The other MSU
The opener is exactly one month from today, so let's take a quick glance at Montana State, the Spartans' Sept. 5 sacrifice -- er -- opponent.
The Bobcats signify MSU's inevitable dip into the I-AA (FCS, technically) ranks. The Bobcats went 7-5 a year ago, 5-3 and tied for third in the Big Sky. They moved up a level with varying results last season -- getting pounded 69-10 by Kansas State before hanging around in a 35-23 loss at Minnesota.
They lose a very good running back in Demetrius Crawford, who ran for 1,300-plus yards a year ago. The passing game was not terribly prolific, although freshman WR DeSean Thomas averaged 17.0 yards on 24 catches, with four touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Cody Kempt completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,316 yards, with nine touchdowns and 12 picks.
Kempt is a former Oregon Duck who suffered a season-ending knee injury late last year. One of his former Oregon teammates, receiver Elvis Akpla, transferred in the offseason and will join the aerial arsenal.
Defense was MSU's strength in '08 and is expected to be again. The Bobcats led the Big Sky in total defense. Senior defensive end Dane Fletcher is the star and a candidate to be the top FCS defender. Linebacker Chase Gazzerro and safety Kevin Retoriano also were Big Sky preseason first team picks. Both specialists were good last season and return.
Overall, this looks like a team that might be able to stand up to the Spartans' young offense for a while, but will have a tough time putting points on the board. For some Other MSU news, here's the Bobcats' official site.
And here's a story from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle on the fact that The Sporting News ranked Montana State No. 17 in its FCS preseason poll.