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They say San Luis Obispo is splendid in September.

Even if it's pouring down rain it's the place to be on Sept. 6 if you're a Montana football fan. Particularly if you take stock in the fifth annual preseason poll of Football Championship Subdivision teams.

Yeah, you're right. It's silly to be talking football. Maybe we should wait until all the trees have their leaves before we start talking fall sports.

On the other hand, this is football, baby. A game of the heart. The heart may be at rest, but it never stops beating.

So here's a few tidbits you need to know with three months to go before the Griz open at Cal Poly (of San Luis Obispo):

Despite considerable losses to graduation, Montana is ranked No. 5 in the recently released Lindy's preseason poll and No. 7 in the poll. Equally noteworthy is the attention given to Cal Poly. The Mustangs are ranked No. 13 by and they've been pegged the "biggest rising team from '07."

Since our local hype machine doesn't run on precious gasoline, we might as well start it up now.

"It's fun, the guys are excited and that's why you play the game," Cal Poly coach Rich Ellerson said of his team's resurgence and spring recognition. "It's nice we're on people's radars. I think it's a reflection of the success we had last year and the guys we have coming back on offense."

The 'Stangs lost just one starter from an offense that led the nation in total yards. The Griz return just four starters on defense.


Perhaps the best news for the Griz is the Mustangs debut one week prior to playing Montana - at San Diego State. The FBS Aztecs will wear on Cal Poly, but the upside for the Mustangs is they'll have a game under their belt.

Ellerson, whose team has won 25 of its last 29 home games at the 12,000-seat Spanos Stadium, makes no bones about the importance of Sept. 6.

"That home game will be one of the great ones in school history," he said, underlining the Mustangs' intent to attain Griz-like status. "We do have a nice homefield advantage here. Not like Montana, but we're starting to enjoy it.

"We've really got our students back involved with our team. The bad news is we had to turn thousands away last year with our sellouts, and our game against Montana will be held almost two weeks before school starts."

The funny thing about Cal Poly is it could be considerably better than last year when it went 7-4 and no one may know. The Mustangs' schedule is brutal, with games against FCS powers McNeese State, South Dakota State and North Dakota State along with a regular-season finale at Wisconsin and two early tests.

"Without a large conference, one of our greatest challenges is always scheduling," said Ellerson, referring to the five-team Great West league.

Not surprisingly, the Griz, Mustangs and most everyone else in the FCS will be chasing Appalachian State in 2008. The defending champs are the preseason No. 1 pick in several polls.

But a lot of FCS die-hards will be paying just as much attention to Jacksonville State in September. The Gamecocks recently signed quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who was kicked off LSU's national championship BCS team for off-the-field problems.

Because he moved down a division, the MVP of last year's Southeastern Conference title game will not have to sit a year. But whether the junior behaves in the small Alabama town of Jacksonville remains to be seen.

Jacksonville State is one powerhouse Cal Poly will not play in 2008. On second thought, the Mustangs are still looking for a 12th opponent.

If the "biggest rising team" does manage to reach the playoffs, no one can argue they coasted in on a soft schedule. And if it is true that steel sharpens steel, Cal Poly should be razor sharp in December.

Columnist Bill Speltz can be reached at 523-5255 or

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