Montana State clear-cut Big Sky favorite; Montana third, sixth in preseason polls

Sean Chambers
Posted at 9:03 AM, Jul 24, 2023

SPOKANE, Wash. — The preseason polls have been released, and there is little debate — Montana State is the clear choice of the coaches and media to win the Big Sky Conference football crown in 2023.

In Monday morning's announcement at the Big Sky Kickoff at the Northern Quest Resort and Casino, the Bobcats received 10 of 12 first-place votes (120 points) in the coaches poll and 26 of 39 first-place votes (447 points) in the media poll to easily land in the No. 1 position of each list.

Voters differed in their opinion of Montana. The Grizzlies were selected sixth by the coaches but third by the media, with two first-place votes in the latter. UM got 84 points on the coaches' list and 359 in the media tally.

Both Montana and Montana State said they aren't putting much stock into the prognostications.

"Honestly, if the preseason polls mattered, if the preseason awards mattered, we wouldn't play the game(s) in the fall," said Griz offensive lineman A.J. Forbes. "We don't pay a ton of attention to that."

The Bobcats echoed that thought.

"Not much. It doesn't mean much," MSU quarterback Sean Chambers said. "We've got work to do. That's just for show, I guess. It's for the fans."

Following is a full list of each poll. First-place votes are in parentheses, followed by total voting points:

Coaches Preseason Poll

1. Montana State (10) – 120

2. UC Davis (1) – 96

3. Sacramento State (1) – 94

4. Weber State – 91

5. Idaho – 89

6. Montana – 84

7. Eastern Washington – 52

8. Portland State – 45

9. Northern Arizona – 44

10. Northern Colorado – 37

11. Cal Poly – 25

12. Idaho State – 15

Media Preseason Poll

1. Montana State (26) – 447

2. Idaho (8) – 410

3. Montana (2) – 359

4. Sacramento State (3) – 334

5. UC Davis – 330

6. Weber State – 320

7. Eastern Washington – 216

8. Northern Arizona – 178

9. Portland State – 167

10. Northern Colorado – 109

11. Cal Poly – 103

12. Idaho State – 69

The Bobcats, guided by third-year coach Brent Vigen, are coming off winning a share of the Big Sky crown in 2022, which was the program's first league title in 10 years. MSU finished 12-2 overall, 8-0 in the league and advanced to the FCS playoff semifinals where it lost to eventual national champion South Dakota State.

In the past two seasons under Vigen, the Bobcats are a combined 24-5 overall and 15-1 in the Big Sky with appearances in the semifinals last season and the FCS title game the year prior.

Montana is again led by Bobby Hauck, who is entering the sixth season of his second stint as head coach of the Grizzlies. The Griz went 8-5 overall last season (4-4 in the Big Sky) and made it to the FCS second round before bowing out versus North Dakota State.

UM is 36-17 overall and 20-12 in the past five seasons. Hauck could become the Big Sky's all-time winningest coach this year, needing eight wins to surpass the mark of 123 set by former Northern Arizona coach Jerome Souers.