On Saturday, the 118th Brawl of the Wild will take place in Washington Grizzly Stadium. With both Montana State and Montana at a 6-4 record, each team has a lot at stake. The two programs have the opportunity this weekend to reach 7 wins, the usual minimum requirement to be an FCS playoff contender.
[divider]HISTORY: THE BRAWL OF 1922[divider]While neither team has what I would consider a signature win, with all the craziness happening in the Missouri Valley Conference, among others, seven wins could be enough to sneak into the playoffs. But Both teams will need a little bit more than a win. The outcome of several games will undoubtedly affect Montana State's and Montana's playoff hopes.
Here's the breakdown:
Key Wins: Western Illinois, Montana (if the Cats win on Saturday)
Key Losses: South Dakota State, Eastern Washington, Weber State, Idaho State
The Good News: Three of the Bobcats four losses have come to teams who are currently ranked inside the top-5 nationally. Their loss to Idaho State isn't bad either, the Bengals still have a chance to make the playoffs, and have proven that they're no slouches.
A win on Saturday at Washington Grizzly Stadium, a very tough environment to play in, would help boost the Bobcats to where they need to be to catch the playoff committees attention and possibly earn an at-large bid.
The Bad News: Like I pointed out earlier, the Cats have no real signature wins. Their best came in the first game of the year against Western Illinois who was making some noise in the Missouri Valley as of late, until last week's loss to South Dakota.
The Cats still also need a few favors to increase their likelihood of making a playoff appearance.
What Needs to Happen: If the Cats win on Saturday they have to hope Weber State defeats Idaho State. While Weber has to travel to Pocatello to take on the Bengals, the Wildcats definitely have a strong advantage in this matchup.
With the Bengals falling to Cal Poly last weekend and Weber State's spectacular record with only one FCS loss on the season, I'd put my money on the Wildcats, but in the Big Sky you never know.
An Idaho State loss would put the Bengals at 6-5 on the season with only 5 D-1 wins, giving the Bobcats a slight edge, although they fell to them earlier in the season.
Key Wins: Northern Iowa, Montana State (if the Griz won on Saturday)
Key Losses: Western Illinois, Portland State, North Dakota
The Good News: Montana gets to host the rivalry game at home this year, which is a nice advantage heading into Saturday. Montana's fan base is loud and has the ability to rattle opposing teams with Washington Grizzly Stadium's intimidating atmosphere.
The Griz also have a quality loss against UC Davis earlier in the season, and losses to Western Illinois and North Dakota aren't great, both are still on the playoff bubble heading into the final week of play.
The Bad News: Just like the Cats, the Griz don't have a win to hang their hats on, their best also coming in their season-opener against Northern Iowa, who since is another middle-of-the-pack Missouri Valley team.
Montana also has loss to Portland State, a real tough one considering the Vikings have only won four games this season. Their North Dakota loss hurts the Griz as well.
The Fighting Hawks are most likely looking at a 7-4 season and with decisive head-to-head win they would earn a bid before Montana.
What Needs to Happen: If the Griz win on Saturday they need North Dakota to lose. The Fighting Hawks are traveling to Northern Arizona this week to battle the Lumberjacks.
North Dakota definitely has the advantage in this matchup, the Lumberjacks are in the midst of a three-game skid and have only three wins on the season.
Again, in the Big Sky you never quite know how things are going to shake out. Even if all these things do happen, the Griz may not earn an at-large bid due to a few of their troublesome losses.
Overall, the Bobcats have a better chance at securing themselves a playoff spot than the Griz, but crazier thing have happened. Ultimately, each team has a path to postseason play. We will just have to wait til Saturday to see how it all plays out.
[divider]MCLAUGHLIN: Playoff Tiebreakers[divider]