2. Montana

Montana

Forecast: 2nd by Big Sky media, tied 2nd by coaches

Preseason ranking: 13

Last season: 8-5 overall, 6-2 Big Sky (tied 2nd)

Starters returning: 10 (7 offense, 3 defense)

Coach: Bob Stitt (Doane, '87), 8-5 in 2nd year at UM, 116-67 for career

Bottom Line

The offseason turnover has been immense in Missoula, especially on the defensive side of the ball where eight starters and a coordinator left last winter. But head coach Bob Stitt and staff went to work building a team for this season, utilizing transfers from both the FBS and junior-college ranks to fill their holes. As always, expectations are high for the Grizzlies in 2016 with a manageable conference schedule. With a returning senior QB and veteran O-line, the Griz have their eyes set on a deep playoff run and a shot at a Big Sky title in Stitt's second season. Prediction: 2nd.

Offense

QB Brady Gustafson started seven games in 2015 and passed for nearly 2,000 yards. Most of his receivers from last year are gone, but a young and talented group is ready to step into their place. Behind a line that has seven players with starting experience, the Griz hope to do even more with coach Stitt's quick and complex offense. If they can avoid the kind of injuries that nearly derailed the '15 campaign, 2016 should be even better.

Defense

Senior Caleb Kidder has shifted from DT to DE and is primed for a landmark season. Despite losing STATS FCS Defensive Player of the Year Tyrone Holmes to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Griz D-line may be even better than the 2015 version. Young players have filled in at LB and transfers helped piece together a secondary of a defense that ranked near the top of the Big Sky in total D (380.0 ypg) and led the league in sacks (43) in 2015.

Notable: Tyrone Holmes was the second Griz player to win the FCS national defensive MVP award, formerly the Buck Buchanan Award, joining 2007 winner Kroy Biermann.

Quotable: "As a unit I think we can be the best D-line in the Big Sky, if not the nation, if we show up and produce the way that we think we can." — DE Caleb Kidder