Bobcats get #4 seed and bye, Griz host first round game in FCS playoff

Victor Flores
Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Montana State received the No. 4 seed in the upcoming FCS playoffs, the selection committee announced Sunday.

The Bobcats (10-1) are behind top-seeded South Dakota State, No. 2 Sacramento State and No. 3 North Dakota State. MSU was seeded fourth despite being ranked third in both the Stats Perform and coaches polls going into Saturday’s Brawl of the Wild, which it won 55-21 over rival Montana. NDSU is No. 4 in both rankings.

“Happy with the season we’ve had, happy with being seeded and being seeded in the top four,” MSU head coach Brent Vigen said Sunday, adding, “You have to be continuing to improve, and I think we have the capability of doing that.”

NDSU (9-2) likely jumped ahead because the Bison beat the Bobcats 38-10 in last season’s FCS title game, although the playoff selection committee hasn’t provided specific reasons for its seeding decisions. The Bison and Bobcats both lost to Pac-12 teams this season (NDSU 31-28 to Arizona, MSU 68-28 to Oregon State), while MSU didn’t lose an FCS game and NDSU lost one, to rival SDSU (10-1). The Jackrabbits’ only loss was to Iowa, an FBS Power 5 program.

Vigen doesn’t believe NDSU should have been rewarded in the seeding simply for being the defending champion.

“Sorting all that out’s not easy. I get it,” he added. But “I would hope last year’s matchup didn’t have anything to do with it.”

The blowout loss to Oregon State and close wins over Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, who both finished 3-8, might’ve contributed to MSU’s seeding as well.

The Bobcats will get a first round bye and host a second round game on Dec. 3. The winner of this Saturday’s first round game between No. 16-ranked North Dakota and No. 7 Weber State will travel to Bozeman the following week. MSU beat WSU 43-38 at Bobcat Stadium on Oct. 22.

“It’s exciting preparing for a team that you’re not super familiar with, just because you get to see a little bit of new schemes, different playing styles,” MSU nickelback and team captain Ty Okada said Sunday. “On the other side, it’s nice getting to prepare for a team that you’re familiar with because you understand a little bit more. It’s easier to dive deep into film and deeper into tendencies.”

The committee forms the bracket with travel considerations in mind, so that’s partly why MSU will face a top-16 team from the Mountain time zone instead of a lower-ranked team from further away.

“I know there’s a regional component to this, even though there shouldn’t be,” Vigen said.

The Bobcats won’t have to travel until the semifinals at the earliest because SDSU is the only team seeded ahead of them on their side of the bracket. MSU beat SDSU 31-17 at Bobcat Stadium in last year’s semis.

MSU got the eighth and final seed last year after losing at UM in the regular season finale.

“The momentum created on that field yesterday is a lot different place than we were last year. We were trying to regenerate ourselves at this time last year, and we did that,” Vigen said. “We’re playing well, and we’re going to be as healthy as we’ve probably been all season in a couple weeks here.”

MSU and Sacramento State (11-0) shared this season’s Big Sky Conference title after both finished 8-0 in league play. It’s MSU’s first conference championship since 2012.

Five Big Sky teams made the 2022 FCS playoffs: MSU, Sac State, WSU, UM and Idaho. The Grizzlies were considered a bubble team, and some FCS bracketologists expected them to fall out of the playoffs after their Cat-Griz loss. UM will host Southeast Missouri State on Saturday, and the winner of that game will play at NDSU a week later.

Rematches between MSU and NDSU or UM can only happen in the championship game.

“The brotherhood’s there. We’re tight,” Okada said. “We’re ready to make another run at the playoffs, go deep, get into the championship and hopefully bring it home this time.”

Reprinted with permission of 406 Montana Sports.