EWU, MSU Split Big Sky Preseason Rankings - SWX Right Now-Sports for Spokane, CdA, Tri-Cities, WA

EWU, MSU Split Big Sky Preseason Rankings

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EWU football has big expectations from the Big Sky Conference's media and coaches. EWU football has big expectations from the Big Sky Conference's media and coaches.

by EWU Athletics

It may not count in the league standings, but Sept. 19 will be an intriguing day in the Big Sky Conference football race.

Eastern Washington University and Montana State are the split-vote favorites to win the league title in 2015, and will play each other in a non-conference game at Roos Field on Sept. 19 in a game regionally televised by ROOT Sports.

The three-time defending league champion Eagles were selected to win the league title by the media, while the league’s head coaches picked Montana State. The picks were released Tuesday (July 20) at the Big Sky Conference Football Kickoff in Park City, Utah.

There was a difference of just 12 points in the media poll and one in the coaches poll. Eastern received 17 first-place votes and 553 total in the media poll, while MSU also received 17 No. 1 votes and had 541 total points. Montana and Idaho State were a distant third with five first-place votes and 446 votes apiece.

The coaches gave both the Eagles and Bobcats six votes, but MSU had a 134-133 edge in total points. Montana received one first-place nod and had 121 points.

A year ago for the second-straight season, the Eagles swept the Montana schools. Eastern scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with 27 seconds left to win at MSU 52-51, then beat Montana at home in both the regular season (36-26) and the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs (37-20).

Four years after capturing the NCAA Division I Football Championship, the Eagles finished the 2014 season 11-3 overall and garnered their 17th winning season in the last 19 years, including playoff berths in eight of the last 11 seasons. The 34 victories in the last three seasons represent the best three-year stretch of success in the school’s football history, and fourth-best in the Big Sky.

Eastern’s 34 victories from 2012-14 bettered the 2008-2010 and 2009-11 teams which combined to win 27 games each. It’s also the fourth-best in Big Sky Conference history, ranking only behind the 39 games Montana won between 2000-02 and 2007-09, and 38 the Grizzlies won between 1994-96.

The Eagles closed the 2014 season ranked fourth in FCS, marking the fourth time in five seasons the Eagles have ended the year with a top four ranking. Eastern has also spent time at No. 1 in four of the last five seasons (2014, 2012, 2011, 2010), and was high as second in 2013.

Eastern has advanced to the FCS Playoffs four of the last five years under head coach Beau Baldwin, a two-time Big Sky Coach of the Year. He enters the 2015 season with a 67-26 record in seven seasons to currently rank seventh in the 50-year history of the Big Sky with a .726 winning percentage. His 80.4 percent winning percentage in league games (45-11) is fifth all-time in the league.

2015 Big Sky Conference Preseason Polls

Media
1. Eastern Washington (17) – 553
2. Montana State (17) – 541
3. (tie) Montana (5) – 446
Idaho State (5) – 446
5. Cal Poly (1) – 433
6. Northern Arizona (1) – 399
7. Sacramento State – 278
8. Southern Utah – 255
9. North Dakota – 226
10. Weber State – 160
11. UC Davis – 145
12. Portland State – 133
13. Northern Colorado – 127

Coaches
1. Montana State (6) – 134
2. Eastern Washington (6) – 133
3. Montana (1) – 121
4. Cal Poly – 111
5. Northern Arizona – 95
6. Idaho State – 90
7. Sacramento State – 66
8. Southern Utah – 64
9. (tie) Portland State – 51
North Dakota – 51
11. Weber State – 43
12. UC Davis – 33
13. Northern Colorado - 22

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