As is usually the case, everyone else in the Big Sky is chasing the Montana Grizzlies this season.
But it may not be as daunting a task as teams are used to. The Grizzlies, who have won at least a share of the Big Sky crown in 10 consecutive seasons, return just three defensive starters from last year's team. Montana was picked to win the conference championship in the league's coaches and media preseason polls, but there are a few teams capable of ending the Grizzlies' conference-title streak.
Eastern Washington is getting a little more national respect than Montana. The Eagles are ranked seventh in the Sports Network's Football Championship Subdivision poll. They return an outstanding quarterback in Matt Nicholls, a playmaker at receiver in Aaron Boyce, and an All-American at defensive end in Greg Peach. Eastern Washington does have some questions on its offensive line, as it has to replace four starters.
Montana brings back seven offensive starters and is ranked eighth in the nation by the Sports Network.
Weber State, Northern Arizona and Montana State are all capable of getting in the league-title race. The Lumberjacks are coming off consecutive 6-5 seasons. The Wildcats won five of their last seven games in 2007.