BOZEMAN — Montana State is seeded behind two Big Sky teams in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
MSU (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky) received the No. 8 seed in the FCS playoff bracket, revealed Sunday morning. The seed means a first-round bye for the Bobcats. Their first playoff game will take place at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4 at Bobcat Stadium against the winner of UT Martin (9-2) and Missouri State (8-3). If MSU wins that second-round game, it will advance to the quarterfinals.
"We're excited. We're happy," MSU senior offensive lineman Lewis Kidd said Sunday. "Obviously to be seeded is a blessing and just a super great advantage. Being able to go in and get a first-round bye is huge."
It's MSU's third straight season in the playoffs, matching the longest streak in program history. The Cats also reached the postseason from 2010-12. Brent Vigen is the first MSU head coach to take the team to the playoffs in his first season.
Ahead of the Cats are Big Sky champion Sacramento State (9-2, 8-0), the No. 4 seed, and rival Montana (9-2, 6-2), which was seeded sixth. The Grizzlies beat MSU 29-10 in the 120th Brawl of the Wild on Saturday in Missoula.
"Obviously with how yesterday played out wasn't what we wanted, but it is what it is. We've got to count our blessings," Kidd said. "It's a new season starting today. Everybody's 0-0, and we've got to play like that."
The loss ended the Cats' nine-game winning streak. They lost their season opener at FBS Wyoming 19-16. Two of their wins came against then-ranked Big Sky teams on the road: No. 19 Weber State and No. 5 Eastern Washington.
"I think our body of work ultimately garnered that seed, and we're really excited about it," Vigen said Sunday.
UM also received a bye and will host the winner of Northern Iowa (6-5) and Eastern Washington (9-2, 6-2) at 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 3. EWU, which will host UNI at 2 p.m. this coming Saturday, beat the Griz 34-28 in Cheney, Washington, on Oct. 2.
Defending FCS champion Sam Houston is the No. 1 seed, followed by North Dakota State and James Madison. Villanova is No. 5, and East Tennessee State is No. 7.
UC Davis was the fifth Big Sky team to make the playoffs, a record for the conference. The Aggies (8-3, 5-3) will face South Dakota State (8-3) in the first round at 1 p.m. Saturday. The winner will play at 7 p.m. Dec. 4 at Sac State, which beat Davis 27-7 Saturday to earn the outright conference title.
The Cats were seeded fifth in 2019 and reached the FCS semifinals, where they lost to eventual champion NDSU 42-14. The Griz, who lost to MSU 48-14 that season, received the No. 6 seed and lost to No. 3 Weber State (also a Big Sky program) 17-10 in the quarters.
"It's just another bye week. There's not a whole lot that changes. We're still going to watch a bunch of film. We're still going to lift. We're still going to do the things we normally do," Kidd said. "Obviously with Thanksgiving, we'll have some time to spend with our families, friends, all that stuff, which is great. Mentally, emotionally, especially coming off yesterday, I think that's going to be much needed."
A win over UM on Saturday likely would have given the Cats a top-two seed and home games throughout the playoffs until the title game. If they win Dec. 4, they will likely play at Sam Houston in the quarters on Dec. 10 or 11.
MSU has never played UT Martin or Missouri State, who will face off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Springfield, Missouri. Vigen is familiar with Missouri State from him time coaching at NDSU. The Bears finished second to NDSU in the Missouri Valley Conference this season. They lost their season opener 23-16 at Oklahoma State, which is now ranked No. 7 in the FBS, and fell at NDSU 27-20 and at Youngstown State (3-7) 41-33.
Missouri State is coached by Bobby Petrino, a longtime college coach who also worked in the NFL for multiple years.
"Coach Petrino taking over has quickly taken that program in a different direction," Vigen said. "The Missouri Valley is always a very tough conference, so to come out of that like they did, credit to Missouri State."
Petrino was born in Lewistown, grew up in Butte and moved to Helena in fifth grade. His first coaching job was at Carroll College, where his father, Bob, coached for 26 seasons.
"We're fired up about it," Petrino said Sunday, via the Springfield News-Leader. "To have a home game is great. We thought maybe we'd get in the eight and have a bye but we get to play at home and if we win that one we get to go to my home state back in Montana. We're really excited about it."