Montana State tabbed eighth in Big Sky preseason polls
Big Sky Conference coaches and media members each picked Montana State to finish eighth in the league this season in polls released by the league Tuesday.
That would be a slight improvement over 2016, when the Bobcats finished tied for ninth. The team returns 14 starters, including eight on offense. Freshman All-American and Big Sky Freshman of the Year Chris Murray returns at quarterback to trigger Montana State's offense, while Preseason All-Big Sky selection Mac Bignell and 2016 second teamer, and former Spirit Lake athlete, Bryson McCabe lead the Cats on defense.
North Dakota, who won a share of last year's league title, is the overwhelming favorite to repeat. The team UND shared the crown with last season, Eastern Washington, is picked second. The teams didn't meet last year, when Eastern Washington advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA FCS Playoffs. North Dakota lost its first game. The Eagles soar into Grand Forks on November 18 this fall.
Both polls follow the same form for the first eight spots. Northern Arizona is picked third, Cal Poly fourth, Weber State fifth, Montana sixth and Southern Utah seventh. After the Cats, media members see Northern Colorado, Portland State, UC Davis, Sacramento State and Idaho State rounding out the standings. Conference coaches have Portland State ninth and Northern Colorado 10th, but everything else is the same.
Montana State's entry into the 2017 season is daunting. After playing a bowl team (Washington State) and an FCS Playoff team (South Dakota State), the Cats play three teams picked in the league's top five in the first four weeks of the conference season.