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FCS Game of the Week Preview: No. 5 Montana vs. No. 3 Weber State

Montana’s hopes for a share of the Big Sky title are on the line

NCAA Football: Montana at Oregon Rob Kerr-USA TODAY Sports

Game Time: Saturday, November 16, 2019, 3 p.m. ET

Location: Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Missoula, Montana

How To Watch: ROOT Sports

Betting Odds: Montana -4.5, O/U 54.5

The Montana Grizzles and Weber State Wildcats are two of the best teams in the FCS. Both teams are 8-2 and vying for a first-round bye in the FCS Playoffs, as well as supremacy in the Big Sky Conference. Weber State is the only unbeaten team in the conference, and the Wildcats can lock up the conference title and a national seed with a win over Montana this weekend. However, the Grizzlies are favored by the FCS betting odds, and a win would mean a three-way tie atop the conference leaderboard with Sacramento State.

Reasons to Like Weber State

The Wildcats have one of the best defenses in the FCS. Their only two losses this year were to FBS teams, and they held San Diego State to six points and Nevada to 13 points in those defeats. Weber State has allowed just 5.4 yards per play this season despite playing two FBS teams and taking on some of the best defenses in the country in the Big Sky, where they are giving up fewer yards per game than any other team in the conference.

Weber State has figured things out on offense too. Josh Davis has been one of the best running backs in the conference, averaging 6.7 yards per attempt on the season with nine touchdowns, and he has been a decent option in the flat too.

Jay Hill is one of the best coaches in the nation, and it’s only a matter of time before he moves on to the FBS. Hill was an assistant at Utah for 13 years before taking over at Weber State in 2014, and he has shown marked improvement in six seasons with the Wildcats. Weber State went 15-20 from 2014 to 2016, but the school is on the cusp of its third straight 10-win season.

Reasons Not to Like Weber State

The quarterback play for the Wildcats hasn’t been great. Jake Constantine is averaging 6.3 yards per attempt while completing 64.5 percent of his passes, indicating a high number of dump-offs and underneath routes. The passing game has taken a major step backwards since tight end Andrew Vollert graduated at the end of the 2017 campaign, and no receiver is averaging more than 50 receiving yards per game.

Constantine threw two interceptions in North Dakota territory last week, and that nearly led to the Fighting Hawks pulling off a stunning upset as a 17-point underdog. He can’t make those same mistakes in the toughest place to play in the FCS.

Reasons to Like Montana

The Grizzlies lead the FCS in attendance most seasons, and the hometown crowd finally has a great team to cheer on again after years in the wilderness. Montana has a chance to win the Big Sky for the first time since 2011, and this team has the talent to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Montana has hammered its opponents in all eight of its wins this season. The Grizzlies have won each of their eight games by at least 14 points, showcasing a rare propensity for the blowout. Conversely, they have the same penchant in losses too though, losing by 35 points to Oregon and by 27 points to Sacramento State.

Dalton Sneed is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he is finally healthy again after injuring his ankle in the loss to Sacramento State. He missed two games with the injury, but the UNLV transfer is back just in time. Sneed has completed more than two-thirds of his passes, and he is averaging 282.5 passing yards per game this season. The quarterback is a great runner too, ready to use his legs to beat defenses at any moment.

Reasons Not to Like Montana

The Grizzlies are 84th in the country in total defense. Montana is allowing 413.4 yards per game in the Big Sky, and good quarterbacks have been able to torch this secondary through the air. However, the run defense is better than you might think though as the Griz allow just 5.6 yards per play and 3.4 yards per run. They are 20th in the nation in run defense, but 119th in pass defense.

Prediction

Constantine will need to beat Montana through the air for Weber State to stay unbeaten in the Big Sky. He has yet to prove he can do that during his time with the Wildcats though, while Sneed has posted very good numbers against talented defenses. I’ll lay the points with the home team here.

Final Score: Montana 31, Weber State 23