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From the Fringe: With less than a month to go, some of what's at stake in the Brawl of the Wild has changed

In less than one month’s time, the afternoon so many folks around this great state wait for all year will finally be upon us. Yes, we’re almost there. We’re almost to the latest installment of the rivalry game between the Montana Grizzlies and Montana State Bobcats.

And just like the weather does in the Treasure State, so to does the momentum and the stakes for the Brawl of the Wild.

In July, I pondered what this year’s Cat-Griz game would look like. I speculated that, it was going to be huge because both teams were likely to be really, really good.

Of course, that was just speculation.

But when the Cats and Griz started playing games in September, that speculation became a reality. Through the first month of the season, it looked as though Montana and Montana State were headed for a colossal showdown, one that could have meant the Big Sky championship and national seeding.

Since the end of September, though, things have changed dramatically.

Most pundits thought Montana State would get to Nov. 19 with no more than two losses, one being an FBS loss to Pac 12 power Oregon State. And the Cats appear to be holding up their end of the bargain. With their win over Weber State last Saturday in Bozeman, MSU enters the bye week ranked No. 3 in the FCS, undefeated in the Big Sky, and already through the toughest portion of their schedule — with just Cal Poly and Northern Arizona remaining before the Cat-Griz game.

Montana, however, has changed the dynamic of this year’s Brawl.

The Grizzlies have arguably the toughest Big Sky Conference schedule of any team in the league this year, but many thought they would at least get to their back-to-back road games with Sacramento State and Weber State undefeated. But, after a brutal loss at home to Idaho, and a gut-wrenching loss at Sacramento State in overtime, the Griz have to go to Weber this Saturday, and escape Ogden with a win to avoid a three-game losing streak. If that doesn’t happen, Montana will probably need to win all three of its remaining games just to make the playoffs.

And of course, the last of those games is the 121st Brawl of the Wild in Bozeman.

So, while the Griz were unable to hold up their end and come into Cat-Griz with a Top 10 ranking and a chance at a Big Sky title, the stakes will still be high next month inside Bobcat Stadium.

The Cats will most certainly be playing for the No. 2 overall seed and home field advantage through the FCS playoffs. That could mean a return trip to Frisco. The Griz on the other hand will, be looking to spoil all of that, not to mention, secure a playoff berth, and with it, at least one home game. So there will be plenty of drama in Bozeman.

No doubt, that scenario might not be the Cat-Griz game we envisioned when the season started, and it especially won’t be billed like last year’s game in Missoula, which was an incredible Top 10 showdown that came within a Kirk Herbstreit sabotage of ESPN Game Day showing up. But it will still have plenty of hype.

That’s because the Brawl doesn’t really need any added hype. It hypes itself. No matter the records, no matter the stakes, no matter where it is, the Cat-Griz game will always be huge, and the 2022 edition will be no different.

Yep, this year’s Cat-Griz game is going to be big. It just isn’t going to be big for the reasons we thought it would be back in July, or September.

Editor's Note: The No. 11 Montana Grizzlies play at No. 7 Weber State Saturday at 1 p.m. The game will be televised on all MTN affiliates. The No. 3 Bobcats have a bye this week.


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