BOZEMAN — The Bobcats and Grizzlies are both playoff bound.
Fresh off a 55-21 win over Montana on Saturday, Montana State received the No. 4 seed and a first-round bye for the Football Championship Subdivision postseason. Montana, meanwhile, snuck into the field as an at-large selection.
Co-Big Sky champion Montana State (10-1) is scheduled to host the winner of a first-round game between North Dakota (7-4) and Weber State (9-2) in the second round on Dec. 3 at 1 p.m.
The Grizzlies (7-4) will host SE Missouri State (9-2) in the first round this Saturday at 8 p.m. The winner will travel to play the No. 3 overall seed, defending champion North Dakota State (9-2), in the second round.
Montana State beat Big Sky rival Weber State 43-38 at home on Oct. 22. MSU last played North Dakota, formerly a Big Sky team but now a member of the Missouri Valley Football Conference, in the 2019 season.
Montana and SE Missouri State have never played.
With seven Division I wins but also with four losses, the Grizzlies were on the bubble to be included in the postseason. Ultimately, the selection committee gave Montana one of the 24 spots in the bracket.
After Saturday's loss at MSU, Griz coach Bobby Hauck said he felt his team was deserving of a berth, adhering to what he said a week prior about his team's playoff resume.
"We've got a good team. We're better than most teams in the country," Hauck said, though he also acknowledged his team's need to bounce back.
"We've got to play better. In a playoff game next week we better play better or it'll be one-and-done," he added. "In terms of this season, probably the most aggravating thing for me is the inability to play consistently. At times we've played at a really high level and at times we haven't. The in ability to do that week in and week out has been a little bit troubling."
The other top seeds for the playoffs are No. 1 South Dakota State (10-1), No. 2 Sacramento State (11-0), No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2), No. 5 William & Mary (10-1), No. 6 Samford (10-1), No. 7 Incarnate Word (10-1) and No. 8 Holy Cross (11-0).
Montana State coach Brent Vigen, whose team advanced to the FCS title game last season, said the Bobcats are looking forward to being idle this week.
“Having the bye really helped us last year, and having it this year, I know it’s given our guys a chance to go home for Thanksgiving, (which) is very helpful, having a chance to step back physically for the next four days in particular — or the next five days really,” he said.
“We’ll practice a few times, but I think that’s all beneficial this time of year. We don’t have a rash of injuries, but we have guys that have played 11 games in 12 weeks and that adds up, so to be able to heal up get our minds right to get a rest going will be big.”
Vigen added: “I think we played really well (on Saturday), and so the momentum created on that field yesterday is a lot different place than where we were last year. We were trying to regenerate ourselves at this time last year, and we did that, so we’re playing well and we’re going to be as healthy as we’ve probably been all season in a couple of weeks here, and this time of year you have to be continuing to improve, and I think we have the capability of doing that.
“Whoever you play you play, and that face that we get to play here in Bozeman is big. That home field advantage that we have here is in my opinion one of the best in the country. We’re going to make the best of it.”
The other first round matchups pit St. Francis (9-2) at Delaware (7-4), Fordham (9-2) at New Hampshire (8-3), Gardner-Webb (6-5) at Eastern Kentucky (7-4), Idaho (7-4) at Southeastern Louisiana (8-3), Elon (8-3) at Fordham (9-2), and Davidson (8-3) at Richmond (8-3).