Along with a new logo, the newly-expanded Big Sky Conference put out its preseason media and coaches polls on Tuesday. In somewhat of a surprise, reporters and coaches alike like Montana State over Eastern Washington – again.
So, the Bobcats are picked to finish first. The Eagles are picked to finish second. And the lowly Montana Grizzlies are in a humbling third (I hope I didn't just wake a slumbering grizzly bear). Portland State is picked to finish fourth, and newcomer Cal Poly fifth.
What it will come down to, apparently, is offense vs. defense. Big surprise, right? Provided the Eagles can stay healthy, they will probably have the best offense in the conference this year. They have SMU-transfer Kyle Padron at quarterback, and two first-team All-Big Sky receivers in Nicholas Edwards and Brandon Kaufman.
Defensively, Montana State has five selections on the preseason all-conference team: Brad Daly (DE), Zach Minter (DT), Jody Owens (LB), Darius Jones (CB) and Joel Fuller (S).
I know they say defense wins championships, but really? This year's offense in Cheney rivals the one from 2010 – the year they won the national championship. And the Eagles defense isn't bad, either. And then there is the issue of scheduling: EWU's schedule is not as grueling as it was last season, with games against Idaho and Washington State to begin the season. Both games are manageable and might feel almost like home games because of the close proximity to Cheney. Throw those two games out, and the Eagles have just four true road games. And they get Montana at home!
I say Eastern Washington finishes first. Montana State finishes second. And who cares where the Grizzlies fall. Who's with me?