. As brilliantly predicted by yours truly, Alex Waton was indeed shut down by Utah's Eric Weddle, containing him to just 3 receptions for 19 yards. The Jacks would strike first, a 25 yard strike to Kenny Mahone, but the Utes would go on to score 45 straight. Surprisingly enough, there was only 1 turnover by either team, an INT by Murietta. Meanwhile, Dixie State is having a rough go in their first year in the NCAA, losing to Mesa State 14-42, Adarms State 7-37, and IAA Mid-Major power San Diego, 7-41. Well time will tell if the Jacks are better than the #1 ranked Mid-Major, San Diego, but they are better than Dixie State. Couple that with the fact that this is the 4th straight road game for the... (why is it so hard to find what a DII teams mascot is? I think they are the Redbirds but their site eludes that fact) "Redbirds", and this one should be an easy win for the Jacks who themselves are just coming off a tough road stint. UPDATE - I finally saw the word "Rebel" on the webpage in a random article. Booyea, I'm good at what I do.
What to watch: NAU has an impressive record against DIIs, and should continue that trend.
#19 UC-Davis @ #20 Montana State
- There is no team harder to predict that the Bobcats. They go from an inspiring performance against IA Colorado, and then fall flat on their faces getting thumped at home by DII Chadron State. So the question on everybodies mind is, which Bobcat team shows up? I wish I had an answer. But I do know the Bobcats will be without starting WR Josh Lewis, who is second in the conference in yards. Injured starting RB Evin Groves is also out, as well as starting TE Elliot Barnhart. The Cats have talent in the wings however, as Tyler Lulay (name sound familiar?), Mike Brown and Deon Toliver can all step in and show their stuff. While the Cats were turning the ball over more often than J-Lo gets engaged (yet still racking up 460 yards of offense), the Aggies were being outmatched by #23 TCU on the road, losing that contest 46-13. This is a very interesting game from a national standpoint, and Matt Dougherty has picked it as his game of the week. The Cats offense has been rolling, but the Aggies boast of the top best defenses in the country. The Aggies are a passing team, lead by QB Jon Grant and WR Tony Kays, but Kays is probable for the contest. Davis isn't a particularly strong running team, but the Bobcats are capable of making them look that way. The Cats defense has only allowed 1 score through the air so far this season (Chadron), and are 27th in the country in pass efficiency defense. RB Alex Garfio has only mustered up 92 rushing yards so far, so the Aggies will most likely look to the air. Both teams are a bit inconsistent, and for that reason alone I will simply have to go with the home team here. This game is eerily reminiscent of last years' Bobcat/NDSU matchup, which the Cats won narrowily 20-17.
What to watch: It is going to be a cold, dreary day in Bozeman, with a chance of snow. How will it affect the outcome?
#24 Idaho State @ Idaho
- The battle of the spuds. Okay, just kidding, but this should be an interesting game. But Idaho is just a bad football team, and have been since leaving the Big Sky Conference. They continue to get beat by former conference foes (mainly Montana), and are in danger of dropping another one. They brought in Dennis Erickson because of this (you know it's true), but he isn't going to build Rome in an egg, err day. The Bengals dissapointed me last week with their performance against a rebuilding albeit talented UNLV squad, but they can redeem themselves. The Vandals have thrown just one TD all season, and ran for just 2 more. They will most likely equal that effort against a lackluster Bengal defense that surrendered 56 points to the Runnin' Rebels. But Matt Gutierrez has already throwing for 456 yards and 3 TDs, and should get another pair agains the suspect Vandal defense. While I may be giving the Bengals too much credit here, and the Vandals too little, I see this as an even more winnable game than UNLV (cough). The Vandals gave up 343 rushing yards last week to Washington State, and I could see a solid 200 yard day from the Josh Barnett/Ken Cornist duo. If Gutierrez has time, he could pick apart the Vandal secondary. I like the Bengals in this one, where there "should" be plenty of Bengal fans at the game to cheer them on.
What to watch: Josh Barnett and Ken Cornist could have huge days against a Vandal team that has surrendered 259 rushing yards per game so far this season.
Northern Colorado @ Texas State
- Texas State is in a rebuilding year (they would like to believe it is a reloading year), but the loss of Barrick Nealy has been a lot to overcome so far for the Bobcats on San Marcos. They are relying on a host of running backs for a balanced offensive attack, and so far it has worked, though they haven't faced a IAA opponenet yet. A convincing victory here should be enough to put them in the rankings (though they already are in two publications, but as a voting member of the AGS poll that is the one I use for my rankings). And that is exactly what I think will happen. Face it Bear fans, this season is looking very bleak. UNC has been outscored 83-10 in their two contest this year, and both of those were IAA contests, so there is no outlier here. To make matters worse, the backup punter stabbed the starting punter in the leg to try and earn himself the starting spot. So that puts you out two kickers, making one wonder if the third string kicker was really behind this the whole time. The Bears have averaged 215 total yards per game so far, but they have played two very tough defenses, in UC-Davis and Portland State. They finally get a break this week against a Texas State defense ranked 91st in IAA, so they should finally score more than once in a game, but it isn't going to be enough. I predect their opponents scoring total will surpass 100 after this game, while the points for total will be lucky to break 30. Buckle up Bear fans, this is going to be a bumpy season.
What to watch: Andre Wilson may finally have his first 100 yard game of the season, but I wouldn't bet money on it.
I will post the rest if I have time before tomorrow, but the outlook looks bleak...
Here are my scores:
SUU @ Weber
Cal Poly @ Sacramento State
Central Washington @ Eastern Washington
Possible upset of the week: CWU over EWU
Best matchup: UC-Davis @ Montana State
Worst matchup: Dixie State @ Norther Arizona