Montana Opens at No. 7 in First Preseason Poll

With summer underway and the fall season approaching, the first preseason prognostication was released on Wednesday by the FCS editors of HERO Sports.

Fresh off a 10-4 season where the Grizzlies advanced to the FCS Quarterfinals for the first time since 2009, Montana starts the 2020 season ranked No. 7 in the HERO Sports Poll. The Griz are the third of five ranked teams from the Big Sky Conference in the poll, sitting behind Sacramento State (No. 4) and Weber State (No. 6), and ahead of Montana State (No. 9) and Eastern Washington (No. 18).

The Grizzlies face three of the other four ranked Big Sky teams in 2020, with Weber State not falling on UM’s schedule this season due to conference imbalance.

Montana returns eight All-America and eight All-Big Sky players this season. Samori Toure and Samuel Akem lead an offensive unit that returns 81-percent of 2019’s production at wide receiver, with 3,453 combined yards, 26 touchdowns, and 263 catches. Record-breaking running back Marcus Knight is also back for his junior campaign after setting a new school record for touchdowns in a single season with 25 and becoming the first Grizzly to rush for over 1,000 yards since Jordan Canada in 2014.

“The Griz have All-American talent all over their starting lineup. Montana returned to national relevance last season and expectations are for the program to take another big step forward in 2020,” said HERO of Montana in its online release.

Defensively, senior linebacker Jace Lewis and sophomore safety Robby Hauck return with a combined 260 tackles in 2019, each finishing the year as one of the Big Sky’s top-10 tacklers.

The two primary FCS preseason polls – the STATS FCS and the AFCA coaches’ poll – will be announced closer to the start of the season.

Montana entered the 2019 season ranked No. 25 in the STATS poll and unranked in the Coaches’ poll before climbing as high as No. 3 and finishing the season at No. 6.

Since 1978, Montana has been ranked No. 1 in the nation a total of 34 weeks, the third-most weeks in 1-AA/FCS football history.

HERO Sports Preseason FCS Top-25
1 North Dakota State
2 South Dakota State
3 Northern Iowa
4 Sacramento State
5 James Madison
6 Weber State
7 Montana
8 Villanova
9 Montana State
10 Central Arkansas
11 Kennesaw State
12 Illinois State
13 Austin Peay
14 Furman
15 Delaware
16 Princeton
17 New Hampshire
18 Eastern Washington
19 North Carolina A&T
20 Florida A&M
21 The Citadel
22 Southern Illinois
23 Sam Houston State
24 Albany
25 Yale

Also receiving votes (alphabetical):
Alcorn State, Chattanooga, Dartmouth, Elon, Nicholls, Portland State, SEMO, UT Martin, Wofford