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It must be a challenge, identity wise, playing college football for North Alabama.

It's kind of like appearing in the same movie as Robert De Niro and Al Pacino. Or maybe playing the same rock concert as Pearl Jam and Metallica.

I can about imagine the conversations that go on between North Alabama players and the unknowing public.

"Oh, you play college football in Alabama? Well we love the Crimson Tide! What's that? You don't play there? Well we love those Auburn Tigers! Nice win over Oregon last week!"

Second-fiddle status aside, the North Alabama Lions are making a name for themselves on the FCS level. You remember that Western Illinois team that beat Bobby Hauck's Griz last year? Well the Lions beat them 26-17 last week in Florence, Alabama.

That's right, the Lions are from Florence. Geez, if the Griz lose to a team from Florence, will they ever hear the end of it?

By the way, not to toot my own horn, but did anyone else notice I picked the score of last week's 31-17 Griz win on the nose? That never happens, so I'm bringing it up now that it has happened.

***

North Alabama at No. 22 Montana: This is going to be fun. Maybe even a shootout. The Lions have proven they can move the ball effectively with the run and pass. The Griz defense will be tested. I'll give the nod to Montana, but only because the game will be played in front of 25,000 friendly fans. Speltz: Montana 35, North Alabama 31. Gogola: Montana 38, North Alabama 28. Hansen: Montana 38, North Alabama 33. Houghtaling: Grizzly Bears 34, Lions 30.

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No. 12 SE Missouri State at No. 13 Montana St.: There's a little place south of Cape Girardeau, home of SE Missouri State, that prides itself on being the home of the throwed rolls. It's called Lambert's Cafe and Elvis reportedly ate there once. They actually throw warm rolls at you. Then you eat them with molasses and they're terrific. SEMO threw for 248 yards and ran for 281 last week in a home win over Southern Illinois. They'll test the Cats but I like MSU to win at home. Speltz: Cats 30, SEMO 27. Gogola: Montana State 31, SEMO 28. Hansen: MSU 28, SEMO 24. Houghtaling: Redhawks 31, Bobcats 24.

Lindenwood at No. 4 Eastern Washington: Lindenwood is an NCAA Division II team from St. Charles, Missouri. That's a long way to travel to get humbled on the red turf in Cheney. Speltz: Eagles 52, Lindenwood 14. Gogola: EWU 49, Lindenwood 13. Hansen: Eastern Washington 45, Lindenwood 7. Houghtaling: Eagles 51, Lions 10.

No. Colorado at No. 22 Washington State: The Bears will get buried in Pullman, Washington. Speltz: Wazzu 56, UNC 10. Gogola: Washington State 59, Northern Colorado 13. Hansen: WSU 56, No. Colorado 7. Houghtaling: Cougs 44, Bears 14.

No. 5 UC Davis at San Diego: Last Saturday the Toreros, a non-scholarship FCS program, lost at Cal Poly, 52-34. Based on that result, I'm picking Davis to win handily. Speltz: Aggies 41, San Diego 21. Gogola: UC Davis 53, San Diego 28. Hansen: Davis 45, San Diego 14. Houghtaling: Aggies 40, Toreros 30.

Simon Fraser at Portland St.: The Vikings represented the Big Sky well last week, losing 20-13 at Arkansas. This week they'll represent the United States well with a win over their Canadian counterpart. Speltz: PSU 28, Simon Fraser 13. Gogola: Portland State 34, Simon Fraser 17. Hansen: Portland State 30, Simon Fraser 14. Houghtaling: Vikings 27, Clan 10.

So. Utah at No. 11 Northern Iowa: The Panthers lost a 29-26 overtime heartbreaker at Iowa State last week. They'll bounce back and get their first win Saturday. Speltz: Northern Iowa 28, Thunderbirds 20. Gogola: Northern Iowa 42, Southern Utah 21. Hansen: Northern Iowa 28, So. Utah 14. Houghtaling: Panthers 32, T-Birds 17.

Central Washington at Idaho: The Vandals only lost by 72 points last week at Penn State. What a joke. Games like that should never be played. This week Idaho is the favorite but don't expect a blowout. Speltz: Vandals 35, Central Washington 28. Gogola: Idaho 31, CWU 21. Hansen: Idaho 20, Central Washington 17. Houghtaling: Vandals 35, Wildcats 21.

Cal Poly at No. 7 Weber St.: Like Portland State, Weber State did the Big Sky proud in a 6-0 loss at San Diego State last week. The Mustangs will test the Wildcats this week but Weber will win at home. Speltz: Wildcats 38, Mustangs 35. Gogola: Weber State 24, Cal Poly 17. Hansen: Weber State 35, Cal Poly 14. Houghtaling: Wildcats 25, Mustangs 22.

Northern Arizona at Arizona: The Wildcats lost to Hawaii last week so they're going to be extra hungry to redeem themselves. That spells bad news for the upset-minded Jacks. Speltz: Arizona 61, NAU 20. Gogola: Arizona 45, Northern Arizona 28. Hansen: Arizona 56, NAU 10. Houghtaling: Wildcats 55, Jacks 24.

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Bill Speltz is in his 13th year as Missoulian Sports Columnist. He also guides the sports dept., scheduling day-to-day coverage. Do you have a story idea? Email Bill at bill.speltz@missoulian.com.

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