BOZEMAN – For the past few football seasons, the Big Sky Conference and the Missouri Valley Conference have gotten to know each other pretty well. That relationship is continuing to grow. It starts this year with the Bobcats opening up against Western Illinois on Thursday in Bozeman.
The Bobcats against the Leathernecks marks the first of eight games the Big Sky will play against the MVC. And Montana State head coach Jeff Choate says these are games that he and the entire Big Sky look forward to.
“I think this is great, I really do. I think it’s an awesome deal to have this crossover. We’ll go to Macomb (Ill.) next year and, obviously, we’ve had a home-and-home with South Dakota State. And so I think when you have a league like the Missouri Valley, it’s important for us to do well,” Choate said.
The competition in these two leagues highlight some of the best in the FCS. Coming into the 2018 season, four teams in the Missouri Valley rank in the top 25 in the FCS Coaches Poll: North Dakota State (1), South Dakota State (3), Northern Iowa (13) and Illinois State (20). Three teams from the Big Sky also hold spots in that same top 25: Eastern Washington (7), Weber State (8) and Montana (25).
Choate will face the third-ranked Jackrabbits in Week 2. Choate says he looks forward to playing these non-conference games against the Missouri Valley because they have big implications at the end of the season.
“How many teams (the Big Sky) gets in (to the playoffs) are probably going to be determined on how well we play in these first couple of weeks. So we got to do our part for our league, but obviously we have to focus on ourselves, as well,” said Choate.
Montana State opens up against Western Illinois at 7 p.m. on Thursday, while the Montana Grizzlies start their season by taking on Missouri Valley foe Northern Iowa on Saturday.