No. 10 Montana State vs. Portland State
• The game: 1:30 p.m. today, Bobcat Stadium, Bozeman.
• The records: MSU is 4-1 (2-0 Big Sky); Portland State is 2-2 (1-0 Big Sky).
• The series: MSU leads 15-9.
• TV/Radio: NBC; KGHL (790 AM), Bobcat Radio Network.
• Scouting the Vikings: Portland State has won just twice in Bozeman since joining the Big Sky Conference in 1996. … The Vikings’ defensive statistics could be deceptive. PSU is averaging league-worsts in points (52.0), rushing yards (280.0), and total yards (517.3), but suffered huge losses to FBS teams Arizona State and Oregon. The Vikings allowed only 195 yards of offense in last week’s win over Idaho State. … QB Connor Kavanaugh is a catalyst in PSU’s “pistol” offense. Kavanaugh rushed for 125 yards and accounted for 341 yards of total offense and three touchdowns last week. … S Manoa Latu and LB Ryan Rau are the Vikings’ best players on defense, having combined for 62 total tackles.
• Scouting the Bobcats: MSU is 3-0 so far at Bobcat Stadium, and hasn’t lost to Portland State at home since 2000. … Redshirt freshman QB Denarius McGhee continues to impress. Through five games, McGhee ranks sixth in the FCS in pass efficiency — first among freshmen — and leads the Big Sky in total offense at 288.0 yards a game. He is the Big Sky’s reigning offensive player of the week after throwing for 385 yards and four TDs in a wild, 64-61 win at Sacramento State. … MSU must improve defensively from last week. The Cats surrendered 51 second-half points and more than 600 yards to the Hornets. … MSU will again play without DE Dustin O’Connell (shoulder). LB Clay Bignell (ankle) and OL Conrad Burkank (knee) are listed as doubtful.
• Stat that matters: MSU’s offense is on fire. The Bobcats lead the Big Sky in scoring offense (44.6), passing offense (298.2), rushing offense (214.8), and total offense (513.0).
• Coachspeak: “Our defense is really paying more attention to detail this week. There’s a lot of urgency in our preparation. It’s important for us to get off to a good start (today) to get our confidence back. There is a proud tradition of playing good defense here. We had a tough day on Saturday and we’re anxious to get out and prove ourselves again.”
– MSU coach Rob Ash
No. 12 Montana vs.Idaho State
• The game: 1 p.m. today, Washington-Grizzly Stadium, Missoula.
• The records: UM is 3-2 (2-1 Big Sky); Idaho State is 1-4 (0-3 Big Sky).
• The series: UM leads 39-13.
• TV/Radio: CBS; KQBL (105.1 FM), Grizzly Sports Network.
• Scouting the Bengals: Idaho State is looking to snap a 17-game conference road losing streak that dates back to 2006. … The Bengals haven’t beaten Montana since 2003, but nearly pulled off the upset last year before losing 12-10 on a last-second field goal by Grizzlies K Brody McKnight. … LB A.J. Storms is a top defensive player. Storms leads the Big Sky in tackles at 11.6 per game. … RB/RET Tavoy Moore is an offensive threat for a team that is fairly stagnant with the football: Moore gets nearly 180 all-purpose yards per game. … ISU’s running game is in a funk, having gained just 40 yards in its last two games. … The Bengals are 4-20 in Big Sky games in the last three seasons, and haven’t won in Missoula since 1983.
• Scouting the Grizzlies: Montana returns to Washington-Grizzly Stadium this week where it hasn’t lost a conference game since 2005, a string of 18 in a row. … After a slow start, the Grizzlies’ running game appears to be in gear. UM rushed for 214 yards in last week’s win at Northern Colorado. RB Chase Reynolds has picked up 266 yards in his last three games. … Justin Roper accounted for three TDs last week in his first game as the No. 1 QB, taking over for the injured Andrew Selle. … CB Trumaine Johnson is living up to his billing as a Buck Buchanan Award candidate. Johnson is tied with teammate Erik Stoll for the Big Sky lead in INTs (4), and has picked off a pass in three straight games.
• Stat that matters: It could be a long day for Idaho State signal-callers Kyle Morris and Russel Hill. The Bengals have given up a league-high 18 sacks while the Griz have dropped the QB a Big Sky-best 17 times.
• Coachspeak: “The key to Idaho State right now is that they’re so talented in the return game. They’re leading the conference in punt returning and kick returning by quite a big margin. That’s where we really have to be potent in defending that part of their game.”
– UM coach Robin Pflugrad
— Compiled by Greg Rachac of The Gazette