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Right now, this Saturday is bigger than next for Cats, Griz

From The Fringe...


November 15, 2019

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A healthy Dalton Sneed is critical if the Montana Grizzlies want to beat third-ranked Weber State Saturday at Washington Grizzly Stadium in Missoula. With Cat-Griz a week away, both Montana and Montana state have huge Big Sky Conference games Saturday.

One game each. One big game for each. That's all that stands between the Montana Grizzlies, the Montana State Bobcats and the 2019 Brawl of the Wild next Saturday in Bozeman.

But, as excited as I and many of you are about the Brawl - and it should be a great one - once again, the Bobcats and Grizzlies aren't there yet.

Not even close.

Start with Montana State. The No. 10 Bobcats (4-2, 7-3) have bounced back nicely from back-to-back losses to Sacramento State and North Dakota last month. However, the Cats are still a game behind the leading Big Sky contenders, and to really ensure that the playoffs are a reality for a second straight year, they need to win at least one more game.

The Bobcats get that chance Saturday when they visit UC Davis. Once upon a time, the Cats would have been a big underdog going into Davis (3-3, 5-5), but the Aggies, once ranked No. 3 in the FCS Stats Poll, have been an up-and-down bunch this season. And, with how well the Bobcats run the ball and how great they play defense, even on the road, they and not the Aggies should be favored Saturday night.

There is a plot twist though. UC Davis, for all of its troubles this season, isn't out of the playoff discussion. With wins over MSU and what would be a Top 10 win over Sacramento State if they can pull it off next weekend, the Aggies, at 7-5, with losses to just the likes of North Dakota State and Montana, would still look like a pretty attractive playoff team.

So in other words, the Aggies are, just like the Bobcats, fighting for their playoff lives in the biggest game of the season. That's right, for the Bobcats, the Brawl isn't the biggest game of their season, this week is. And for the Aggies, the same holds true. While they play Sacramento State in their Causeway Classic rivalry game next Saturday, if the Aggies don't beat the Cats, their season is essentially over.

Now, that's not true for the No. 5 Montana Grizzlies (5-1, 8-2). The Griz can lose to No. 3 Weber State Saturday in Missoula, and, it won't look that bad. But, a win over the Wildcats (6-0, 8-2) would set the Griz up for so much. It would give them a chance to win a Big Sky title, something that can't happen if they lose to the Wildcats. A win would give the Griz a chance at a Top Four seed in the FCS playoffs, something they haven't had since 2009, and something that won't happen if they lose. And a win over Weber would mean, even if the Griz lose at Montana State, the damage would be minimal since the Griz would have two wins over Top 5 FCS teams this season and one of the toughest Strength of Schedules in the country.

And all of those reasons are why the Griz aren't thinking about the Bobcats right now. None of those reasons even matter, though. The Griz can't look ahead to the Brawl yet because this isn't the Weber State that once gave up 81 points to the Griz.

No, this Weber team is coming off two straight runs to the FCS quarterfinals. This Weber squad has perhaps the best running back in the country in Josh Davis, and an electrifying WR/kick returner in Rasheed Shaheed. This Weber squad has the No. 3 ranked defense in the FCS, and this Weber team can essentially lock up the Big Sky championship with a win Saturday in Missoula.

See, that's why the Griz can't afford to start looking at Montana State just yet.

So, that's what it comes down to. The Brawl of the Wild is almost here, and yet, with Montana and Montana State having two massively huge games this weekend, in reality the Cat-Griz couldn't seem further away.

The Griz host Weber Saturday at 1 p.m. in Missoula. That game will be televised nationally on Root Sports. Montana State plays at UC Davis at 5 p.m. Saturday with the game being televised on all SWX Montana affiliates.


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