Here are my humble predictions for week 6 around the Big Sky:
UNC @ ISU– While I have yet to see the Bears in person, I have seen the Bengals, and they are close to being a good offensive team. Depending on who starts at QB (Butler suffered a concussion @ MSU), UNC may have a hard time stopping the pass. Barnett is proving once again he is on the top 3 backs in the Big Sky. UNC has given up a ton of points, and I would like to say their defense has improved, but the least amount of points they have allowed is 31, and that was their 31-0 loss at home to DII Chadron State. If Russell Hill starts, it won’t be as bad for the Bears, but if Butler is healthy, he is a young talented QB with his best days ahead of him.
UNC 17 ISU 35
NAU @ PSU – Lumberjacks, what happened? From what I understand, Kreissen was playing hurt and went out at halftime? What is his status? For this prediction, I will assume he will be a go at gametime. If he does start, this could be the highest scoring game of the year so far in the Big Sky. A classic Big Sky game, where defense is optional. PSU’s Brian White has been on fire lately, throwing for 1,529 yards and 6 TDs in just 5 games, although he does have 5 INTs in that span as well. They beat a very good EWU team last week, and White did it without star receiver Tremayne Kirkland. NAU on the other hand got smoked by an up and coming (maybe) Sac State squad. Did I hear that Skyler Moore was injured? Both teams have the offense, but who will step up on defense? I think NAU is a little banged up, and this game is in Portland where Glanville has drummed up decent support so far.
NAU 24 PSU 35
Sac @ Weber – Weber had a horrible OOC start to the year, but have played well, at least defensively, in conference so far. They did lose their best DLmen last week on a questionable block by UM’s Cody Balough, but they still have plenty of talent on that side of the ball. Teams often struggle with their man-to-man coverage, and will be a good test to see how good freshman QB Jason Smith really is. Whatever happened to Ryan Mole, or the JC transfer that went to the same JC as MSU’s Demetrius Crawford? On the other end, Weber’s offense has struggled mightily, despite having one of the best RB’s in the Big Sky in sophomore Trevyn Smith. Getting his second start at QB should be Cameron Higgins, a dual-threat freshman who may have emerged to the top of the muck that is the Weber QB situation. I’m still not a believer of the Hornets, and I think Weber wins in a low-scoring affair in Ogden, thanks to the play of their defense.
Sac 10 Weber 14
Southern Utah @ #13 Montana State – The T-Birds of Southern Utah have played the most brutal schedule in FCS football so far, and it doesn’t get any better this week as they head to Bozeman to play the 13th ranked Bobcats. SUU’s QB, Wes Marshall, is a good dual-threat QB in a pretty decent option offense, but rumor is he is a game time decision for Saturday. It would be a big blow to the T-Birds hopes of winning, who despite their 0-4 record are not a horrible team. But they are going to have to be above average Saturday against a Bobcat team playing with confidence and swagger. Demetrius Crawford has emerged as the league’s leading rusher, though he has yet to actually start a game (though he does get most of the carries), and is averaging an amazing 7.8 yards per carry. Jack Rolovich has made a few mistakes, but is always going to bounce back and make the big play. The Cats struggled early against a well-prepared ISU squad, but eventually found their rhythm, and settled down defensively, and soundly beat the Bengals 40-20 in Bozeman. The T-Birds were in the middle of their brutal schedule last week at #6 McNeese State, losing 41-20. The T-Birds may put up more points than Bobcat fans will like, and it may take some second half adjustments, but the Cats should beat the T-Birds by at least 2 TDs.
SUU 20 MSU 38
Game of the Week:
EWU @ #1 UM – Eastern was upset last week in Cheney to a PSU squad that is finally beginning to click in that spread offense. The Eagles have thrived on turnovers this year, but lost the turnover battle for the first time last week, and the score reflected that, but still retain the best turnover margin in the nation. The Griz actually have a negative turnover ratio for the first time in recent memory, but are playing very solid on both sides of the ball, despite their lackluster performance offensively against an underrated Weber defense. EWU sophomore QB Matt Nichols is having a stellar season, throwing for 1,129 yards, 11 TDs and just 2 INTs, good for a rating 162.6, good for 9th nationally. The ground game has also produced 8 TDs and over 700 yards of rushing offense through four games. In fact, the Eagles have the 5th ranked offense in the country. They will bring that potent offense into Washington-Grizzly stadium to face the 6th ranked defense in the country, and the #1 scoring defense nationally as well, only allowing 10.3 points per game. UM struggled with what many call their first “real” opponent of 2007, Weber, and look to improve offensively against a EWU defense ranked 97th in the country. Cole Berquist isn’t exactly lighting teams up, but he is playing mistake-free ball and scoring points, and he can do it on the ground as well. EWU always plays the Griz tough in Missoula, but I just can’t quite smell upset here. If EWU can get up early, it will force the Griz to play catch-up, something I don’t think they will be able to do. Whereas if UM gets up early, EWU has the passing offense to get back into it. But I’ll go with the Griz at home.
EWU 24 UM 30