MISSOULA – Unbeaten Montana received a vote in this week’s Associated Press Top 25, and Ray Ratto is comfortable putting the Griz in with the big boys of the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Not that he did it because of Montana’s 40-0 surge to beat South Dakota State on Nov. 28 or Chase Reynolds’ 21 touchdowns or Marc Mariani’s sublime pass routes.
“What’s Montana done to not be considered?” asked Ratto, a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle who has one of 65 votes in the AP poll. “The answer is nothing.
“I kind of have a soft spot for really good FCS teams, when I can’t make up my mind between which four-loss (FBS) team is better than this other four-loss team.”
Filling out a top 25 ballot can be daunting late in the season, as programs start to rack up the losses. The Pac-10, for example, is notably tough on itself: Oregon State, Stanford and Arizona all have four losses; two more four-loss teams, USC and California, fell out of the rankings this week.
“At some point, your head starts to bleed,” said Ratto. “And you say, (Montana) is an unbeaten team, why not?”
So Ratto broke the tie with the Griz (13-0), who take on Appalachian State (11-2) in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals, Saturday at 2 p.m. inside Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
OK, it wasn’t that easy. Ratto had a notion to vote for Villanova instead, though he also “sat there and mentally fought between Montana and Arizona for the 24th spot.”
There is, of course, ample reason not to vote for the Griz. Idaho State lost to Oklahoma 64-0 in September and in November gave UM a run, before losing 12-10 on a last-second field goal. Oklahoma is unranked.
Cal beat Eastern Washington 59-7 this season, and Eastern ended up in the FCS playoffs, losing in the first round. The Bears are also unranked.
Then again, Montana beat Portland State a lot worse (49-17) than No. 16 Oregon State did (34-7).
And Ratto is a booster for teams like No. 25 Central Michigan, No. 23 Utah and No. 6 Boise State, who are generally on the outside of the Bowl Championship Series, looking in.
“We’ve gone way past the ‘enough’s enough’ stage,” said Ratto. “I know the trend is to start lopping off the mid-majors and turn it into a six-conference free-for-all.
“Until they do that and the AP tells me I have to stop, everybody is in play.”
That includes the Griz, who have more wins this century (118) than any Division I team. Not that Ratto is well-versed on that; he just knows there is a dearth of elite teams. It seems he knew that before Armanti Edwards and App State went to Michigan in 2007 and beat the Wolverines 34-32.
“That opened a lot of eyes,” he said. “And everybody said, ‘Wow, that’s great. Now we’ll close our eyes again.'”
Ratto’s eyes are still wide open, even if he occasionally goes outside the FBS for a candidate.
“The only abuse I ever get is from people who don’t know you can vote for FCS teams,” he said. “Then I tell them you actually can and they’re like, ‘Oh. OK.'”
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