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Great respect for Great West

A football league that was seemingly thrown together at a furious pace is making the Division I-AA football world pay attention. The Great West Football Conference, a mix of four teams going through reclassification and two former independents, i...

A football league that was seemingly thrown together at a furious pace is making the Division I-AA football world pay attention.

The Great West Football Conference, a mix of four teams going through reclassification and two former independents, is second out of 16 I-AA leagues in the Gridiron Power Index.

"You can see there are a lot of fans out there that won't accept a first-year conference as being the second best in the land," said Chris Kelly, who writes an Internet column on the Great West.

Two teams are ranked and unbeaten.

No. 9 California Poly and No. 21 California Davis are both 5-0. South Dakota State is 4-2 overall. Northern Colorado is 1-5, but the Bears have played arguably the toughest schedule in Division I-AA.

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The Atlantic 10 Conference has the highest power ranking. It has a stout seven ranked teams in No. 3 Delaware, No. 7 New Hampshire, No. 12 Maine, No. 16 William & Mary, No. 17 James Madison, No. 19 Northeastern and No. 24 Villanova.

The Big Sky Conference is third, the Big South Conference fourth and the Gateway Football Conference fifth. In head to head vs. the Big Sky, the Great West is 5-3.

"While the Big Sky has always been one of the most respected I-AA football powers, they are quickly finding out that this new little conference is a major threat to their elite status out west," Kelly said.

Even the league's coaches appear to be surprised. With the exception of Northern Colorado, each team owns a quality win over a Division I-AA program.

Cal Davis' season-opening 52-0 destruction of SDSU is the only blowout. But the Jackrabbits came back to win a non-conference game at Southern University (La.), played Cal Poly to a seven-point game and defeated NDSU last week.

"I thought getting into a conference that maybe we would catch a little bit of a break," Southern Utah head coach Wes Meier said of the competition. "Obviously that's not the case. There are no gimmes. Every team week in and week out is tough."

Southern Utah visits the Fargodome today for a 1 p.m. game against North Dakota State. Both are winless in the conference; SUU at 0-1 and NDSU at 0-2.

All six Great West teams are ranked in the top 61 of the GPI. Every GWFC team is playing a top 25 team outside of the conference.

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"Maybe the most impressive thing is the no-fear attitude each program has taken in their scheduling," Kelly said. "The Great West has made a name for itself in its infancy."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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