Fox News - Fair & Balanced


By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant - Archive - Email
New Big Sky will be a weekly battle
Eastern Washington was picked second in the Big Sky Conference's two preseason polls, but wide receiver Nicholas Edwards hopes to take the Eagles even higher.
Park City, UT (Sports Network) - When asked about what he's looking forward to for the upcoming season, Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen didn't mention his team's new membership to the Big Sky Conference or the fact he is one of the top NFL prospects in the FCS.

Instead, he cut right to the chase.

"I'm looking most forward to Utah State because that's our first game," Sorensen said.

That's the type of mind-set the four Big Sky newcomers will have to learn fast. Especially when you consider that one of the FCS' top conferences just got a whole lot tougher by adding four teams from the Great West Conference.

Now with 13 teams fighting for one automatic playoff berth, even making the postseason as an at-large team with seven or eight wins will be no easy task.

Just ask the Eastern Washington Eagles. After winning the national championship in 2010, they found themselves winless in the first four weeks of last season, proving once again that no team in the Big Sky is safe from the brutal competitive nature that each week brings.

Eagles All-America wide receiver Nicholas Edwards knows firsthand what his new counterparts can expect once they begin conference play.

"They will see once they pop on the film that it's going to be an absolute grind every week," Edwards said. "We're so hungry right now ... we will be ready to roll for our first game because we know how hard it is to come back from a slow start."

Edwards and Sorensen can agree the expansion of the conference will make for better results as a team.

"Every team on our schedule is tough because each opponent represents a new challenge," Sorensen said. "Playing in such a prestigious conference will be a great opportunity for us. I've already started talking to other quarterbacks around the league to talk about the defenses we will face to try and strategize. We know every week is going to be a battle."

On the other hand, Edwards said he is excited to play new competition, but at the same time he knows in order to have success as a team, a team can't overlook or underestimate conference foes first.

"We look forward to playing the new teams because you want to see what they bring to the Big Sky," Edwards said. "We know from experience that our philosophy has to be to take each game, and team, one week at a time."

Perhaps one of the most important statements made on Monday during the Big Sky Summer Kickoff came from conference commissioner Doug Fullerton. He said the Big Sky solidified its decision to add four new members when the members could agree that geography and rivalries remained a top priority.

For Cal Poly quarterback Andre Broadous, the opportunity to play schools within the Mustangs' region, while at the same time playing familiar opponents, was ideal. , "We can still play teams from California that we have had long traditions with," Broadous said. "We will have a better chance at reaching the playoffs which is our ultimate goal, and we still get to keep our rivalry game versus UC Davis, so it's a win-win situation for our program."

For the past eight years, Great West teams had to rely on spectacular seasons to reach the postseason. Finally, if they can somehow survive conference play, UC Davis, North Dakota, Cal Poly and Southern Utah won't have to cross their fingers anymore on selection Sunday.

"We play to make the playoffs, and with the Great West we didn't have that," Sorensen said. "Even if we had a great season, it still was in the air. But now we know if we win, we will get in."

Each Big Sky team will play eight conference games, although some will play a ninth member in a game that doesn't count toward the standings.