The college football season started three months ago – August 23 to be exact. On a gorgeous summer day, the Eastern Washington Eagles kicked off the season hosting the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) battle. Weather in the 70’s. National television audience with ESPN. Stadium packed with antsy Eagles (and a few Bearkats) fans. Excitement was at an all-time high.
It seems so long ago.
Here we are, three months later, in November and we’re about to cap off the FCS regular season. The final games will be played this coming weekend all across the country. Playoff positions yet to be finalized. With so many races yet to be decided, the games are must-see-TV.
In the Big Sky conference, Eastern Washington and the Montana State Bobcats (both 6-1 in conference play) are currently tied for first place and the conference’s automatic playoff bid. The Eagles hold the advantage for the conference’s automatic playoff bid, however, with their thrilling 52-51 win back in September in Bozeman. The match-up was a non-conference game. However, the Big Sky’s first tiebreaker is head-to-head, even in non-conference match-ups.
#5 Eastern heads to Portland in their final regular season game to take on the Portland State Vikings. The Vikings are 3-8 on the season having lost five of their last six games. The Eagles (9-2 overall on the season) come into the game having won four of their last five, including a key 36-26 win last week at home versus the Montana Grizzlies.
#12 Montana State, meanwhile, closes the season at #16 Montana. The Bobcats have lost two of their last three to the Grizzlies, but they’ve won four of their last five in the 2014 season. For the Grizzlies, the game now has extra special meaning. The Missoulian reported on Sunday that Head Coach Mick Delaney was stepping down at the end of the season. Delaney will turn 72 next month. Mustering the energy to run a high-level football program like Montana can be draining. Delaney said, ““I feel that now is the time, just from the standpoint that it takes so much energy and I’ve been able to manufacture that energy. I think, for three years.”
No matter how the game in Missoula turns out, an Eastern Washington win means the Eagles win the Big Sky championship for the third straight year. And, the conference’s automatic berth to the FCS playoffs. It could very well mean a first round bye. An EWU loss coupled with a Montana State win earns the Bobcats the Big Sky championship. If both teams lose, then it’s Big Sky chaos at its best. Here’s the weekend schedule for teams still in the hunt for the title:
- Eastern Washington @ Portland State, Friday, November 21, 7:10 pm ET
- Montana State @ Montana, Saturday, November 22, 5:10 pm ET
- Idaho State hosts Weber State, Saturday, November 22, 4:35 pm ET
- Northern Arizona hosts Southern Utah, Saturday, November 22, 4:00 pm ET
Montana, Idaho State and Northern Arizona all sit at 5-2 in the conference. If the Eagles and Bobcats both lose, the outcomes of the other three games come into play. We’ll know if the others matter, in terms of the conference championship, at the end of Friday. If the Eagles take care of business in Portland, kiss chaos good-bye.
Then again, I’m a sucker for chaos.