PARK CITY, Utah – There’s a new trend in Big Sky Conference football.
For years, NCAA Football Championship Subdivision power Montana was the annual pick as the team to beat in the Big Sky Conference, but for the second straight year, Montana State and Eastern Washington University have been picked to finish 1-2.
Three-time defending Big Sky Conference football co-champion Montana State has been selected first by the media and the coaches in the polls. Eastern has been selected second, the league announced Monday at the Summer Kickoff.
Montana State, which has finished 7-1 in the conference in each of the past three seasons and advanced to the FCS Playoffs each year, earned eight first-place votes in the coaches poll and a total of 140 points. In the media poll, the Bobcats received 31 of 48 first-place votes and 596 total points.
Eastern garnered three first-place votes and 130 total points from the coaches. In the media poll, the Eagles earned 12 first-place votes and 566 total points.
Montana was picked third in both polls, receiving a pair of first-place votes and 111 total votes by the coaches, and three and 492, respectively, by the media. Cal Poly, which shared the 2012 league title with EWU and MSU, was picked fourth in both polls and received a first-place vote by the media. Northern Arizona is fifth in both polls and Sacramento State, which received the final first-place vote by the media, was sixth.
The preseason all-conference team was also announced Monday. The top three tacklers from EWU’s 2012 team were selected among the 31 players honored.
Senior safety Allen Brown was named to the 15-member defensive squad. Brown, a 2009 graduate of Foss High School in Tacoma, Wash., was a second team All-Big Sky choice in 2012.
The other two players selected to the defensive squad were senior All-America cornerback T.J. Lee III and senior All-America linebacker Ronnie Hamlin. Lee is a two-time first team All-Big Sky selection who graduated from West Seattle High School in 2009. Hamlin earned first team All-BSC honors a year ago and is a 2009 graduate of Timberline High School in Lacey, Wash.
Despite having seven starters returning on offense, no Eagles were selected among the 16 players selected to the All-BSC team on that side of the ball.