The Big Sky Conference recently expanded by adding four new schools to the field. While it’s still a few months away from the football season, I’d like to take a look at what the season has to offer.
With the expansion to the Big Sky, it’s sure to see an increase in competition as teams vie for the top places and to qualify for the NCAA playoffs.
The new schools are the University of North Dakota, California Polytechnic University, Southern Utah University and the University of California Davis. The Big Sky will see new rivalries formed with the addition of UC Davis (a rival of Sacramento State University) and SUU, which will bring an in-state rival for Weber State University.
Last year, WSU took on the Thunderbirds at home in what proved to be a hard-fought and exciting game. SUU walked away with the win, and the Wildcats are sure to be looking for redemption this year. WSU will head to Cedar City to play its first conference game against SUU on Oct. 20.
SUU might be a new challenger in the fight for the Big Sky title this season. SUU’s quarterback, Brad Sorenson, is getting some looks from NFL scouts. Last year in Ogden, Sorenson threw for 201 yards and completed nearly 60 percent of his passes.
The other usual suspects are expected to be near the top of the conference standings. The University of Montana, Montana State University and Eastern Washington University are all expected to be near the top of the pack.
A lot of preseason polls have also picked Cal Poly to possibly break into one of the top spots in the league.
WSU will be hoping to have a strong season after a tumultuous offseason, but many polls have placed the Wildcats in the middle of the pack. WSU will be coming into the season with its second new coach since the spring, and there are questions regarding starter Mike Hoke.
Hoke had offseason surgery to repair an injured shoulder and has been working to be ready at the start of the season. Hopefully for WSU, Hoke will recover well from surgery and will be able to build off of his season last year.
Last season, in Hoke’s first year as a starter, he performed well for WSU, averaging 208 yards per game and finishing the season with the third-highest efficiency rating in the Big Sky.
If Hoke can stay healthy, he should have a strong target in Shaydon Kehano. Both Hoke and Kehano were named to preseason watch lists and are expected to have strong seasons for the Wildcats in the upcoming year.
The Wildcats will kick off their season on the road when they take on Fresno State University in Fresno, Calif. WSU’s first home game will come two weeks later when it takes on McNeese State University.
Other key matchups for WSU will include the first conference game against EWU on Sept. 22 and a rivalry game against Idaho State University to close out the season on Nov. 17.
As usual in the Big Sky, UM and MSU are picked to be the two top teams in the conference, but with four new teams, this could be one of the most exciting Big Sky seasons in recent memory.