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.
Norfolk State (1-2) (+27.5) @ (8) Montana State (2-1) 1 p.m. kickoff at Bobcat Stadium
Parker: After the game last week where MSU defeated Western Illinois 23-14 on the road, the Cats should have an easier test against Norfolk State. The Cats enter the game as 27.5 point favorites, which is a tall task to cover. A fairly obvious comparison for this game is the Wagner game from last year, so some fans may think this game will be a cakewalk, but this Norfolk State team is better than the Wagner team from last year. The Spartans have shown flashes of good play, especially on the defensive side of the ball. I imagine this game will stay closer than many fans expect. It will be interesting to watch how the Cats plan to contain junior quarterback Juwan Carter, who Coach Choate compared to former MSU quarterback Chris Murray. I expect MSU to pull away in the second-half behind a solid ground game.
MSU 41, Norfolk State 20
Caleb: After a bit of a shaky road win last week at Western Illinois, I think the Bobcats will bounce back and win big over Norfolk State at home. The Cats’ front seven has shown their strength the past three games and I think it will continue, not just this week, but for the rest of the season. Offensively, MSU still needs to put some stuff together and find their groove, the growing pains of a redshirt freshman quarterback are apparent, but the combination of a strong running game and more experience will iron those out.
MSU 34, Norfolk State 10
Cameron: FCS fans will recognize that Norfolk State gave FBS Old Dominion a run for its money in week 1 of the college football season. The Spartans also played a very competitive first half against another FBS opponent in Coastal Carolina. But, I can’t imagine the Bobcats having anything but a fiery start after last weeks tough-fought win in Macomb. Wish I could say Cats by 90, but I will go with 24.
MSU 27, Norfolk State 3
(5) UC Davis (2-1) (+25.5) @ (1) North Dakota State (3-0)
Parker: UC Davis has one of the top offenses in the country, led by preseason Big Sky Conference Player of the Year quarterback Jake Maier, but NDSU is the best team in the country for a reason. The FargoDome is a hostile environment and question marks on the UC Davis defense make this a tough game for the Aggies. I expect NDSU to extend its winning streak to 25 games with their physical play on both sides of the ball.
North Dakota State 48, UC Davis 30
Caleb: UC Davis at North Dakota State is a game that will ultimately affect the playoff picture at the end of the year — yes, I know it’s only week four, but mark my words these two teams will both be looking to earn a seed and a bye as the season comes to a close. Although the Bison may have a new coach and lost many of their starters from a year ago, three weeks into the season they look fully reloaded. The Aggies return the Big Sky Conference MVP in senior quarterback Jake Maier but do not have the same offensive weapons they had last year and their defense has not looked the strongest. While it may be a close game for a while, the Bison will pull ahead and come away with the win.
North Dakota State 45, UC Davis 27
Cameron: This is one of the best games on paper this season in the FCS, and the two defending conference champs both want to make a statement about the quality of their programs. UC Davis will be facing off Saturday in Fargo against the defending national champions North Dakota State in what I believe might become an offensive shootout. UC Davis is led by the All-American quarterback Jake Maier who likes to air it out and can also utilize his mobility if needed. Of course though, the Bison have been the most dominant team in the FCS for the past decade and seem to have done nothing different this season with a defense giving up on average only 13 points a game. With that being said, it’s time the Bison lose a home game and the Aggies will be the team to do it.
UC Davis 31, North Dakota State 28
Northern Arizona (2-1) (+10.5) @ (15) Illinois State (2-1)
Parker: These two offenses each feature stars that can carry their team to victory. Both NAU quarterback Case Cookus and ISU running back James Robinson found themselves on the Walter Payton Award watchlist. After the injury to Cookus last season, he was granted a sixth season of NCAA eligibility, and he is taking full advantage of his final opportunity at the helm. This should be an excellent game that could have some major implications on who is in come playoff time. I expect NAU to travel on the road and pull off a victory, setting up a big first conference game for the Lumberjacks against MSU.
Northern Arizona 38, Illinois State 35
Caleb: Northern Arizona traveling to Illinois State is shaping up to be an interesting contest. The Redbirds running game is strong, headed up by senior running back James Robinson who was on the preseason Walter Payton Award watchlist. Last year, Robinson averaged an astounding 117.3 yards/game and rushed for 12 touchdowns. On the flipside, Lumberjacks super-senior quarterback Case Cookus also found his name on the watchlist. After being injured last season, Cookus has come back and led NAU to score 157 points in three games this season, including a nail-biter against FBS Arizona, in which the Lumberjacks ended up losing. I think NAU will continue its offensive tear and be too much for the Redbirds to handle.
Northern Arizona 42, Illinois State 34
Cameron: NAU has looked GOOD so far this season. Their offense is really clicking in 2019, scoring no less than 37 points in every game this season, but the defense may be their Achilles' heel. That side of the ball may hold NAU to mediocrity this fall. So far they have allowed at least three scores in each game. Illinois State also has had a good start to the season coming into this game at 2-1, but I have a feeling that they will be overlooking this game as NDSU will be coming to town the following week. Expect NAU to prove a point before coming into a hostile Bobcat Stadium next Saturday.
Northern Arizona 42, Illinois State 24
Monmouth (2-1) (+23.5) @ (19) Montana (2-1)
Parker: Montana enters this game with a lot of confidence despite losing to Oregon 35-3. Some Griz fans believe this is their breakthrough year, but I am here to warn them that this game will be closer than they think. Montana is fully deserving of their ranking, but Monmouth has a solid defense and some question marks on the young Griz defensive line make me believe Monmouth will keep this contest close. Monmouth has a rushing attack spearheaded by junior running back Pete Guerriero that should pose some fits for Montana. I expect a closer game than expected where the Griz ultimately win at home.
Montana 34, Monmouth 30
Caleb: Montana has come out early and shown that they deserve to be in the top-25 after consecutive disappointing seasons. Led by redshirt senior Dalton Sneed, the Griz’s offense is looking tough, including a 45-point second-half performance two weeks ago. This week Monmouth travels to Washington-Grizzly Stadium and faces a tall task. The Hawks are a mid-level FCS team that competes in a conference not nearly as strong as the Big Sky. Despite having a winning record, Monmouth is no match for the Griz.
Montana 44, Monmouth 20
Cameron: Missoula College fans are optimistic that this could be the year they return to glory after a hot start to the season. They have shown to have a strong defense so far this season led by redshirt senior linebacker Dante Olsen and have also shown signs of a seemingly improved offensive line that struggled a year ago. Monmouth is coming off a close overtime win last week over the University of Albany and is off to a 2-1 start to a season in which they hope to be competitive in the Big South Conference. Regardless, I believe the Griz will easily take care of Monmouth and win big.