Editor’s note: This is a combination of press releases written by Weber State sports information director Paul Grua, Montana sports information director Eric Taber and the Big Sky Conference media relations department.
For the first time in school history, Weber State Football is the preseason favorite in the Big Sky Conference.
The league announced the 2020 preseason media and coaches polls Thursday as part of the Big Sky Virtual Kickoff and Weber State was picked first in both polls for the first time ever.
WSU received seven first-place votes in the coaches poll and totaled 135 points. Montana was second in the coaches poll with three first-place votes. The Wildcats had 28 first-place votes in the media poll and garnered 546 points, with Montana second with eight first-place votes and 496 points.
Montana State was third in both polls, followed by Eastern Washington, Sacramento State and UC Davis.
Weber State has won three straight Big Sky Conference titles and the Wildcats advanced to the semifinals of the FCS Playoffs last year, finishing the season 11-4. WSU ended the season ranked third in the nation, the highest ranking in school history.
Head coach Jay Hill returns for his seventh season with the Wildcats. Hill was named the AFCA Region Coach of the Year in 2019 and has the highest conference winning percentage in Weber State history.
“I’ve always said preseason rankings don’t mean a lot, but it’s nice to be recognized,” Hill said. “Hopefully this gets us excited for what we are working toward, which is to finish the season ranked number one, not just the preseason number one. We have had big expectations in our program the last few years and I think our players have handled that very well. Now we have to take another step and find a way to raise those expectations even higher.”
The Wildcats return 17 starters off last year’s teams. WSU has 10 players returning that earned All-Big Sky honors last year, including first-team performers Josh Davis, Clay Moss, Jared Schiess and Ty Whitworth. Davis, Whitworth and senior kicker Trey Tuttle were named preseason All-Americans.
Griz picked second in Big Sky Preseason Polls
The Montana Grizzlies have been picked to finish second in the 2020 Big Sky title race by the league’s coaches and media. The conference made the announcement Thursday on day one of its virtual media day on Pluto TV.
With a total of 11 first-place votes, the Griz are once again favored to compete for a league championship and return to the FCS playoffs to extend their record 24 all-time appearances.
“I appreciate the regard the other coaches and media have for us, and I think It’s probably where I envision us fitting in at this point,” said head coach Bobby Hauck. “I think we have a really fine football team, and I think we’ll be hard to beat.”
The Griz – who were picked to finish fourth/fifth a year ago and wound up in a tie for second – are set to take the field in 2020 with one of the most decorated teams in recent history, with eight returning All-Americans, six returning All-Big Sky players, and seven starters returning on each side of the ball.
With Hauck now entering the third year of his return tenure at Montana, the Grizzlies are beginning to look like the UM teams from the early 2000’s that helped make him the winningest coach in program history.
“It’s always easier to say this after the season when you can evaluate how they performed, but the team we’ve put together has very few weak spots. I think it has a chance to be a really complete football team. I don’t know about dominating, but I’m not sure they can’t be a dominating team,” Hauck added.
“I’m very, very excited about it. From the amount of work we’ve put in since last season, to the talent we’ve assembled, to the schematic adjustments we’ve made, my experience would tell me this is absolutely a championship-caliber football team that can beat anybody in the country.”
Set to lead the way on Montana’s potent offense are preseason All-Americans Samori Toure (WR) and Marcus Knight (RB) who each shattered school records in 2019’s FCS Quarterfinal campaign. Receiver Samuel Akem also returns as a preseason all-conference pick in 2019 who wound up as a second-team all-league pick, despite missing the end of the season to injury.
Defensively, linebacker Jace Lewis returns for his senior year as the heir-apparent to Buchanan Award winner Dante Olson after a 135-tackle season as a junior. Safety Robby Hauck also returns after a 100-plus tackle season.
Bobcats picked third in preseason poll
Head coach Jeff Choate and his Montana State Bobcats are picked third in the preseason poll. With back-to-back playoff appearances and an 11-win record last season, the Bobcats received 493 points and six first-place votes from the media. Montana State earned 121 points and one first-place vote from the head coaches.
Eastern Washington, Sacramento State and UC Davis filled out the fourth through sixth spots in both polls. The Eagles received 438 points and one first-place vote by the media while earning one first-place vote and 118 points from the head coaches. Last year’s co-champion Sacramento State picked up 389 points from the media and 99 points and one first-place vote from the head coaches. The Aggies received 325 points and one first-place vote from the media and 83 points from the head coaches.
Filling out the media poll was Portland State (7th – 274 pts), Idaho (8th – 273 pts), Northern Arizona (9th – 238 pts), Cal Poly (10th – 206 pts), Idaho State (11th – 133 pts), Southern Utah (12th – 105 pts), and Northern Colorado (13th – 88 pts).
In the head coaches poll, there was a slight shift with Northern Arizona receiving 68 points for seventh, followed by Portland State (8th– 67 pts), Idaho (9th– 66 pts), Cal Poly (10th– 46 pts), Idaho State (11th– 37 pts), Southern Utah (12th– 33 pts), and Northern Colorado (13th– 13 pts).
Six different Big Sky teams earned at least one first-place vote proving that the league has plenty of talent across the board and a strong presence in the FCS.
2020 Big Sky Football Preseason Media Poll
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2020 Big Sky Football Preseason Coaches’ Poll
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