Big Sky Football Non-Conference Analysis

Cal Poly: @ North Dakota State, vs. Weber State, vs. Brown.
Starting the season off at the defending FCS champion? Someone has to do it. A home game with the Big Sky defending champion as a non-con? Someone has to do it. Home game with Brown? Better win.
Eastern Washington: vs. Central Washington (Low), @ Northern Arizona, @ Washington State (FBS).
Not your average lower class team here, CWU is more than capable of an upset. The final two road games will push EWU to the limit. This is a very strong non-conference schedule.
Idaho: @ Fresno State (FBS), vs. Western New Mexico (Low), @ Florida (FBS).
A road FBS game and a lower class home game come out of the gate for the FCS-returning Vandals. The final non-con comes in the final week, in what has become a SEC exploitation on the FCS.
Idaho State: vs. Western State (Low), @ California (FBS), @ Liberty (FBS).
A lower class homer comes before a visit to the Bay in the Pac-12. The road game at Liberty doesn’t come until the middle of October.
Montana: vs. Northern Iowa, vs. Drake, @ Western Illinois.
Montana will play host to the FCS’ state of Iowa representatives, Northern Iowa and Drake. After that, they’ll visit the Land of Lincoln to play Western Illinois.
Montana State: vs. Western Illinois, @ South Dakota State, vs. Wagner.
A Missouri Valley two banger starts the year before a Northeast visitor comes calling.
North Dakota (Independent, Missouri Valley in 2020): vs. Mississippi Valley State, @ Washington (FBS), @ Sam Houston State.
The opener should provide a victory, but probably won’t prepare them for a road trip to FBS Washington. The road game in the Southland won’t be easy either.
Northern Arizona: @ Texas-El Paso (FBS), vs. Eastern Washington, @ Missouri State.
A road FBS game starts the festivities before a Big Sky non-con game. The game at Missouri State should favor NAU, but the road has been tricky to them in the past.
Northern Colorado: vs. McNeese, @ South Dakota, vs. Sacramento State.
A home game from the Southland and a road game in the Missouri Valley start the season. The non-con home game with Sacramento State flows right into Big Sky play.
Portland State: @ Nevada (FBS), @ Oregon (FBS), vs. College of Idaho (Low).
Two FBS road games kick off the schedule. They know Nevada’s not in the Big Sky any more, right? A throw away lower class home game comes before conference play starts.
Sacramento State: vs. St. Francis, IL (Low), @ San Diego State (FBS), @ Northern Colorado.
A lower class school from Illinois was definitely not what was desired to fill out their schedule, but it gets them that all important fifth home game. A downstate roadie and Big Sky non-con follow.
Southern Utah: vs. North Alabama, @ Oregon State (FBS), @ Arizona (FBS).
Somebody had to welcome North Alabama officially to the FCS, and SUU gets the honors. The double dip Pac-12 road trip afterward is going to be brutal for a team that’s rebuilding.
UC-Davis: @ San Jose State (FBS), vs. San Diego, @ Stanford (FBS).
Two local, road FBS games sandwich a home game with two-time defending Pioneer League champion that’s beaten a Big Sky opponent in the first round of the playoffs two years in a row.
Weber State: @ Utah (FBS), @ Cal Poly, vs. South Dakota.
An instate FBS game should have everyone excited after last year’s success. A Big Sky non-con and a home game with a Missouri Valley team fill out a good schedule.
Big Sky Opponent Breakdown
6 vs. Big Sky, these games come from three head-to-head match-ups
1 vs. Ivy
8 vs. Missouri Valley
1 vs. Northeast
2 vs. Pioneer
2 vs. Southland
1 vs. Southwestern
1 vs. FCS Independent
15 vs. FBS
5 vs. Lower Class Opponents (Div-II, Div-III or NAIA)
Let’s get North Dakota out of the way. They’re technically an Independent the next two years, but all their games that were scheduled are still going to be played and they WILL count in the Big Sky standings.
Overall, being the far western conference in FCS has a lot of disadvantages, especially scheduling. Six teams were forced into non-conference games with other Big Sky teams. This is a normal practice, but it’s still an unfortunate one. The Missouri Valley has done a pretty good job helping them out this year with eight match-ups. The conference is also heavily involved as the appetizer for the Pac-12 and Mountain West of FBS. In that aspect, most of these teams get an easy check and a remotely close opponent. At least most of the time. Two teams struggled mightily to fill out their schedules, having to go the Division-II route to do it.