MISSOULA – Montana is used to owning a high ranking while hosting an underdog. This weekend the Grizzlies get to experience what all of those teams have felt coming into Washington-Grizzly Stadium in the past as they head to seventh-ranked Washington.
The Huskies made it all the way to the College Football Playoff a year ago, and former Boise State head coach Chris Petersen has returned the program to the top of the Pac-12 in just his fourth season at the helm. UW won a tough, low-scoring start at Rutgers last week, 31-14.
Montana’s coaches and players know they will need to be nearly perfect to have any shot at pulling off a shocking upset, especially up front.
“Defensively, their two inside guys on the defensive line are as big and strong and powerful as anybody I’ve ever seen on film,” said Griz head coach Bob Stitt. “Watch them against Alabama, best offensive line in the country, and they’re getting a push. Our O-line is going to have to eat their Wheaties.”
“They’re going to test us, we know that,” said Griz senior cornerback Ryan McKinley. “We’re excited for that. We’re going to embrace it. I mean, I’m just getting goosebumps and excited just thinking about it right now, just to have the opportunity to go out there and make plays.”
Petersen said he had not met Stitt before, but he has heard plenty about his reputation as an offensive innovator, and he admitted preparing for the Griz presented its own problems.
“I think they are a really well-coached team,” said the Huskies head coach. “They’ve got their style, uniquely different offense to defense. On defense they blitz a lot, a lot of different stuff. And on offense, they get good at what they do, and they just keep doing it over with some pace. I think they know what they’re doing, and they do it pretty well.”
To put the talent in these two programs into perspective, Montana currently has five former players in the NFL. Three went undrafted. The Huskies had four players taken in just the first two rounds of the most recent draft.
The Grizzlies take their best shot at history at 6 p.m. Saturday in Seattle.