The Big Sky is a conference so nice that it got picked twice for Week 8's FCS game of the week. Two top-10 matchups highlight the weekend's slate: No. 2 Montana State hosts No. 5 Weber State and No. 3 Sacramento State hosts No. 7 Montana as a part of a loaded weekend in the FCS.
These two games will have huge implications on the final weeks of the FCS season, ranging from the Big Sky conference race to playoff seeding. That said, let's break it all down.
This weekend of #FCS football should be epic!— Stan Becton (@stan_becton) October 17, 2022
#1 South Dakota St v North Dakota
#2 Montana St v #5 Weber State
#3 Sacramento St v #7 Montana
#6 Jackson St v Campbell
#8 Chattanooga v #11 Mercer
#15 Samford v ETSU
#23 Princeton v Harvard
#25 Elon v New Hampshire
NCCU v SC St
Big Sky Standings
Before the matchups, let's look at the latest Big Sky standings.
Four undefeated Big Sky teams enter Week 8, and three of those teams play in the games of the week. With the standings tight at the top, Week 8 is pivotal for any future tie-breaking scenarios.
Now to the matchups.
Weber State enters its matchup against Montana State with the longest winning streak in the FCS, beating an FBS opponent on the way to a 6-0 start (the best start in program history). Meanwhile, an FBS opponent is Montana State's only loss.
Weber State has dominated all but one of its opponents, winning five of its six games by at least three touchdowns. The closest game the Wildcats have played was a 17-12 win over UC Davis, a game where Weber State led by 11 points.
A major reason for Weber State's fantastic start has come from its dominant defense that sits second in the FCS, allowing 11 points per game. The Wildcats also have the FCS's top red zone defense, the second-most interceptions, the second-best defensive passing efficiency and the eighth-best total defense. With players like cornerback Maxwell Anderson — the nation's leader in interceptions — and linebacker Winston Reid, Weber State's defense has the talent to compete with the nation's best.
Opposite Weber State's defense is Montana State's offense, the seventh-leading scoring offense in the FCS that averages 40.6 points per game. The Bobcats have put points up regardless of the quarterback under center and feature a two-headed-monster at the position in Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers. Mellott is the more pass-centric of the two, but he also features dual-threat ability. Meanwhile, Chambers leads the nation in rushing touchdowns at 16. Together, Mellott and Chambers have the Montana State offense rolling entering Week 8's matchup.
Montana enters Week 8 fresh off its first loss, faltering to Idaho 30-23. Montana quarterback Lucas Johnson struggled in the loss, completing the fewest percentage of his passes and throwing two interceptions. The Grizzly defense also struggled, allowing its most points of the season. However, Montana still totes the third-leading defense in yards allowed and the sixth-leading scoring defense at 14.5 points per game. The Grizzlies continue to be among the best in the FCS at making plays in the backfield, ranking second in tackles for loss and fifth in sacks. With arguably the best trio of defenders in the FCS in linebacker Patrick O'Connell, cornerback Justin Ford and safety Robby Hauck, Montana's defense has what it takes to bounce back from a loss.
To do so, Montana will have to contend with Sacramento State's explosive offense. The Hornets feature the second-leading scoring offense in the FCS at 48.3 points per game, led by a quarterback tandem in Jake Dunniway and Asher O'Hara. Dunniway is the primary passer of the two with 145 attempts to his name, and while O'Hara can pass, he excels as a runner with 11 rushing touchdowns. Elsewhere in the backfield, running back Cameron Skattebo averages an impressive 7.7 yards per carry. Sacramento State's ground game balances out the passing game, as the Hornets can attack a defense in multiple ways. If Sacramento State's offense can find success again in Week 8, the Hornets will set a school record for most wins to start a season.
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With Weber State-Montana State in the afternoon and Montana-Sacramento State as the nightcap, all eyes should be on the Big Sky Conference in Week 8.