Media picks UND sixth in Big Sky preseason poll, coaches say 10th place; Bobcats picked 1st in both
GRAND FORKS -- During the last three days, University of North Dakota coach Chris Mussman has learned a bit more about the Big Sky Conference -- the new home for his football program.
But where UND will finish in its first year in the 13-team league still is somewhat of a mystery, according to the media covering the Big Sky and its coaches.
The Big Sky preseason media and coaches' polls were released Tuesday at the league's Football Kickoff event in Park City, Utah.
UND was picked sixth in the media poll and 10th in the coaches' poll. Montana State was picked to win the league by both the media and coaches.
Montana State, which has gone 7-1 in conference play each of the past two seasons and also has advanced to the FCS playoffs, earned seven first-place votes in the coaches' poll. In the media poll, the Bobcats received 30 of 40 first-place votes.
Eastern Washington, the 2010 national FCS champion, was second in both polls, while perennial national power Montana was third in both. Portland State, a team UND will meet in a nonconference game Sept. 8 at the Alerus Center, was fourth.
UND and three other teams -- Cal Poly, UC Davis and Southern Utah -- will play in the Big Sky for the first time this season.
"It was nice to see the media pick us in the top half of the league, but the coaches had us in the bottom half," Mussman said. "At the end of the day, they are just preseason polls, but it's a start and our players know the challenges we'll face in this league. All 13 teams are really good and this thing could end up in a number of different ways."
The league will be more of a mystery than usual because of the new additions. All four newcomers played in the Great West Conference last year.
But the Great West had success against the Big Sky in head-to-head meetings last year. The Great West went 6-3 against the Big Sky, including Southern Utah's 3-0 mark against its future conference rivals.
Cal Poly was the ex-Great West team ranked the highest in the polls. The Mustangs were picked fifth in both polls.
The release of the polls wrapped up the league's three-day Football Kickoff in Park City.
Mussman and the league's other new coaches got the chance to better acquaint themselves with the league.
"I had a chance to meet some of the players, including (Montana's) Greg Hardy," Mussman said. "We tried to recruit him out of high school (in Fairview, Mont.) It's nice to get to know those players. The game is about the players."