A big weekend, some very deciding games this Saturday.
ISU @ UNC – UNC fans must be near-suicidal. They lose to Texas State when fumbling the go-ahead score into the endzone and lose the game, they lose to NAU when they attempt to tie the game on a 2 point conversion but NAU picks up a fumble and returns it for 2 of their own, and then last week they lose on a 38 yard Davis hail-mary. ISU fans are probably equally as down, a team that was injected with a lot of youth and JC transfers has not yet won game, despite having a pretty good passing game ISU’s defense has been unable to accomplish much. In this “battle for the bottom” one team will come out of this game with their first victory of the year. ISU’s average margin of loss is 17.2 points, UNC’s is 10.5, and if you take out their FBS opponents ISU margin is 10 points while UNC’s is 4 (rounding up). Both teams have good passing games and poor passing defenses, however I’m going to give UNC the nod here, because they’re the home team & playing outdoors in projected mid-50’s with rain weather. I never like dome teams in adverse weather situations, UNC 36 – ISU 32.
PSU @ NAU – Remember weeks back when NAU was squeaking out wins and egrizzers were laughing at Dave Coulson’s pick that they’d do well in the conference? Well, they technically sit on top the Big Sky with a 2-0 conf record and a 4-1 overall. Last weekend they slapped Sac in the face, holding CSUS to 21 yards on 41 rushing attempts (wow!). However that rush defense means absolutely nothing this weekend as pass-happy PSU comes to town. NAU’s pass D is averaging about 280 ypg (compare to Montana only allowing 233 ypg). Could PSU have found their stride? It’s tough to say with 5 turnovers committed by EWU and their pass D the worst in the Big Sky (maybe even all of FCS). This could turn into another shoot-out for both teams, right now I’m leaning towards NAU being at home, and with an experienced team, NAU 42 – PSU 38
Weber @ MSU – An intriguing matchup of two teams with no conference losses. Griz fans all know that Weber can kill you in the air and on the ground – meanwhile MSU’s offense has been putting up better points (372 ypg total – compared to their season avg of 333). That’s still not amazingly impressive, I do really like their ground game though MSU could be the only solid rushing team in the whole conference right now. MSU’s pass D is good, while the 350 ISU just hung on them is a bit of a concern – MSU had a lot of guys leave to injury in that game on ISU’s crappy field, most of those guys are going to be back this weekend. As Griz fans we argue that teams usually play flat after us, not always the case, however you can support that argument too – will Weber be flat? If so, they’ll lose in Bozeman. MSU has one big problem going into this game, just 1 guy on the DL that was a starter at the start of the season, and their captain on defense is out this weekend. I think Weber continues their hot-streak winning narrowly 32-28.
UM @ EWU – I’ve broken down EWU already, and I liked Montana’s chances until I head that EWU’s hottest WR who didn’t play against PSU is most likely back, Tony Davis is a stud, he returns punts and has shredded a lot of defenses out of the slot. If he does play (which all indications are he will) then I worry about the Montana secondary having to cover him, and Aaron Boyce, and home-run threat Brynsen Brown, and stud TE Nathan Overbay. Both EWU and UM are coming off losses, how will they respond to that? EWU’s pass D is awful and suddenly UM cannot seem to hang onto the ball. This game could have the making of a shootout, although I’d be willing to bet the Montana game plan is to run the ball and slow the game down. The only issue is, EWU’s strength on D is the run game, and right now it’s really unknown how our OL will play. It pains me to say this, but being on the road and for EWU’s biggest game of the year I’m thinking the Griz suffer another set-back, losing 51-40.