The season doesn’t officially start until next month, but for the Sacramento State and UC Davis football teams, it’s already all systems go.
The Big Sky Conference media day session in Spokane, Wash., revealed that the Hornets and Aggies will be in the playoff hunt, and that’s saying something. The rivals have not been in the postseason in the same year since 1988, when Sac State beat UC Davis in Division II play.
Sac State is projected by conference coaches to finish fifth in the standings this season and UCD ninth.
But projections mean squat. A year ago, Sac State was projected to finish 12th but finished tied for third with a 6-2 conference mark and just missed out on qualifying for the Football Championship Subdivision postseason for the first time. North Dakota was the overwhelming pick to win the Big Sky last season but finished tied for ninth.
With 18 starters returning, Eastern Washington is the preseason conference champion, followed by Weber State and Northern Arizona.
Andre Lindsey of Sac State is a preseason All-Big Sky pick at receiver. He had a team-leading 756 yards on just 25 receptions last season while leading FCS schools with 30.24-yards per catch. He broke the school record set by Kevin Fontes in 1982 (23.21 yards per catch).
Lindsey also excels in track and field. He is the Big Sky indoor champion in the 60 hurdles and is also an excellent 110-meter hurdler.
Sac State’s Mister Harriel of Antelope High School is a preseason All-Big Sky safety. He’s also a preseason All-American by Street & Smith’s. A spirited leader, Harriel led the Hornets with 87 tackles a year ago as a junior.
George Obinna of Sac State is a preseason All-Big Sky defensive end and an Athlon Sports preseason All-American after helping lead a defense that set a Division I-era record with 43 sacks. Obinna had 8.5 sacks.
Keelan Doss of UCD is the preseason Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year. Teammate Wesley Preece also earned preseason All-Conference honors.
Sac State’s Jody Sears earned conference co-Coach of the Year honors a year ago and enters his fifth season. The Hornets went 5-1 at home and won six Big Sky games in a single season for the first time. Sac State went 7-4, winning its final three games and five of the final six.
Sears has built a program through local recruiting and defended his methods as the area perception was that he does not mine the area hard enough.
Sac State is on the national radar already as a preseason No. 19 team by Street & Smith’s and No. 23 by Athlon Sports.
“We’re excited to be nationally ranked,” said Sac State athletic director Mark Orr. “This will be a season to remember, and the polls reflect the talented team that is coming back.”
Coming off a 5-6 season, UCD is ranked 22nd by HERO Sports.