Every week will be dedicated to a conference as we break down the top teams, top players and what you need to know about the league heading into the season. We’ll have standings predictions, preseason All-Conference teams, top players to keep an eye on, podcasts and more.
THE REASONING: (Rankings below). Big Sky preseason rankings are tricky. For starters, the number of ties is ridiculous. Last year, two teams went 7-1 in conference play, three teams went 6-2, three teams went 3-5 and five teams went 2-6. The conference title has been shared each of the last four seasons. There’s a good chance the No. 5 team on this list is going to be tied for the second-best record in the standings.
It would almost make more sense to do preseason Big Sky rankings in tiers rather than 1-13.
Second, if you want to correctly pick the order you think it’ll finish, you have to take conference schedules into heavy consideration.
For example, if Montana’s offensive and defensive lines don’t improve very much, I’ll pick Montana State to beat the Griz. However, even if I think MSU is going to beat Montana this year, that doesn’t mean I think the Bobcats will finish higher in the standings because Montana has a more favorable draw in conference play. MSU has to play at Weber State, at EWU and at Montana. Montana avoids Weber State, goes to EWU and gets Sac State and MSU at home.
It’s the same reason why Sac State doesn’t plummet in the standings with All-American QB Kevin Thomson entering the transfer portal. The only tough game for the Hornets, who still have great talent returning, is at Montana and their remaining seven opponents had a combined conference record of 16-40 last season. I have EWU one spot higher than Sac State, but I came close to flip-flopping that because EWU has to play MSU, Montana and Weber State, although all are at home.
Now at No. 1 … Weber State has won a share of the last three Big Sky titles and returns almost its entire team besides needing to find a new starting QB and replacing two standout defensive ends. The Wildcats are the team to beat, and this should be Jay Hill’s best squad he’s had at Weber State.
That’s a very strong Top 5 for the conference. And my guess is two of those teams will be tied for the best conference record and the other three will be tied for the second-best Big Sky record.
UC Davis and Portland State have the potential to play spoiler when taking on these top five teams. But overall, the Big Sky will be top-heavy once again in 2020.
NOTE: These rankings are a prediction of what the standings will look like at the end of the season. It is the opinion of the author of this story and may differ from the order of our staff’s Top 25 FCS rankings. Conference schedules are taken into consideration.
Sam’s coverage of the FCS began in 2012 as the sports editor and eventual editor-in-chief of NDSU’s The Spectrum. After graduating in 2015, he spent three years in the newspaper and magazine industry while starting his work for HERO Sports in the fall of 2016 as a freelancer. In May 2018, he joined the website full time as the Senior FCS Analyst.