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FCS Football: Big Sky Conference Preview, Preseason Rankings

NCAA FCS Football News

The Big Sky Football Conference is one of the premier FCS football conferences. Several teams are on the all-time best FCS football teams list. Last season in the Big Sky, The North Dakota Fighting Hawks and Eastern Washington Eagles we co-champions. Both teams were dominant and undefeated in the conference play. Eastern Washington was the favorite, while North Dakota came from out of nowhere. That will not be the case this season. The Fighting Hawks cannot fool anyone in FCS football in 2017. Look for the two-team chase from last season may get a little more interesting in 2017.

North Dakota is favored to win the Big Sky this year by a good margin. North Dakota will feature two running  backs that will be among the top rushers in the NCAA FCS this season. John Santiago rushed for 983 yards and seven touchdowns last season while Brady Oliveira added another 897 yards and 10 touchdowns.

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John Santiago, North Dakota


Eastern Washington has one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS in Gage Gubrud returning this season, but also has a lot of needs that they will have to fill. Aaron Best takes over as head coach for the Eagles in 2017. While Eastern Washington lost a lot of players after their 2016 campaign, they should still field a very good team for the 2017 football season. The air-raid offense will be in full force once again.

NCAA Football News

Gage Gubrud, Eastern Washington

While Eastern Washington and North Dakota are the favorites to win the Big Sky football championship, don’t sleep on Northern Arizona Lumberjacks. Northern Arizona was plagued by injuries last season including starting QB Case Cookus. Look for the Lumberjacks to make a run for the Big Sky Championship. The Cal Poly Mustangs come into this season’s preseason football rankings at fourth. Center, Joey Kuperman will create wide running lanes for fullback Joe Protheroe to blast through. Even though the defense is a little suspect this season, expect the Mustangs to grind out 6 or 7 wins.

Eastern Washington Jerseys

NCAA FCS Football News

Joe Protheroe, Cal Poly

If we had to pick a dark-horse to win the Big Sky, it would be the Weber State Wildcats. The offense will not be anything special, but the defense will be very solid. Cornerback Taron Johnson is a true shutdown corner.
Offensive inconsistency could haunt the Montana Grizzlies this season, but the defense will dominate college football. Outside linebacker Josh Buss will be the anchor for the Grizzlies on defense and is one of the best linebackers in NCAA football.

The Southern Utah Thunderbirds have some work to do to get back to their 2015 conference championship form. The defense allowed the fewest points in the Big Sky last year and this season’s defense looks good as well. Look for Defensive tackle, Robert Torgerson to make many key plays on the line. The Montana State Bobcats are on the rise, but still about a year too early to make a run at the Big Sky Title. Chris Murray won the Big Sky Conference 2016 Freshman of the Year and will be a quarterback to watch out for. Mac Bignell is an explosive linebacker, but it isn’t enough to put the Grizzlies towards the top of the conference this season.

The Portland State Vikings are on a decline since their playoff run in 2015. Anthony Del Toro will be the best player on the team. Even though the Northern Colorado Bears had back-to-back winning seasons, consider this season as a rebuilding year for the Bears. Dan Hawkins heads into his first year as head coach for the UC Davis Aggies. The team should improve upon their 3-8 record in 2016. Keep an eye on wide receiver Keelan Doss for the Aggies. The Sacramento State Hornets and the Idaho State Bengals will most likely finish at the bottom of the Big Sky again this season. Check out the full 2017 Big Sky football preseason rankings and All-Big Sky Conference preseason team below.

NCAA FCS Football News

Keelan Doss, UC Davis Aggies

2017 Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls

Media Poll

Rank Team Points
1 North Dakota Fighting Hawks 298
2 Eastern Washington Eagles 271
3 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 236
4 Cal Poly Mustangs 224
5 Weber State Wildcats 209
6 Montana Grizzlies 204
7 Southern Utah Thunderbirds 175
8 Montana State Bobcats 156
9 Northern Colorado Bears 135
10 Portland State Vikings 104
11 UC Davis Aggies 62
12 Sacramento State Hornets 61
13 Idaho State Bengals 44

Coaches Poll

Rank Team Points
1 North Dakota Fighting Hawks 130
2 Eastern Washington Eagles 124
3 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks 119
4 Cal Poly Mustangs 108
5 Weber State Wildcats 103
6 Montana Grizzlies 83
7 Southern Utah Thunderbirds 80
8 Montana State Bobcats 69
9 Portland State Vikings 62
10 Northern Colorado Bears 60
11 UC Davis Aggies 35
12 Sacramento State Hornets 26
13 Idaho State Bengals 15

NCAA FCS Football Gear

2017 Big Sky All-Preseason Team

Gage Gubrud threw for over 5,000 yards last season for Eastern Washington. While the Eagles lost some weapons from last season, look for Gubrud to put up similar numbers.


Position Player Team
QB Gage Gubrud Eastern Washington Eagles
RB John Santiago North Dakota Fighting Hawks
RB Brady Oliveira North Dakota Fighting Hawks
WR Emmanuel Butler Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
WR Keelan Doss UC Davis Aggies
TE Andrew Vollert Weber State Wildcats
OT David Reese Montana Grizzlies
OT Randin Crecelius Portland State Vikings
C Joey Kuperman Cal Poly Mustangs
OG Tyler Strank Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
OG Demon Taylor North Dakota Fighting Hawks
FB Joe Protheroe Cal Poly Mustangs
NCAA FCS Football News

Andrew Vollert, Weber State


Position Player Team
DT Robert Torgerson Southern Utah Thunderbirds
DT Anthony Del Toro Portland State Vikings
DE Albert Havili Eastern Washington Eagles
DE Ben Sorenson Sacramento State Hornets
ILB Mac Bignell Montana State Bobcats
ILB Landon Stice Weber State Wildcats
OLB Mike Needham Southern Utah Thunderbirds
OLB Josh Buss Montana Grizzlies
CB Deion Harris North Dakota Fighting Hawks
CB Taron Johnson Weber State Wildcats
S Cole Reyes North Dakota Fighting Hawks
S Mitch Fettig Eastern Washington Eagles
NCAA FCS Football News

Josh Buss, Montana

Special Teams

Position Player Team
PK Griffin Roehler Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
P Jacob DeMaio Weber State Wildcats
RS John Santiago North Dakota Fighting Hawks
ST Hakeem Deggs Northern Colorado Bears
NCAA FCS Football News

Griffin Roehler, Northern Arizona

Check back with us daily at pressboxsports.net for more NCAA football previews and rankings.

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