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FCS College Football: 5 Key Players, Games, Questions in Big Sky Conference

FCS College Football: 5 Key Players, Games, Questions in Big Sky Conference

FCS College Football: 5 Key Players, Games, Questions in Big Sky Conference

Northern Arizona's Case Cookus. UC Davis' Jake Maier. Montana's Dalton Sneed. Ugh, Kevin Thomson at Sacramento State, too.

With so many of the Big Sky's — no make that FCS' — top quarterbacks being replaced in 2020, there will be a different feeling in the elite conference.

What won't change is the Big Sky is home to some of the best FCS teams, including five in Athlon Sports' Preseason Top 25.

As teams move toward the 2020 season, here are five key players, games and questions in the Big Sky:

5 Key Players

1. Eric Barriere, QB, Eastern Washington: Last year's fifth-place finisher for the Walter Payton Award lost four of his starting offensive linemen.

2. Josh Davis, RB, Weber State: A fully healthy Davis is a dangerous All-American.

3. Jace Lewis, LB, Montana: The spotlight at linebacker is Lewis' following the graduation of Buck Buchanan Award winner Dante Olson.

4. Anthony Adams, S, Portland State: The Vikings bolstered their defensive line even after Adams posted an FCS-high 24 passes defended in only regular-season games.

5. Amandre Williams, DE, Montana State: After an impactful debut, the second-year transfer from Washington seeks even more production with linebacker Troy Andersen on a medical redshirt.

5 Key Games

1. Montana State at Montana (Nov. 21): Social distancing or not, one of the FCS' best rivalries is up close and personal.

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2. Montana State at Weber State (Oct. 17): Both programs feel ready for the next step after giving the Big Sky two national semifinalists for the first time since 1994.

3. Montana at Eastern Washington (Oct. 3): At least one of these teams have been nationally ranked in their last 21 meetings.

4. Sacramento State at UC Davis (Nov. 21): UC Davis was the Big Sky's 2018 upstart, and Sac State was the 2019 upstart. That led to head coaches Dan Hawkins (UC Davis) and Troy Taylor (Sac State) receiving the Eddie Robinson Award.

5. Cal Poly at Montana (Sept. 26): National championship-winning head coach Beau Baldwin — formerly Eastern Washington, now Cal Poly — returns to the conference's battle royale.

5 Key Questions

1. Can defending co-champ Sacramento State remain elite following Kevin Thomson's grad transfer?

2. There's usually a surprise team in the largest FCS conference. Who is it this season?

3. Eastern Washington went from 2018 FCS runner-up to out of the playoffs last season. Which level are the Eagles closer to in 2020?

4. Can Idaho, behind a dominating unit of linebackers, be a Big Sky factor after two disappointing seasons since their FBS drop-down?

5. Um, did somebody say the Bobcats and Griz don't get along?

— Written by Craig Haley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Haley has covered the FCS level since 1999 and is the national writer for He appears frequently on radio shows and podcasts to discuss everything FCS. Follow him on Twitter @CraigHaley.

(Photo courtesy of Eastern Washington University Athletics)