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Montana facing highest-ranked FBS opponent


(STATS) - Montana doesn't play FBS programs regularly, but when the Grizzlies do, they go big.

The traditional Big Sky power will pay a visit to Washington on Saturday night for only its third FBS game since 2006. The seventh-ranked Huskies were 12-2 and fell to Alabama in the College Football Playoff semifinals last season.

While it's unlikely the unranked Griz will earn their first win against an FBS program since they topped Idaho 41-28 on Sept. 27, 2003, coach Bob Stitt is looking for a strong effort out of his team.

"That's something that our team can take away from this game," he said. "If we can compete with the No. 7 team in the country, then definitely at the FCS level, we should be able to line up with anybody and have a chance to win the ballgame."

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Montana is playing its first game against the upper tier of Division I since a 17-12 loss to Wyoming to open the 2014 season. Before that, the Grizzlies' prior FBS games were against some higher-profile programs - Tennessee in 2011 (a 42-16 loss), Iowa in 2006 (41-7) and Oregon in 2005 (47-41).

Montana also has games scheduled against Oregon in 2019 and Washington in 2021.

The Huskies represent the highest-ranked team the Grizzlies have faced in modern history. The Huskies lead 16-1-1 in the all-time series with all games between 1920 and 1951.

Both teams earned tougher-than-expected wins in their season openers. Montana beat Valparaiso 45-23 behind quarterback Reese Phillips' four second-half touchdowns passes, while Washington stopped Rutgers 30-14 after struggling in the first half.

"We really don't want to treat this any differently than any other week," Stitt said. "You just try to prepare the exact same way and go out and put the same amount of effort into it."