HERO Sports welcomes you to "Two-a-Days", where we will preview every single one of the 125 FCS programs, with two being released each day from June 18 to August 18 (with the final day having three in one day). Today we give you … Montana State.
MONTANA STATE (5-6 IN 2017)
Big Sky (MSU was 7th in 2017)
COACH: Jeff Choate – 3rd year (9-13 record)
2017 OFFENSE: 25.3 ppg. (55th in FCS)
2017 DEFENSE: 25.0 ppg. (T52nd in FCS)
SUM IT UP: Years 1 and 2 under Jeff Choate were for building a culture and getting the right players to fit his system. Now in Year 3, it's time for the Bobcats to return to the traditionally-solid program we know them for. This is a team not accustomed to losing records, making the playoffs in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. Thirteen starters return from last year's team more talented than its 5-6 record indicates. The first two losses were against an FBS team and a narrow 31-27 defeat at the hands of semifinalist South Dakota State. The other four losses were by eight, 12, two and one point, with three of those coming against playoff teams. With a more experienced squad, those should turn into wins.
MSU did suffer a setback earlier this month when it was announced explosive dual-threat quarterback and preseason All-American athlete Chris Murray will sit out this entire year to focus on academics. However, there is a talented contingent of QBs battling for the starting spot that could give the Bobcats a more balanced look. Couple that with one of the better defenses in the Big Sky, and MSU is looking like a legit playoff team in 2018.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: A return trip to the playoffs with a couple postseason wins. The talent is there for the Bobcats to return to the national picture, but it's still too soon to put them with the Tier 1 powers. The Big Sky is going to be incredibly tough this year with 6-7 teams worthy of being in the playoff discussion. MSU needs to be at the top of that pack. There's no better way to make an impression on the playoff committee than two opening games against the MVFC's Western Illinois and SDSU.
TOP RETURNEE: RB/QB Troy Andersen (Big Sky Freshman of the Year)
THE NEXT BEST: DL Tucker Yates (Preseason all-conference); P Jered Padmos (2nd Team all-conference); OL Alex Neale (2-year starter, all-conference honorable mention); LB Brayden Konkol (top returning tackler, 83 total); DL Zach Wright (4.5 TFLs, 2 sacks)
TOP NEWCOMER: QB Travis Jonsen (Began college career at Oregon, third-ranked HS dual-threat QB in the country)
DID YOU KNOW?: The Bobcats won three straight Big Sky titles from 2010-2012, going a combined 21-3 against conference opponents.
THE QUOTE: "We were pretty open and honest with our team. All the way back in May we had conversations with our team. Chris (Murray) got up in front of the team and talked about his situation and what he was going to need to do and what the possible consequences might be. It really wasn't a surprise within the walls. We've been planning for this for awhile." — Head Coach Jeff Choate at media day
SOCIAL MEDIA SPOTLIGHT
THE HASHTAG: #GoCatsGo
FOOTBALL TWITTER: @MSUBobcatsFB