PARK CITY -- Weber State was picked sixth in the coaches poll and seventh in the media poll for the 2012 Big Sky Conference football season, the league announced Tuesday at the Big Sky Football Kickoff meetings.
Weber State garnered 81 points in the coaches poll to finish sixth overall. The 'Cats were seventh in the coaches poll with 284 points. WSU also received one first place vote in the media poll.
Two-time defending Big Sky Conference football co-champion Montana State was picked first by the media and the coaches in the preseason polls.
Montana State has gone 7-1 in conference each of the past two seasons and advanced to the playoffs and earned seven first-place votes in the coaches' poll and a total of 136 points. In the media poll, the Bobcats received 30 of 40 first-place votes and 502 total points.
Eastern Washington, the 2010 Division I national champion, was selected second in both polls, while perennial FCS power Montana was tabbed third. Portland State was selected fourth, while league newcomer Cal Poly was selected fifth.
Eastern Washington garnered four first-place votes and 131 total points in the coaches' poll. In the media poll, the Eagles earned three first-place votes and 453 total points.
Montana, under the direction of interim coach Mick Delaney, received five first-place media votes and 442 total points. In the coaches' poll, Montana garnered 126 total points and one first-place vote.
Weber State, under new head coach Jody Sears, will not face Montana State this season and will play Eastern Washington and Montana both at home.
The polls featured 13 teams for the first time. Southern Utah and North Dakota joined the league as full members on July 1. Cal Poly and UC Davis joined as football affiliate members. All four teams played in the Great West Conference in 2011.
North Dakota was selected sixth by the media and 10th by coaches. Northern Arizona was selected seventh by the coaches and ninth by the media. Southern Utah was eighth in both.
Sacramento State was voted ninth by the coaches and 10th by the media. Idaho State was selected 11th by the coaches and 12th by the media. UC Davis was tabbed 11th by the media and 12th by the coaches. Northern Colorado rounded out both polls.
Montana State is slated to return seven starters on offense and nine on defense. The Bobcat offense will be led by junior quarterback DeNarius McGhee, the 2010 Big Sky Offensive MVP, and junior running back Cody Kirk. MSU's defense features returning All-American linebacker Jody Owens and All-American senior defensive tackle Zach Minter.
Montana State is gunning for a third straight trip to the postseason The Bobcats beat New Hampshire in a second-round game last season before falling to Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals.
Eastern Washington is led by All-American wide receiver Nicholas Edwards. The Eagles should be bolstered by SMU transfer quarterback Kyle Padron. EWU's defense, which returns seven starters, is led by All-Conference cornerback T.J. Lee III and senior linebacker Zach Johnson.
Montana shared the conference title with Montana State in 2011, the Grizzlies' 16th conference title in the last 19 seasons. Montana finished 11-3, falling to Sam Houston State in the semifinals.
Portland State enjoyed a seven-win season in 2011 after winning just two games in Nigel Burton's first season. Burton has the Vikings moving toward a playoff bid in 2012. PSU returns seven starters on offense and four on defense.
Cal Poly finished 6-5 in 2011 under veteran coach Tim Walsh, a former Portland State head man. The Mustangs are led by electrifying quarterback Andre Broadous and linebacker Kennith Jackson.
Weber State is coming off a 5-6 record overall last season and a 5-3 mark in Big Sky play. The Wildcats will be under the direction of Sears and will begin the season Sept. 1 at Fresno State. WSU will play at BYU the following week before the home opener against McNeese State on Sept. 15. The 'Cats will open Big Sky play Sept. 22 at home against Eastern Washington.
All Big Sky teams will play eight conference teams. A new tiebreaker formula has been developed to break ties for the automatic bid to the Division I playoffs.