This weekly series will offer up predictions and insights into key football games in the Big Sky Conference for the upcoming weekend. Be on the lookout for a vote on the punishment for the “expert” with the worst record this season.
Against the Spread (ATS)
Northern Arizona (2-2) @ (7) Montana State (3-1) (-11.5) @ 1 p.m. at Bobcat Stadium
Parker: MSU is approaching conference play with the mindset that the season starts now. This weekend should be an early gauge for how it will go as a solid Northern Arizona outfit comes to Bozeman in hopes of an upset. NAU lost last week to a good Illinois State team but features one of the top quarterbacks in the country. The NCAA granted the Lumberjack’s Case Cookus a sixth season of eligibility after an injury suffered during a game last year, and he is taking full advantage of his final opportunity. NAU averages 10 deep throws per game, and draws three pass interference calls a game. The MSU secondary has been vulnerable to deep throws, but I think the pressure on the quarterback from the MSU front seven will prove to be the difference-maker. The Bobcats’ physicality will lead them to an important victory.
MSU 42, NAU 23
Caleb: Northern Arizona’s pass game is dangerous. With senior quarterback Case Cookus leading the charge, expect the Lumberjacks to be throwing a lot. MSU’s secondary is a bit beat up and may have trouble defending all the deep balls. That being said, I watched the Lumberjack’s play last Saturday and I’m not sure their defense will be able to stop our run game. I expect both teams to put up quite a few points. The key for the Bobcats’ success will be to continue to get to the quarterback quickly. I expect this game to be a little too close for comfort, but the Bobcats will pull away in the second half.
MSU 41, NAU 31
Cameron: MSU comes into Saturday’s contest looking to hold off a ferocious offense lead by NAU senior quarterback Case Cookus. While I am concerned that the MSU secondary may fail in coverage at times, I do not believe it will be too big of an issue as the front seven continues to steamroll opposing quarterbacks. On offense, I look for another dominant performance on the ground with a balanced passing attack with Rovig behind center. Not Cats by 90, but a comfortable 11 points.
MSU 35, NAU 24
(18) Montana (3-1) @ (4) UC Davis (2-2) (-6.5) @ 2 p.m.
Parker: UC Davis put up a solid fight last week against the mighty Bison of NDSU, proving that UC Davis is truly a formidable foe in the upper echelon of FCS football. This should have little effect on the above-average but highly confident Grizzlies. The squad across the divide has a golden opportunity to take down a top-five team, but UC Davis senior quarterback Jake Maier will have something to say about that. I expect him to throw all over the Grizzlies, especially after last week where the Griz gave up 393 yards through the air, nearly double the highest total Monmouth had in any other contest this year.
UC Davis 42, Montana 27
Caleb: The Aggies, fresh off a narrow loss to number one NDSU, will return home to battle the Griz. This is an important game for both teams coming into week one of the conference slate. While Montana has played well, I don’t think they will be able to contain the Aggies. UC Davis is a team that put all the pieces together last year, and it appears it has continued into this season. With last year’s Big Sky MVP, senior quarterback Jake Maier leading the cause, I think the Aggies will easily handle the teddy bears.
UC Davis 38, Montana 24
Cameron: With senior quarterback Dalton Sneed earning conference player of the week honors after an impressive outing against Monmouth, Missoula Academy of the Arts fans have realized that the Griz could beat the Patriots, most likely by (just based off what they have seen) 166 points. I, on the other hand, am still not buying it, but I sure am buying that UC Davis is legit. Keeping it close with the Bison in Fargo is no small task, and while they didn’t beat the best team in the century, they did prove that they belong with the best in the FCS. Aggies will pull away in the second half.
UC Davis 35, Missoula Academy of the Arts 21
North Dakota (2-1) @ (21) Eastern Washington (1-3) (-8.5) @ 3 p.m.
Parker: After two straight L’s, defending national runner-up Eastern Washington went from being ranked fourth to 21st in the STATS FCS Poll. They have an explosive offense but after the loss of a large senior class a year ago, they have not seen the same production from the defense as last year. North Dakota is a team that is receiving votes in the poll, but I think the Eagles end the losing streak to start conference play.
EWU 38, UND 28
Caleb: The Eagles have something to prove this week against North Dakota. After losing three of their first four games, which nobody expected, Eastern Washington has their backs against the wall while they try and scramble to put things back together. The Fighting Hawks have had a week off to prepare for this game and two weeks ago put together a nice win against Sam Houston State. While last year’s runners-up may be reeling, I believe they will get it together this week and beat UND in front of a home town on that awful red turf.
EWU 42, UND 30
Cameron: Well, it could have been a worse start for Eastern Washington I guess? At least they got that big win over powerhouse Lindenwood to get the first victory of the season out of the way, and now they can focus on getting back on schedule with North Dakota coming to the “Inferno” Saturday. Unfortunately for EWU, their defense will still be terrible by the time the weekend rolls around, but I believe their offense will be able to score more than UND’s.
EWU 65, UND 56
(9) Northern Iowa (2-1) @ (5) Weber State (1-2) (-1.5) @ 6 p.m.
Parker: Both of these well-established FCS programs boast excellent defenses and are receiving plenty of national attention in the polls. That being said, it's tough to gauge how good these teams truly are. Northern Iowa took FBS Iowa State to overtime, followed by a big win over a rebuilding Southern Utah squad, then squeaked by an average Idaho State team. Weber State almost pulled out wins against FBS San Diego State and Nevada and had a sound win against a middle-of-the-pack Cal Poly squad. Just as the spread predicts, this game is a toss-up. I believe home field advantage will be the deciding factor.
WSU 24, UNI 20
Caleb: Northern Iowa at Weber State will be one of the best games this weekend (if you like watching defense) and one that will surely affect the FCS playoff picture. Both these teams have played against FBS opponents this year, and each almost knocked them off. Northern Iowa took a good Iowa State team into triple overtime and Weber has lost to two FBS opponents but in those games only allowed a total of 25 points. The Wildcats’ offense may be a bit lackluster, but their defense will win them quite a few games, but not this one. I think Northern Iowa shocks the Wildcats at home.
UNI 13, WSU 10
Cameron: Weber State has looked just as tough as years past with two very close losses to FBS teams and a convincing defeat over Cal Poly, which makes a matchup with another traditional hard-working program like Northern Iowa that much more fun to watch. Both teams are coming into Saturday's contest ranked inside the top 10 and are looking to impress their peers as the Big Sky-Missouri Valley Challenge comes to a close. NIU took Big 12 Iowa State to 3 overtimes before losing which is what I would consider a “quality loss” and makes me think the advantage is with the Panthers. But Weber State seems to always come through in big games and I think having the game in Ogden makes the difference.