By ERIC TABER
Following Montana’s 57-16 dismantling of then No. 10 Eastern Washington, the Grizzlies have moved up the national rankings to No. 17 in both the STATS FCS media poll, and the FCS Coaches’ poll, and playoff hopes remain alive in Missoula.
The 6-4 Griz picked up 1270 votes in the media poll, and 188 votes in the Coaches’ poll to climb from No. 22 to No. 17.
Montana is the second of five Big Sky Conference teams in this week’s top 25, with Portland State moving up to No. 11 after defeating previously unbeaten Southern Utah in Portland.
The 7-3 Thunderbirds of SUU slide down to No. 18 in the Coaches’ poll & No. 20 in the media poll, while Eastern Washington drops to No. 19 in the Coaches’ poll and No. 18 in the media poll. Northern Arizona completes the Big Sky’s representation in the rankings, with the Coaches’ picking the ‘Jacks at 20, and the media putting them at 24.
Four teams are vying for the Big Sky’s lone automatic playoff bid, and it will come down to the final week of action to see who will wear the conference crown. Eastern Washington has unofficially been eliminated from winning the conference, but remain as one of five Big Sky teams looking for an at-large playoff bid.
Montana still has an outside chance of winning the Big Sky and clinching the automatic bid to the playoffs if a very specific set of occurrences takes place on Saturday.
The Grizzlies can clinch league title and automatic playoff bid with a win over Montana State, a Northern Arizona win over Southern Utah, and an Eastern Washington win over Portland State. There would then be a four-way tie in the conference, with four teams at 6-2, and UM would then take the tiebreaker thanks to head-to-head wins over NAU and Eastern Washington.
However, the Griz must focus on defeating the Bobcats in the 115th Brawl of the Wild first and foremost. Without a win against MSU, UM would move to 6-5 on the season, and the chances of receiving one of 13 at-large bids from the NCAA Division I Playoff Committee on Nov. 22 would be slim.
In total, 11 teams will receive automatic playoff bids to complete the 24-team playoff bracket.
Should the Grizzlies earn a playoff bid, it will be a record 23rd appearance in the FCS playoffs.
The NCAA Division I Football Championship Selection Show will take place on Sunday, Nov. 22 from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. MT (11-Noon ET) on ESPN U and the Watch ESPN App.
Current Big Sky Standings
SCHOOL BIG SKY OVERALL NEXT UP
Southern Utah 6-1 7-3 Northern Arizona
Portland State 5-2 8-2 Eastern Washington
Northern Arizona 5-2 7-3 at Southern Utah
Eastern Washington 5-2 6-4 vs. Portland State
Montana 5-2 6-4 at Montana State