Week 1 Big Sky Conference Breakdowns
The Big Sky added four new teams, Cal-Poly, North Dakota, Southern Utah, and UC Davis—all from the former Great West Football Conference. With thirteen teams, the Big Sky this year will be extremely interesting. With uneven scheduling we could see teams have a break-through season with a weaker schedule. For example, Southern Utah will not have to play either Montana team, or Eastern Washington during their first season in the Big Sky and this is a huge advantage. However, week one features many uneven matches. The Big Sky will face seven FBS teams, four D-II teams, one D-I non-scholarship team, and finally one Big Sky-Missouri Valley Football Conference matchup.
Northern Colorado @ Utah, Thursday, 7:15
Northern Colorado has struggled mightily in D-I. Since 2004, the Bears have only earned 15 wins; last year was a low-point going 0-11. Utah will have no trouble taking care of a weak Northern Colorado team.
Projected Score: Utah 54, Northern Colorado 10
North Dakota vs. South Dakota Mines, Thursday, 8:00
This game is easily one of the most uneven games this week in the Big Sky. South Dakota Mines is a sub-par D-II team and will struggle greatly to stick with North Dakota. Look for North Carolina transfer Braden Hansen to have a big first start for North Dakota.
Projected Score: North Dakota 63, SD Mines 0
Sacramento State @ New Mexico State, Thursday, 8:00
The Hornets finished the season 4-7; a very up-and-down season with big wins and bad losses. One of their big wins came against Oregon State in overtime fashion. New Mexico State went 4-9 last year and had to replace many starters in the offseason. This game will be close; the last FCS team New Mexico State played was Prairie View A&M in 2009 and the Aggies won by a field goal. Sacramento State will debut new starting quarterback, Garrett Safron.
Projected Score: New Mexico State 20, Sacramento State 17
Southern Utah @ Utah State, Thursday 8:00
In-state FBS-FCS matchup here. Southern Utah is a very experienced team and they return former Great West Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback, Brad Sorenson. However, Utah State is a team on the way up. Last year they went 7-6 and return this year young, but effective quarterback Chuckie Keeton. The Thunderbirds will need to control the ball and be mistake free if they are going to pull off the upset.
Projected Score: Utah State 27, Southern Utah 21
#6 Eastern Washington @ Idaho, Thursday, 9:00
Eastern Washington is my pick to upset an FBS team in the Big Sky this week. Idaho went 2-10 last year and is struggling to find their future in the FBS as the Western Athletic Conference crumbles. Eastern Washington might find that as a mental weakness and push Idaho further into the ground with a win here.
Projected Score: Eastern Washington 13, Idaho 10
UC Davis vs. Azusa Pacific, Thursday, 9:00
Azusa Pacific is a strong D-II team and will test UC Davis in this game. However, UC Davis has a strong program history and will likely take care of Azusa Pacific in this inter-divisional game. UC Davis returns 17 starters and should have the game won by the third quarter.
Projected Score: UC Davis 31, Azusa Pacific 17
#4 Montana State vs. Chadron State, Thursday, 9:05
This is another inter-divisional game featuring a top FCS squad against a D-II team. Chadron State will get experience in this game but not much else. Montana State will have their 2nd string in by the third quarter.
Projected Score: Montana State 56, Chadron State 7
Northern Arizona @ Arizona State, Thursday 10:30
Northern Arizona will travel to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils of Arizona State. Last year Northern Arizona finished the season 4-7, but was three close games away from being 7-4. Quarterback Cary Grossart had a phenomenal season and will try to continue his success here in Tempe. The Lumberjacks will have to play mistake-free football in order to keep this one close. In the end, I don’t see enough strength on defense for Northern Arizona to pull off the upset.
Projected Score: Arizona State 38, Northern Arizona 10
Idaho State @ Air Force, Saturday, 2:00
Like Northern Colorado, Idaho State has been a struggling football program for years; their last winning season came in 2003. Air Force will likely run all over the Bengals while keeping them out of the end zone, big mismatch here. Air Force prevails with no issues.
Projected Score: Air Force 52, Idaho State 0
#17 Montana vs. South Dakota, Saturday, 3:30
With former starting quarterback being released from the team, Montana will try to find a fresh start in 2012. They welcome Missouri Valley newcomer South Dakota to Missoula but will likely send them home winless. Montana should find their rhythm on offense and have the game secured late in the third quarter.
Projected Score: Montana 31, South Dakota 17
Cal Poly vs. San Diego, Saturday, 7:05
San Diego is an FCS non-scholarship team from the Pioneer League. Last year Cal Poly finished 6-5 in the Great West. The Mustangs lost some starters from last season, however the talent gap between Cal Poly and San Diego is large. Cal Poly should find large running lanes and run all over the Toreros.
Projected Score: Cal Poly 45, San Diego 10
Portland State vs. Carroll (MT), Saturday, 8:05
Portland State is coming off a nice 7-4 season and is looking to build on that record in 2012. They might have a slow start as they break in new starters at quarterback and running back; however, once they start rolling Carroll should have a difficult time stopping the Vikings.
Projected Score: Portland State 27, Carroll (MT) 17
Weber State @ Fresno State, Saturday, 10:00
Weber State has two FBS games back-to-back. This week they face off against Fresno State and next week they travel to Provo, UT and battle BYU. No doubt this will be a tough start to the 2012 season for the Wildcats. Weber State will likely make it interesting in the first half. However, Fresno State should pull away in the 2nd half.
Projected Score: Fresno State 41, Weber State 20