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Big Sky Picks: Eastern Washington’s defense will need step up vs. North Dakota

UPDATED: Fri., Sept. 27, 2019, 3:07 p.m.

Eastern Washington beat writer Ryan Collingwood predicts Week 5 games in the Big Sky Conference. He went 9-1 last week and has an overall record of 41-3.

No. 18 Montana (3-1) at No. 4 UC Davis (3-1): Montana is good. UC Davis is better. The Aggies proved they were more than a sling-it-all-over-the-yard team last week when it went toe-to-toe with North Dakota State in Fargo. A good defense coupled with star quarterback Jake Maier and his cast of playmakers will be too much for the Griz, especially in Davis, California. UC Davis 31, Montana 24.

No. 9 Northern Iowa (2-1) at No. 5 Weber State (1-2): Two of the best defenses in the FCS. Two teams that have given FBS teams major headaches this season. Two teams whose offenses are underwhelming. Weber is a more athletic bunch, though, and playing at home. Weber State 21, Northern Iowa 14

Northern Arizona (2-2) at No. 7 Montana State (3-1): Montana State’s front seven is a problem, one NAU star quarterback Case Cookus will have trouble with. Montana State 35, NAU 28.

Portland State (2-2) at Idaho State (1-2): Both of these teams have solid defenses and have yet to play a team truly in their weight class. Idaho State still hasn’t really shored up its QB situaiton - will Amos or Struck get the start this week? - but the Vikings have experienced signal caller Davis Alexander and star tight end Charlie Taumoepeau. Portland State 34, Idaho State 31.

Idaho (2-2) at Northern Colorado (0-4): Idaho has played well the last two weeks and has found out what works it - full steam ahead with bulldozing freshman running back Aundre Carter and short, chain-moving passes to Jeff Cotton. Idaho 40, Northren Colorado 28

Cal Poly (1-2) at Southern Utah (1-3): The Mustangs’ run-it-down-your-throat approach works best when its defense can stop someone. But, much like last season, it cant, yielding 513 yards a game. Southern Utah’s nonconference schedule has been so brutal, I can’t tell it’s a decent team or not, but I expect SUU QB Chris Helbig to put up enough points to win at home. SUU 44, Poly 31

North Dakota (2-1) at Eastern Washington (1-3): North Dakota gets the ball out quick and moves the chains, but isn’t beating teams with a cache of explosive players and home-run plays. But neither does Idaho, and we saw how that ended for EWU. The Eagles’ defense has played well in spurts, but has ultimately had trouble with everyone and ranks in the bottom third of the FCS in most categories. Offensively, EWU will have to contend with a UND defensive line that creates a lot of chaos, a time when the Eagles’ offensive line has had some unexpected struggles. EWU will gets its points and yards, especially if it lets dual-threat quarterback Eric Barriere operate mostly out of the RPO, letting him loose. That’s when he and EWU are at their best. If not, expect more of what we’ve seen - inconsistency. EWU’s defense can’t stop anyone right now. That could change this week, but I need to see it first. UND 42, EWU 35

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