[Vandal] Big Sky Announces 6-Game Spring Conference Schedule

robiegruss at aol.com robiegruss at aol.com
Thu Nov 5 08:34:02 PST 2020

>From The Lewiston TribuneLewiston, IdahoThursday, November 5, 2020
Big Sky Announces 6-Game Spring Conference Schedule
Idaho to play 3 rivals in shortened season
By Colton Clark
If all goes according to plan, this academic year at the University of Idaho won’t lack football.
The Big Sky Conference on Wednesday announced its spring season, unveiling a six-game league-only schedule for each of its 12 participating members.
“We’re excited. It’s just great to know who you’re playing,” said eighth-year Idaho coach Paul Petrino, whose team will play three home games and three on the road.
Highlighted opponents for the Vandals, who open Feb. 27th, include regional rivals Idaho State, Eastern Washington and Montana.
“I think it’s always special anytime you can keep playing teams and have a rivalry that just builds more and more each year,” Petrino said.
The season will conclude April 17th with one of two conference-wide bye weeks, added because of the coronavirus to allow for potential make-up games.
“We can’t predict the future of what it’s gonna look like when we do want to play, but we wanted to give ourselves flexibility within the schedule,” said Big Sky ­commissioner Tom Wistrcill on The Press Box podcast with Larry Weir. “... We thought the bye weeks were important in case there’s an outbreak at one of our schools.”
Idaho’s schedule features two teams — Montana and EWU — who were ranked in last year’s Football Championship Subdivision polls.
Big Sky competitors most likely will need at least a 5-1 record to qualify for the reduced, 16-team FCS spring postseason.
Even so, the Vandals have some reason to like their odds. On paper, their 2021 schedule is among the conference’s least-formidable.
They begin play on Saturday, February 27th, at the Kibbie Dome hosting Northern Colorado, which is 7-26 in the past three seasons. The Bears, who upset Idaho 27-24 in Greeley, Colo., in 2019, welcome a first-year coach in former All-NFL Denver Broncos receiver Ed McCaffrey.
Idaho then will visit in-state foe Idaho State on March 6th at Holt Arena. The Vandals stomped the Bengals 45-21 in Moscow last season after sustaining a 62-28 rout in Pocatello the previous year — Idaho’s first back in the Big Sky since 1995. ISU went 3-9 last season.
The Vandals entertain Portland State on Saturday, March 13th, at the Kibbie Dome. The Vikings blanked an injury-plagued Idaho 24-0 last year at Hillsboro Stadium. Like Idaho, PSU finished 5-7.
After a Week 4 bye, Idaho and rival EWU square off March 27th on the Roos Field Inferno in Cheney, Wash. In their most recent meeting, at the Kibbie Dome in September 2019, Idaho posted a 35-27 defeat of the No. 11 Eagles — its best win since rejoining the conference.
EWU dismantled visiting Idaho 38-14 in 2018.
“Both (ISU and EWU), it’s been 1-1 the last two years, so I think that builds the rivalry even that much more,” Petrino said.
The Vandals will stage an April 3rd matchup with longtime adversary Montana for the 82-year-old Little Brown Stein traveling trophy.
Idaho has been outscored 88-44 in its most recent back-to-back losses to the Griz. Although the Vandals own a 55-29-2 all-time record against UM, they haven’t claimed the Stein since 1999.
“Montana’s a big game for us ... we gotta start making that a rivalry,” Petrino said. “We need to start competing better and get a win.”
Idaho closes its season April 10 against Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah. In 2018, the second-ever meeting between the schools, the Vandals handled the Thunderbirds 31-12 in Moscow.
SUU has gone 4-19 since winning a share of the Big Sky title in 2017.“It just gives you a little more momentum knowing exactly who you’re playing, and you can start planning everything,” said Petrino, whose Vandals are nearing the end of a 15-practice fall camp.
The FCS playoffs, which typically field 24 teams, are planned to commence April 24. Postseason hopefuls will know their fates April 18. The playoffs will run four consecutive weeks, ending with the title game May 15 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Wistrcill said preserving rivalries and cutting down on travel — to alleviate financial issues — weighed into the decisions. Week 1 contests will be played in either indoor stadiums or warmer climates to mitigate concerns with weather. The conference sought to provide a fair schedule, talent-wise, too.
Idaho previously had top-10 Montana State, Northern Arizona and UC Davis on its eight-game league schedule. Northern Colorado filled in as a replacement.
The Big Sky landed on six games because it’s aiming to conduct a fall season next year, and doesn’t intend to wear down student-athletes.
Conference officials still need to determine what happens in the case of tiebreakers, Wistrcill said.
“My guess is it might be a little messy as we get towards the end,” he said. “With the parity in our league, I wouldn’t want to predict what could happen there. We could have a bunch of teams with one loss, so who knows?”
An even field of 12 was made possible when Sacramento State announced in September it would not compete this season.
Game times and broadcast channels have yet to be announced. Fan attendance is up for each institution and state/local health authorities to determine.
“A lot has to happen between now and then, but we feel good that where we landed is the best place for the entire conference,” Wistrcill said, later adding: “While the schedule is done, some of the work has only just begun, and we’ll continue that process as we go along.”
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