BUTTE — With the final two weeks of the topsy-turvy Frontier Conference football season about to unfold, there's multiple scenarios that could lead to No. 20 Montana Tech earning a playoff bid or even somehow emerging as conference champions depending on how No. 23 Carroll College and 12th-ranked College of Idaho's final two games go down.
But the 6-2 Orediggers are being mindful to focus on the task at hand — aiming for a sweep of a Montana Western team (5-4, 4-4) that's been eliminated from postseason contention but is less than two weeks removed from pulling out the biggest upset in the Frontier this year after upending the then No. 7 Yotes 40-35.
Tech and Western are slated to kickoff at 1 p.m. at Bob Green Field.
"We can only control what's in front of us, and that's Western this week," said Tech head coach Kyle Samson. "There's a lot of things that can happen the next two weeks with the conference and the championship stuff. But we just gotta focus on 'hey, we've got a heckuva team coming into Butte.' If we want to be able to achieve our goals of possibly winning a championship and making the playoffs, we've got to beat them."
Even with C of I — which has a one-game lead over both Tech and Carroll — in position to claim the conference crown, the Orediggers are still on track for an at-large bid the playoffs. With that in mind, Tech's message to its players has been obvious.
"The coaches have been telling us pretty much every week even though we're not in the playoffs, every game is a playoff game," said redshirt senior linebacker Ben Windauer.
The Orediggers handled the Bulldogs 33-24 in their September meeting to start Western on what ended up being a three-game slide to fall out of the conference title and playoff race.
But that was a month before Western delivered its stunning win over C of I to make the Yotes inside track toward the league championship a little narrower.
"Every week you've got to be ready to go because of the parity and the level of competitiveness is at an all time high," Samson said of the Frontier. "It makes for a heckuva league."
Montana Western head coach Ryan Nourse said his team's upset of the Yotes came down to using the bye week to recalibrate and get back to playing their brand of football.
"We just reset the program back to the things that got us to being competitive every week," said Nourse. "Playing for championships every year. Getting one last year, I think we got a little success disease and thought we didn't have to do maybe the things that were necessary to make those things happen."
Western's win over the Yotes was followed up by a 66-0 drubbing over winless MSU-Northern. The Bulldogs have done an about-face since falling to Southern Oregon 49-14 in the final loss of their three-game skid. But in a conference where it seems anything can happen on a Saturday, both Western and Tech are being careful to not overlook their opponent.
"We can't be too confident going into this game, Tech beat us the first time," said Western redshirt senior quarterback Jon Jund. "They're a good ball club, they've been playing well all year so we just gotta prepare like it's any other other week. Prepare like it's C of I and go in there and try and beat them at Bob Green Field."