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Stan Becton | | September 30, 2021

No. 4 Montana meets No. 6 Eastern Washington in Week 5's FCS game of the week

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For this week's FCS game of the week, head to Cheney, Washington where No. 4 Montana visits No. 6. Eastern Washington in Week 5's top-10 matchup. It's the first time in Big Sky history a regular-season game will be on ESPN2.

The Big Sky rivals each have a road FCS-over-FBS upset under their belt this season, including Montana landing the sixth upset over a ranked FBS opponent, topping then-No. 20 Washington. On their latest road trip, Montana will try to end Eastern Washington’s 18-game home win streak. However, the Grizzlies are 0-5 when playing the Eagles on their notorious red turf. 

UPSET TRACKER: Here is every FCS-over-FBS upset

Entering Week 5's contest, Montana is 3-0 while Eastern Washington is 4-0.

FCS game of the week: Montana at Eastern Washington

No. 4 Montana at No. 6 Eastern Washington | 10:30 p.m. ET | ESPN2

Montana brings an efficient offensive attack into the top-10 matchup. QB Cam Humphrey has completed 63.5% of his passes this season and is undefeated in his Montana career as a starter. He's joined by two 100+ yard rushers in the backfield as Isiah Childs and Xavier Harris each average over four yards per carry. With the ability to attack on the ground and in the air, the Grizzlies can do just enough offense to support their elite defense.

Montana's defense is one of the FCS's best, ranking third in scoring defense at 7 points per game. That number would be even lower without a Western Illinois pick-six in Week 2. Led by CB Justin Ford and S Gavin Robertson, the Grizzlies have yet to allow a passing touchdown. In the middle of the defense, LB Patrick O'Connell leads the nation in tackles for loss. O'Connell plus Arizona transfer DE Justin Belknap lead the way at the line of scrimmage for a defense that has been dominant to open the season. 

RANKINGS: Check out the latest FCS rankings

Eastern Washington's offense starts with QB Eric Barriere. Barriere has 1,799 total yards through four games; he would rank seventh amongst FCS teams for the stat. For passing alone, Barriere ranks first among FCS quarterbacks in passing yards (1,698), passing yards per game (424.5), and is second in passing touchdowns (16). The spring 2021 Walter Payton Award finalist is coming off back-to-back 500 passing yard games. 

Yet Barriere doesn't have to do it alone for the Eagles. Also in the backfield is the FCS's leader in rushing touchdowns (7), Dennis Merritt. Together, the two lead the nation's top offense that can score in bunches.

LEADERS: See every FCS statistical leader

On defense, the Eagles have talent at every level. DE Mitchell Johnson and DT Joshua Jerome control the trenches, while do-it-all LB Ty Graham plays behind them. Graham leads the Eagles with 40 tackles while adding 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. On the backend, former Freshman All-American CB Tre Weed and senior S Calin Criner lead an Eagles secondary that has four interceptions on the season.

Week 5 puts strength against strength as an elite Eastern Washington offense battles a dominant Montana defense. Whoever wins this game will have a strong case as the best team in the FCS.

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