The first slate of games kicks of this week!  And yes, I did not say weekend on purpose because 2 of our Big Sky brethren will start their season tomorrow.  As per usual during the first week, many teams are playing outside of our FCS division, some up, some down.  So let’s get right to it, since there isn’t much else to be said.  Predicted winners in bold:

Thursday, September 2:

Western New Mexico @ #23 Northern Arizona

The Lumberjacks look to improve upon their disappointing 2009 campaign, in which they finished 4-4 in league, 5-6 overall including 4 straight losses.  Graduated are Alex Henderson, the lead rusher and scorer for the Jacks, as well as their two leading receivers in Ed Berry & Conrad Meadows.  A host of running backs are looking to replace Henderson, namely Giovannie Dixon who was the primary backup last year.  Outside of that, there are three freshman who should see playing time.  Daiveun Curry-Chapman is the only senior in a group of untested wideouts, and looks to be more of a target this year.  Oh, and then there is Walter Payton Award candidate Michael Herrick, returning to quarterback a team on which he was 11th in the FCS in passing efficiency last year.  The defense returns a lot of talent, including senior safety Matt Estrada, and LB Cody Dowd returns after missing 2009 with an injury.  NAU is rightfully ranked, and open against a Western New Mexico squad that went 2-9 in the RMAC (DII) last year; this will be the opening game for them as well.  This one is never close, NAU gets a good look at every skill player they could possibly want to, and NAU cruises at home against an over-matched DII opponent. If the Mustangs are able to score on the veteran, touted NAU defense, things may not be as solid on that side of the ball as NAU would hope.

Final Score: 3 – 55

#14 Eastern Washington @ Nevada

The Eagles are also dealing with the loss of some offensive firepower from a season ago.  Matt Nichols had a stint in the NFL, and was one of the most profilic passers the Sky has seen this decade.  His main target Tony Davis has also extinguished his eligibility.  To fill the void left by Nichols, Eastern went out and grabbed themselves a bona-fide transfer from SMU, Bo Levi Mitchell, who started for two and a half seasons for the FBS Mustangs, before losing his job after being sidelined with an injury.  Mitchell is a pure gunslinger, and interceptions do not bother him (he threw 23 as a freshman).  Running back Taiwan Jones may be the most explosive player currently in the Big Sky, and possibly all of FCS football, and looks to continue his impressive run after he burst onto the scene last year.  Can he go a whole season and stay healthy?  EWU has a tough task in Nevada, a very prolific offensive team that only lost 1 conference game in the now defunct WAC last year.  Colin Kaepernick is the toughest QB/threat the Eagles will face all season, as he is just as much, if not a bigger threat running the ball than he is passing.  Eagles fans think they have a shot at this one, but this isn’t your average Nevada squad.  They look to be nationally ranked this year, and to win the WAC outright.  They were the #2 offensive in all of FBS last year, and return just about every key player.  This one may stay close, but Nevada is too much for the Eagles.

Final Score: 24 – 42

Unfortunately, I have run out of time tonight.  I will finish the rest of the previews by Friday.