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Cats picked second, Griz picked third

 


The Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats are both looked at as teams to beat this fall in the Big Sky Conference.

But it's the Cats who has more people talking, which is unfamaliar territory for the Grizzlies.

The Bobcats were recently picked second by both the league's coaches and media outlets for the upcoming Big Sky football season. The Grizzlies were picked third in both polls, while defending FCS national champion Eastern Washington was picked first in both polls.

After the coaches and media picked MSU third in the 2010 preseason, the Bobcats raced to a share of the Big Sky Championship. MSU's only loss was at Northern Arizona, and Montana State bookended the conference season with a win over EWU at home and a win against Montana in Missoula. The Cats open the 2011 campaign sandwiched between the two perennial powers – Eastern was picked first, the Grizzlies third.

Other than the wins against EWU and Montana, MSU's most memorable win of 2010 may have been the stunning 64-61 overtime win against Sacramento State. The much-improved Hornets are viewed as the fourth-best team in the Big Sky prior to the season's first kickoff, and Portland State, Northern Colorado and Idaho State holds down the 7-8-9 slots.

Meanwhile, the lowest the Griz have been ranked by the media since 1992, when they were predicted to finish third; the coaches haven't picked them this low since 1991, when Montana was No. 4 in both polls.

Montana had been either first or second in each poll from 1993 on, and first in every poll other than 1997 (Northern Arizona) and 2005 (Eastern Washington).

Montana tied for third in the league last year with the Hornets, "who have a quarterback (Jeff Fleming) who had a really good last five games," Pflugrad noted.

The Griz open at Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference on Sept. 3 and then host Cal Poly and Eastern Washington ahead of a road game at Sacramento State on Sept. 24.

"It's really pretty close to what I expected," said second-year Griz coach Robin Pflugrad, who guided UM to a 7-4 mark last season, 5-3 in the Big Sky told the Missoulian recently. "I think primarily historical date is what goes into it, and they look at who has what coming back.

"With Eastern Washington having so many players back, including an outstanding quarterback, that's where they should be."

The Bobcats and Grizzlies both open their seasons on the road against Division I powers. The Cats travel to Salt Lake City on Sept. 1 to square off against the University of Utah, a new Pac 12 member. The Griz meanwhile, will open their season take on SEC stalwart Tennessee at historic Neyland Stadium on Sept. 3.

Big Sky Coaches Poll

1. Eastern Washington

2. Montana State

3. Montana

4. Sacramento State

5. Northern Arizona

6. Weber State

7. Portland State

8. Northern Colorado

9. Idaho State

Big Sky Media Poll

1. Eastern Washington

2. Montana State

3. Montana

4. Sacramento State

5. Weber State

6. Northern Arizona

7. Portland State

8. Northern Colorado

9. Idaho State

 

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