In one of the year's first preseason football polls, Montana State is eighth and Montana is 11th in the Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25, the news organization announced Wednesday.
Big Sky Conference teams Weber State (No. 6), UC Davis (No. 17) and Eastern Washington (No. 19) were also ranked inside the top 25. Sacramento State was also one of 10 teams "on the cusp" of earning a spot in the poll.
Montana State enters the 2021 season not having played a game since December of 2019. The 2020 Big Sky Conference fall season was canceled, and the Bobcats opted not to play any games in the spring. The Bobcats will kick off the 2021 season on Sept. 4 at Wyoming, the first game of the Brent Vigen era. Vigen was hired to succeed Jeff Choate as head coach after Choate left MSU for a position on the coaching staff at the University of Texas.
"The Bobcats face a daunting road schedule, starting at Wyoming, but have the type of talent to build off their semifinal-round appearance in 2019 (the program's deepest playoff run in 35 years)," wrote Stats Perform FCS senior editor Craig Haley, who compiled the Athlon Sports Top 25. "Leading the way are linebacker Troy Andersen, defensive end Amandre Williams, and running back Isaiah Ifanse. There's also depth at quarterback with incumbent Tucker Rovig and NC State transfer Matt McVay."
Montana, meanwhile, will enter the 2021 season coming off a 2-0 effort in the spring. The Griz dismantled Central Washington and Portland State by a combined score of 107-10. UM kicks off its 2021 season at Washington on Sept. 4.
"Quarterback Cam Humphrey directs their high-powered offense, which boasts wide receiver Samuel Akem, but has to overcome the loss of running back Marcus Knight to an ACL injury," Haley wrote of the Griz. "Linebacker Jace Lewis and safety Robby Hauck had 131 and 129 tackles, respectively, in the 2019 season, which ended in the national quarterfinals."
James Madison was picked in the top spot after finishing the 2020-21 year at 7-1, followed by North Dakota State at No. 2, and spring FCS champion Sam Houston at No. 3. South Dakota State and Delaware round out the top five, respectively.
2021 Athlon Sports Preseason FCS Top 25
|1. James Madison||7-1|
|2. North Dakota State||7-3|
|3. Sam Houston||10-0|
|4. South Dakota State||8-2|
|6. Weber State||5-1|
|7. North Dakota||5-2|
|8. Montana State||0-0|
|9. Southern Illinois||6-4|
|10. Jacksonville State||10-3|
|13. Central Arkansas||5-4|
|14. Northern Iowa||3-4|
|15. Southeastern Louisiana||4-3|
|17. UC Davis||3-2|
|19. Eastern Washington||5-2|
|21. Kennesaw State||4-1|
|22. New Hampshire||0-1|
|23. Austin Peay||4-5|
|25. Missouri State||5-5|
On the Cusp: Albany, Florida A&M, Furman, Illinois State, Murray State, North Carolina A&T, Rhode Island, Richmond, Sacramento State, UIW.