Grodsky: What the Big Sky Polls Say About UND's Football ScheduleUND is ranked sixth in the Big Sky Conference media poll, 10th in coaches' poll.
WHAT THE PRESEASON POLLS SAY ABOUT UND’S SCHEDULE
The Big Sky Conference released its preseason polls today. Generally, I try not to put too much stock in these subjective rankings, but with UND going into a new league, this is the first real look we have for where they fit in. Here is a link to UND's release on the polls.
The top five are the same in the media and coaches polls with Montana State leading the way. The Bobcats are followed by Eastern Washington, Montana, Portland State and Cal Poly. After that it gets a bit confusing as I am not the only one trying to figure out where North Dakota will land. The six through ten spots are clustered with UND (6 media, 10 coaches), Weber State (7,6), Southern Utah (8,8), Northern Arizona (9,7), and Sacramento State (10,9). UC Davis, Idaho State and Northern Colorado hold the final three spots.
What these rankings say about North Dakota’s schedule is simple: It is going to be a tough season. In the first year of Big Sky play, Chris Mussman’s squad is the only team that plays each of the top five teams, though the Portland State contest counts as non-conference. They also get three of the teams (Southern Utah, Northern Arizona, Sacramento State) in the 6-10 range, while only squaring off against one (Northern Colorado) of the bottom three. The move to the Big Sky was supposed to make it a challenge every week, which will almost certainly be the case.
For UND to have a chance at the conference crown and/or postseason play, they will have to survive the five-game stretch from the end of September through October. Over the course of a month, UND plays four of the top five teams. Here is how it looks: Cal Poly (9/29), Eastern Washington (10/6), Montana (10/20), Montana St. (10/27) with Northern Arizona (10/13) in the middle. Typically, two Big Sky losses equal a ticket to the postseason, while three or more send you home. So North Dakota has to win at least three of those five games and coast through the rest of the conference or kiss the playoffs goodbye.