With two games remaining in the regular season, the Idaho State football team continues to inch closer to ending its 34-year FCS playoff drought, but that fact has done little to alter the Bengals’ weekly objective.
For Idaho State, only a win will do Saturday against Cal Poly (3-6, 2-4 Big Sky). Kickoff is 5:05 p.m. Mountain time at Alex G. Spanos Stadium in San Luis Obispo, California, and an online stream of the game is available at Pluto.tv.
The Bengals (6-3, 5-1) moved into the FCS rankings this week for the first time since 2015, and they likely need to win out to earn their first playoff bid since 1983.
“I would give up all of our rankings to win this week. That’s all I want to do,” Idaho State coach Rob Phenicie said during his weekly press conference. “We just want to win, but it’s good for the kids to get some recognition.”
Idaho State checked in at No. 24 in the latest media poll and No. 25 in the coaches poll, and it is one of four Big Sky teams in the rankings behind No. 3/4 Weber State (7-2, 5-1), No. 5/3 Eastern Washington (7-2, 5-1) and No. 4/7 UC Davis (8-1, 6-0).
Ten conference champions receive automatic berths into the 24-team playoffs, and the remaining 14 spots are selected on an at-large basis by the Division I Football Championship Committee. Three Big Sky teams made the field in 2017.
“I’m really proud of the guys that we stuck it out. We never wavered,” Idaho State quarterback Tanner Gueller said. “We kept our head high and we worked. That’s what I think this (ranking) is a product of. When things get tough, you just keep pushing. That’s what we’ve done here.”
Vandals set for home finale
Idaho wraps up its 2018 home schedule on Saturday against Montana with a chance to go unbeaten in the Kibbie Dome for the first time since 1996.
Since the dome opened in 1975, the Vandals have managed perfect home seasons in 1976, ’82, ’88, ’94, ’95 and ’96.
The rivalry between Idaho (4-5, 4-3 Big Sky) and Montana (5-4, 3-3) dates back to 1903, and the teams began playing for a traveling trophy called the Little Brown Stein in 1938. But Saturday’s game at 4:30 p.m. Mountain time in Moscow is the first since 2003.
Montana currently has ownership of the Little Brown Stein, having won four in a row against the Vandals, and eight of the past 10. Idaho leads the overall series 55-27-2.
C of I closes season on road
After breaking into the NAIA Top 25 Coaches Poll for the first time in program history this week, The College of Idaho concludes its 2018 schedule on Saturday against Montana State-Northern. Kickoff is at noon at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, Montana.
The No. 24 Yotes (5-5, 5-4 Frontier) are riding a five-game winning streak — their longest since 1969 — and have beaten four straight ranked teams. A victory over the Lights (1-9, 0-9) would give the Yotes a winning record for the second year in a row.
C of I last recorded back-to-back winning seasons in 1961-62.
Two of the Yotes’ single-season records dating back to the 1953 season could be in jeopardy this weekend. Quarterback Darius-James Peterson needs four touchdown passes to tie Boyd Crawford’s record of 21, while receiver Connor Richardson needs one receiving TD to match Jack Kennevick’s record of nine.
BYU eyes end to skid
In a battle of independents chasing bowl eligibility, BYU and UMass square off at 10 a.m. Mountain time on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts, home of the New England Patriots.
BYU (4-5) has lost two in a row and needs two victories over its final three games to become bowl eligible.
UMass (4-6), which upset BYU 16-10 on the Cougars’ 2017 senior day, enters on a two-game winning streak, but has just BYU and No. 5 Georgia left on its schedule.