Thursday, October 23, 2008

Game of the Week: Weber at NAU

You certainly couldn't ask for a better matchup than the Weber State at Northern Arizona game this week in Flagstaff. Both teams are 4-0 in the league and, obviously, the winner is going to have a leg up in the race for the conference championship. This game is important for another, less obvious reason, however. Weber State has already beaten Montana, the only one-loss team left in the league. If the Wildcats can dispatch NAU, they will have at least a two-game advantage, by virtue of the head-to-head wins, over both the Axers and the Griz.

If NAU defends homefield, however, then the door opens wide for a potential three-way tie for the conference title, and guess what -- Montana will be right back in the hunt.

In trying to pick a winner in this game, I've gone back and forth in my mind, focusing on these factors: how much is home field worth to NAU, which is a team built for speed and artificial turf? Did Idaho State expose NAU's pass defense last week in putting up 361 yards and 24 points (not counting the blocked punt touchdown for the Bengals)? Is NAU's Lance Kriessen, a great athlete, a big-game quarterback?

And what about the "Griz factor?" Past history shows us that whenever other Big Sky teams have a chance to get the win that will effectively knock out Montana, they choke up like a Chicago Cubs infielder in a playoff game.

I kicked all of that around, but in the end, I'm picking Weber State to win Saturday for this reason: Wildcat QB Cameron Higgins has emerged this year as the best quarterback in the Big Sky, and one of the best in all of the FCS. Look at the numbers he's put up this year -- 25 touchdowns against just 6 interceptions. Look at the way he produced, under pressure in a Bozeman blizzard, in Weber's big win over Montana State earlier this year. When you add in the fact that the Wildcats have an outstanding, physical running back in Trevyn Smith who can at least keep that great Axer run defense somewhat honest, I'm going with the Wildcats. Should be a great game, though and I will have my DVR fired up so I can watch it after my return from Portland.

--Brad B.

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