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Big Sky notebook: Unbeaten Idaho, Weber State, Sacramento State have intriguing matchups with Pac-12 programs

Idaho defensive back Andrew Marshall celebrates after the Vandals defeated the Nevada Wolf Pack in Reno, Nevada, on Saturday.  (Courtesy of Idaho Athletics)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

Three unbeaten Big Sky Conference football teams have a chance this week to achieve something of the gold standard in the nonconference portion of the schedule: a win over a Pac-12 school.

Idaho, ranked fifth in this week’s FCS Stats Perform Top 25, will play at California on Saturday. Weber State, ranked ninth after its road win over Northern Iowa, plays Utah for the seventh time in program history. No. 8 Sacramento State plays Stanford, coached by former Hornets head coach and one-time Eastern Washington coordinator Troy Taylor.

“There’s definitely some intrigue,” said Taylor, who won 12 games at SSU last season, during his weekly news conference. “When you know each other probably pretty well schematically and how you think and all those things, it adds another layer to the game.”

Sacramento State is coached by Walla Walla native Andy Thompson, a coordinator for the Hornets last year who has them off to a 2-0 start this year. The two programs’ only previous matchup came in 2010, a game the Cardinal won 52-17.

While the personal connection exists, this game was set up before Taylor accepted the job at Stanford. The Cardinal are 0-2 this year, with a 37-24 loss at Hawaii and a 56-10 loss at No. 6 USC last week.

Weber State (2-0) is looking to beat geographic rival Utah for the first time. Since their first meeting in 1978, the closest margin of Utah’s victory has been 16 points. In 2021, Utah beat Weber State 40-17 in their most recent matchup.

Idaho is coming off victories at Lamar (42-17 on Aug. 31) and at Mountain West team Nevada, which the Vandals defeated convincingly 33-6 on Saturday. After this weekend’s game at Cal, Idaho opens conference play at home against Sacramento State on Sept. 23.

The Big Sky also has one other chance to beat a Pac-12 team when Northern Colorado (0-2) plays at No. 23 Washington State (2-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Six Big Sky teams ranked; EWU gets votes

The Big Sky was again well represented in the FCS Stats Perform Top 25 this week, with six teams among the top 16 and another – Eastern Washington, despite its 0-2 record – receiving votes.

Montana State (1-1) stayed put at No. 3 after losing at No. 1 South Dakota State 20-16. Idaho (2-0) moved up two spots to No. 5 and received a first-place vote.

Sacramento State and Weber State followed at eighth and ninth, respectively. Montana (2-0) climbed one spot to No. 12, and UC Davis (1-1) dropped one spot to No. 16 after its loss to Oregon State.

Montana won’t take D-II opponent lightly

With a pair of wins this year over fellow FCS teams Butler and Utah Tech, the Montana Grizzlies host what would seemingly be an easier opponent this weekend in Missoula against a Division II team.

But that team is Ferris State, the two-time defending D-II champions.

“They win. All they do is win. They just win and win and win and win,” Montana coach Bobby Hauck said Monday during media availability. “They’re gonna come in here this Saturday and try to win again, and we’re gonna try not to let them.”

Ferris State has a 28-game road winning streak that dates back to 2017. Since the start of the 2014 season, the Bulldogs are 102-10, earning the most wins in D-II over that span.

“You can see it on film: They’ve got very good players, good coaching,” Hauck said. “It’s going to be a tall order to find a way to get a win this weekend.”