MISSOULA — With the 121st Brawl of the Wild on deck this week, we'll take a look back at how the Grizzlies got to this point of the season, as they enter the game 7-3 and are looking for their second straight win over the Bobcats.
The Grizzlies entered the season ranked No. 3 in the preseason polls, and were picked to win the regular season title in the Big Sky Conference.
Things got off to a bang behind new quarterback Lucas Johnson, as the Griz kicked off the season with a 47-0 win over Northwestern State, and in their three non-conference games, Montana out-scored opponents 120-21 to start the year 3-0.
Conference play started off strongly as well, as the Grizzlies topped Portland State and Idaho State to begin league play 2-0, and head into their bye week, 5-0.
Coming off the bye is where things began to go off the rails for the Grizzlies. A mistake-ridden contest against the Idaho Vandals cost the Griz their first game of the year, as Idaho won the Little Brown Stein for the first time since 1999.
The following week was a big one as the Grizzlies had to hit the road to Sac State for a top 10 matchup on national TV. After injuries affected the Griz, and some late crucial calls, Montana lost to Sac State in overtime to drop to 5-2 with their second straight loss.
After Johnson went down against the Hornets, the following week he was out again as the Griz hit the road to take on Weber State, and the offense mustered just 114 yards total, and the Wildcats won 24-21 to hand UM its third straight loss.
But over the last two weeks, the Griz have bounced back in a big way.
Two weeks ago Montana blew out Cal Poly 57-0 on a snowy night in Missoula, and they followed that up with a 63-7 beat down of Eastern Washington this past weekend at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
So, that leads us to this week, where the Griz sit at 7-3 overall and 4-3 in league play and ranked No. 13 in the FCS. With that record, they're likely in the playoffs, and Saturday's outcome will have a big factor in where they end up on the Sunday after the game.
For now, all eyes on are the rivalry game, and it'll be a Top-15 clash when UM and MSU meet in Bozeman on Saturday.
"I'm excited for this game. I love playing down there, I just always have," Griz head coach Bobby Hauck said during his Monday press conference. "Just always really enjoyed it. I think I saw my first college football game there and just kind of always have enjoyed the games down there.
"We're going to need to play well again in order to have a chance to win this game. I assume we'll be an underdog in the game, but we've beaten this opponent 73 times in the history of this rivalry, and outside of Nebraska's 91 over Kansas, I don't know if there's a Division I team with more wins over one opponent so we kind of have a feeling like we ought to win this game too."
ESPN's College GameDay will also make its inaugural appearance in the Treasure State.
Kick-off for "Brawl of the Wild" is at noon on Saturday, November 19, and it will be broadcast on MTN. And before the game, watch our special Big Sky Showdown on Friday, November 18, at 6pm, or on Saturday morning at 11am right before the game.