Opinion: Wildcats on top of week one power rankings


Kennedy Camarena

Chinonso Opara leading the WSU football team out of the tunnel and onto the field during their game with Western Oregon on Sept. 1.

The Big Sky Conference football preseason is wrapping up, and it’s time for in-conference play. Coming into week two of the regular season, it’s time to look at which teams are on pace and which teams are struggling.

T-#1 Weber State University and the University of Montana

After turning heads during the preseason, the Wildcats and Grizzlies stand above the rest, with each team showing reasons why they should be ranked in the top spot.

Statistically, it’s hard to say anyone is competing with Montana. The Grizzlies are currently averaging the second-highest amount of points per game at 43.3, and only an average of 9.3 points gets past their stout defense. Montana has done a great job of proving why they were so highly ranked in the FCS pre-season polls.

Looking at stats alone, it seems unfitting to compare the Grizzlies to a team that’s only averaging 34.3 points per game. However, Weber State’s competition is what keeps them in the top of the pack.

The Wildcats’ blowout performance against Utah State made a strong statement across the Big Sky. Weber State quarterback Bronson Barron is second in total touchdowns and yards across the Big Sky, with multiple players like Josh Davis, Ty MacPherson and Jacob Sharp in the top six for their positions as well. On the other end of the ball, cornerback Maxwell Anderson leads the Big Sky in passes defended as well as interceptions.

However, when pointing out Weber State’s wins and strong players, it’s unfair not to bring up the Grizzlies’ 24–7 win against the University of South Dakota, one of the top teams in the FCS. Linebacker Patrick O’Connell is also leading the conference in sacks.

Weber State and Montana both sit at 4–0 overall records, and on Oct. 29, fans will have a definitive answer for who the better team is when they face each other in Ogden.

#3 University of California, Sacramento

The Hornets are completely unproven in the conference so far this season. What they showed in the preseason, however, was impressive. Sacramento State dominated against Colorado State University, beating the FBS team 41–10.

Quarterback Asher O’Hara currently has six rushing touchdowns this season, averaging 68.7 yards on the ground per game. In fact, the reigning Big Sky regular season champions are averaging the most points per game with 44.7.

Their season opener against California Polytechnic State University on Oct. 1 will determine how they start the regular season.

#4 Montana State University

Many ranked the Bobcats as the second-best Big Sky team in the FCS coming into the season, and they’ve done a good job showing why. Montana State averages the third-most points per game in the conference with 42.3.

Running back Sean Chambers currently leads the conference in total touchdowns with nine, making his case for Big Sky offensive player of the year early. On the other end of the ball, defensive tackle Sebastian Valdez is second on the conference tackles list.

There’s an argument to be made that Montana State belongs above Sacramento State. Like last season, the Bobcats and Hornets are close. However, Sacramento State’s defense is more efficient than Montana State’s. The Bobcats still need to prove how their defense will do in conference with the losses of defensive end Daniel Hardy and middle linebacker Troy Andersen.

#5 University of California, Davis

This is where early-season power rankings are hard to make. UC Davis may not have the record that the four teams ahead of them do, but they’re undoubtedly a top-five team in the conference.

One of the Aggies’ biggest problems last season was in the quarterback position. So far, Miles Hastings has performed well, with the most yards and touchdowns in the conference.

Even after playing the University of California, Berkeley and South Dakota State University, UC Davis is still only allowing an average of 22 points per game. It’s hard to put a team with a record like theirs in the top five but after a solid performance last year and a promising start in certain areas this season, the Aggies are currently more proven than those behind them.

#6 University of Idaho

A mediocre team in quite a few categories last year, the Vandals have stepped up so far this season. Dominating Northern Arizona University 27–10, Idaho’s defense ranks only under Montana and Weber State as of this week.

Receiver Jermaine Jackson is making a name for himself this season with the help of Gevani McCoy. This is a strong change of pace from last year’s Vandals, who focused on the run game and avoided going to the air.

It’s the beginning of the season, and Idaho still has a long road ahead of them. The Vandals will play an evenly matched opponent in the University of Northern Colorado on Oct. 1, a game that could be telling of how Idaho will perform this season.

#7 University of Northern Colorado

The Bears make a perfect middle-of-the-pack team along with the Vandals. Currently, Northern Colorado has an overall record of 2–2, with both their offense and defense ranking No. 7 in the conference as far as points per game and points allowed per game are concerned. In fact, the Bears’ average points per game, 25.0, is just shy of equaling their average points allowed per game, 26.8.

Northern Colorado had a great win against Idaho State and a dominant finish over Lamar. Their quarterback rotation involving Jacob Simon and Dylan McCaffrey has proved effective at throwing teams off.

As stated for Idaho, the Bears’ matchup with the Vandals could set the tone for the rest of both team’s seasons.

#8 Eastern Washington University

The Eagles may be off to a rocky start, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be feared. A team still trying to find life after the loss of quarterback Eric Barriere, Eastern Washington put up a fight against Montana State, losing 38–35. Currently, they’re averaging 28.3 points per game. A blowout loss to Oregon inflated their defense’s numbers, making them unreliable to analyze. Regardless, it’s clear that the Eagles’ defense isn’t the strongest part of their team.

Eastern Washington may not be the team it was with Barriere under center, but that doesn’t mean they don’t pose a threat.

#9 Northern Arizona University

It’s tempting to rank the Lumberjacks above the Eagles solely because there seems to be more of a light at the end of the tunnel. Where Eastern Washington lost their award-winning quarterback last season, Northern Arizona has last year’s Big Sky freshman of the year leading their offense.

It’s RJ Martinez’s rocky start, however, that has the Lumberjacks in the No. 9 slot. Despite a phenomenal performance against a tough FCS program in the University of North Dakota, Martinez’s performance against Idaho was lackluster, throwing only 127 yards. Northern Arizona currently averages the least amount of points per game with 11.8.

#10 California Polytechnic State University

Cal Poly has made some baby-steps this season to separate themselves from the Mustangs of last year. Currently, they’re averaging a few more points per game than they did last season (18.7 compared to 15.4).

The Mustangs’ defense, however, made the most progress in the right direction. Last year’s defense was one of the two worst in the Big Sky, allowing an average of 39.2 points per game. As of right now, that average is six points lower this season, with 33.3.

With the season being as young as it is, it’s possible this Cal Poly team will be the same as the one from last season. As of right now, however, they’re trending in the right direction.

#11 Idaho State University

The Bengals currently have more losses than any other team in the Big Sky. A brutal game against Northern Colorado, Idaho State made a solid case for being at the bottom of the pack.

As much as they struggle, the Bengals struggle a little less than Portland State, averaging 14.5 yards per game while allowing 39.0 points per game on defense. It’s clear also that Idaho State has found a weapon in receiver Xavier Guillory, who currently has 377 yards and three touchdowns.

How Idaho State plays against Montana on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. will determine if the team should rank above Portland State after the Vikings lost to the Grizzlies 53–16.

#12 Portland State University

It’s hard to rank a team like the Vikings at the bottom. Although they weren’t the best team in the Big Sky last year, they had some consistency. However, that consistency was carried by star quarterback Davis Alexander.

Portland State is a team that needs to find their groove soon. The Vikings offense and defense are both ranked in the No. 11 spot in the Big Sky according to average points per game and points allowed.

It’s fair to say that the Montana game alone prevents the Vikings from not being a slot higher in this power ranking. However, the way they handle Northern Arizona on Oct. 3 at 3 p.m. could provide fans insight into Portland State’s future.