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Big Sky Picks: Stopping Northern Arizona’s passing game will be quite a chore for EWU

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 2, 2019

Northern Arizona University's QB Case Cookus, right, gets taken down by Eastern Washington defenders early in the first half Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at EWU's Roos Field.  The Lumberjack's handled the Eagles 52-30. JESSE TINSLEY jesset@spokesman.com (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Northern Arizona University's QB Case Cookus, right, gets taken down by Eastern Washington defenders early in the first half Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015 at EWU's Roos Field. The Lumberjack's handled the Eagles 52-30. JESSE TINSLEY jesset@spokesman.com (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Eastern Washington beat writer Ryan Collingwood predicts each week’s Big Sky Conference football games. He has a 59-16 record.

No. 3 Weber State (6-2, 4-0) at No. 6 Sacramento State (6-2, 4-0): Fantastic matchup. The ultra physical, run-heavy Wildcats against the dynamic, resurgent Hornets, whose defense is also very active. Sacramento State has the ability to score big points on most FCS teams, but it won’t need to light up the scoreboard against Weber. If Kevin Thomson and Co. can manufacture, say, three touchdowns, it should be enough to let its defense do its part against a pedestrian offense, paced by stud running back Josh Davis. Going with the home team here. Sacramento State 27, Weber State 21

Northern Colorado (1-7, 1-3) at Idaho State (3-5, 2-3): The Bengals are very good at home (3-0) and very bad on the road, its most recent loss to oft-struggling Southern Utah. The Bengals’ defense has yielded 45 points or more three of the last four games. Northern Colorado, which is less potent than ISU, as been in the same boat. Idaho State 40, Northern Colorado 24

Southern Utah (2-7, 1-4) at No. 14 Montana State (5-3, 2-2): The Bobcats are hurting, dropping their last two games (No. 6 Sacramento State and No. 24 North Dakota), needed overtime to beat Cal Poly three weeks ago, and needed a fourth-quarter explosion to get past visiting NAU a month ago. Southern Utah is just what the doctor ordered for the Fightin’ Choates. Montana State 35, Southern Utah 17.

Cal Poly (2-6, 1-4) at Idaho (3-5, 1-3): Idaho moves the ball a lot better at home, where it’s 2-1 with a narrow loss to No. 3 Weber State. Cal Poly’s triple option will gets its yards, but the Mustangs’ defense will give up even more. I don’t think it has a defensive back capable of shutting down Jeff Cotton. Idaho 34, Cal Poly 21.

No. 8 Montana (6-2, 3-1) at Portland State (5-4, 3-2): The Griz are likely still ticked off about the Vikings’ 22-20 upset in Missoula last season. I’d bet on backup Cameron Humphrey taking the snaps again for Montana, which is facing a decent Portland State team that fell at Northern Arizona last week on a late field goal. Griz have more weapons. Montana 43, Portland State 27

Northern Arizona (4-4, 2-2) at Eastern Washington (3-5, 2-2): Away or at a neutral site, I’d pick Northern Arizona. The last time I picked against EWU at home, it beat North Dakota – now ranked No. 24 – 35-20. Not making that mistake again, considering the Eagles have won their last 12 games on the red turf. But they’re going to to have their work cut out for them today against the Lumberjacks’ potent aerial assault (373 yards per game), the country’s best. Case Cookus and his cache of receivers are no joke, so the Eagles’ young cornerbacks (263 passing yards allowed per game) will need to pack a lunch and hope for a couple key stops. EWU’s defense has made visible strides in recent weeks, often put in tough spots by a sputtering offense. NAU’s second half defense on the road has been especially bad (outscored 89-17 on the road in the second half), and I suspect they’ll be challenged by the Eagles’ run game, which has the ability of eating clock and keeping the ball out of Cookus’ hands. EWU 44, Northern Arizona 35

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