*** ARTICLE COURTESY GRIZ ATHLETIC DEPARTMENT
The Montana football team was picked to finish third in the Big Sky Conference preseason media and coaches' polls, the league announced Monday at its annual summer media event at Park City, Utah.
The Grizzlies, who are coming off a 5-6 season in which they tied for eighth in the league standings at 3-5, received three first-place votes by the media and two from the Big Sky coaches.
"I think our players and coaches are prepared to make this season a special year," said Montana head coach Mick Delaney. "We were able to withstand all of the things that happened last year, and I think that everybody is on the same page. Hopefully we'll be able to uphold that third position or do even better.
"Everybody in our league's better. I think there are six or seven teams that, if things went the right way for them, could win the Big Sky Conference, so it's going to be a dogfight every single week.
"You don't have a week off anymore. You're going to play a contender or a team that has the talent to win the Big Sky every single week."
Montana State and Eastern Washington, co-regular season champions with Cal Poly last season, were picked to finish first and second in both polls, while the Mustangs were tabbed fourth in both.
Montana State (11-2, 7-1 BSC last season) received eight first-place votes from the league's 13 coaches and 31 from the media. Eastern Washington (11-3/7-1) got 12 first-place votes from the media and three from the coaches.
Cal Poly (9-3/7-1) and Sacramento State (6-5/4-4) both got a single first-place vote in the media poll.
The top 10 teams mirrored one another in both polls. Montana will play the other five teams making up the top six in the polls during league action and face No. 7 North Dakota in a nonconference road game.
Montana was also voted to finish third in last season's preseason polls behind Montana State and Eastern Washington. The Grizzlies have been the preseason favorite in the poll 11 times in the past 14 seasons.
The Grizzlies have advanced to the FCS playoffs 17 of the past 20 seasons and a record 23 times but did not make the postseason last year or in 2010. Montana holds the record for consecutive playoff appearances with 17 from 1993-2009.
Last season Eastern Washington advanced to the FCS national semifinals, where the Eagles lost to Sam Houston State, 45-42. The Bearkats, who lost to North Dakota State in the national championship game, defeated Montana State 34-16 in the quarterfinals.
2013 Big Sky Conference Coaches' Poll
1. Montana State (8) ... 140
2. Eastern Washington (3) ... 130
3. Montana (2) ... 111
4. Cal Poly ... 109
5. Northern Arizona ... 104
6. Sacramento State ... 88
7. North Dakota ... 66
8. Northern Colorado ... 63
9. Southern Utah ... 57
10. Portland State ... 49
11. Weber State ... 48