July 17, 2012
The University of Montana football team has been selected to finish third in the Big Sky Conference in both the coaches' and media polls released Tuesday at Park City, Utah, at the league's 2012 football kickoff event.
The Grizzlies received five first place votes and 442 points in the media poll, while one conference coach picked Montana first.
Montana State and Eastern Washington finished one-two in both polls. The Bobcats received 30 first-place votes from the media, while seven Big Sky coaches tabbed MSU as the league favorite. Four conference mentors picked the Eagles as the top team. EWU had three first-place votes from the media.
"Obviously you'd like to be at the top of the polls at the beginning and at the top of the polls in the end," said Griz head coach Mick Delaney. "But that isn't the way it is when you graduate nine (starters) on defense and four or five on offense and all of your special teams players. That's probably where the coaches and media see us, and that's fine with me.
"We're more concerned about where we end up than where we start. Those things take care of themselves by wins and losses."
When asked about any surprises in the polls, Delaney pointed to Southern Utah. The Thunderbirds were picked eighth in both polls and return 11 starters from a 6-5 team.
"I think they're probably as good a football team as anybody in the conference," Delaney added. "I think they will probably surprise a lot people as the season goes along."
Montana was 11-3 last season and 7-1 in the Big Sky, sharing the regular-season title with Montana State. The Grizzlies' 36-10 win over the Bobcats at Bozeman last November gave Montana the Big Sky's automatic berth into the FCS playoffs.
The Grizzlies advanced to the FCS semifinals, losing 31-28 on the road to top-ranked Sam Houston State last December. MSU lost to the Bearkats in a quarterfinal game the week before, 49-13.
North Dakota State defeated Sam Houston State in January's FCS title game at Frisco, Texas, 17-6.
Eastern Washington, the defending FCS national champion going into the 2011 season, was decimated by key injuries last fall and finished 6-5 overall and tied for third in the Big Sky at 5-3.
Montana State and Eastern Washington each return 17 starters this season while Montana has just eight back, only two of which are on defense. The Grizzlies play the Eagles in Cheney on Sept. 29 in EWU's home opener; UM hosts MSU on Nov. 17 in the regular-season finale for the teams.
Montana will not play Portland State, tabbed fourth in both polls, in the new 13-team league, or Cal Poly, which was tabbed fifth in both preseason polls. The Grizzlies also do not play Sacramento State or UC Davis this season.
The Grizzlies have been the Big Sky's preseason favorite 10 times the past 13 seasons. Montana was picked to finish third in both polls last season, while EWU and MSU were chosen to place one-two.
Big Sky Conference Preseason Media Poll (first-place votes)
1. Montana State (30) ... 502
2. Eastern Washington (3) ... 453
3. Montana (5) ... 442
4. Portland State ... 334
5. Cal Poly (1) ... 323
6. North Dakota ... 295
7. Weber State (1) ... 284
8. Southern Utah ... 258
9. Northern Arizona ... 242
10. Sacramento State ... 191
11. UC Davis ... 135
12. Idaho State ... 115
13. Northern Colorado ... 63
Big Sky Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll (first-place votes)
1. Montana State (7) ... 136
2. Eastern Washington (4) ... 131
3. Montana (1) ... 126
4. Portland State ... 90
5. Cal Poly ... 86
6. Weber State ... 81
7. Northern Arizona ... 75
8. Southern Utah (1) ... 74
9. Sacramento State ... 71
10. North Dakota ... 68
11. Idaho State ... 31
12. UC Davis ... 30
13. Northern Colorado ... 14
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