Analysis

Griz among handful of Big Sky teams in heated race for FCS Playoff spots

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MISSOULA — For most of the 21st century, the Treasure State’s fiercest rivalry has meant more than off-season bragging rights. The annual showdown between the Montana Grizzlies and the Montana State Bobcats has often times also has been highlighted by post-season implications.

From Montana State’s landmark victory in Missoula in 2002 to snap UM’s 16-game winning streak until the Grizzlies’ memorable defeat of the No. 1-ranked Bobcats in the 2011 rendition of the game, to the victor went at least a share of the Big Sky Conference championship. Montana State’s win in Missoula in 2012 also gave the Bobcats the outright Big Sky title.

In 2013, 2014 and 2015, the Grizzlies sewed up playoff berths with Cat-Griz wins. The 2013 28-14 win in Bozeman essentially eliminated MSU from the playoffs and put the final stamp on ending the Bobcats’ run of three straight league titles. In 2014, Montana’s 34-7 victory in Missoula — the only win by a home team in the rivalry this decade — denied MSU a share of the BSC crown with Eastern Washington. In 2015, UM’s 54-35 win in Bozeman helped the Griz secure a playoff berth in Bob Stitt’s first season at the helm.

Last season was the complete anomaly, the first Cat-Griz game where neither the winner or the loser went to the playoffs in 15 years. Montana State’s 24-17 win over Montana did deny the 6-5 Griz a postseason spot but boosted MSU to four total wins.

On Saturday, Montana heads to Bozeman gunning for a playoff spot once again. If the Griz can beat the Bobcats, an 8-3 record should be good enough to send Montana to its 22nd playoffs in the last 25 years.

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Photos by Brooks Nuanez. All Rights Reserved.

About Colter Nuanez

Colter Nuanez is the co-founder and senior writer for Skyline Sports. After spending six years in the newspaper industry with stops at the Missoulian, the Ellensburg Daily Record and the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, the former Washington Newspaper Association Sportswriter of the Year and University of Montana Journalism School graduate ('09) has cultivated a deep passion for sports journalism during his 13-year career covering the Big Sky Conference. In August of 2014, Colter and brother Brooks merged their passions of writing and art to found Skyline Sports.

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