By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — Before we take a peek at this weekend’s slate of games, we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a look back at some of last week’s major upsets. When Delaware State defeated South Carolina State and Norfolk State beat N.C. Central, it ended two of the MEAC’s longest streaks on both ends of the spectrum.
The Spartans’ 28-21 upset over the Eagles at Durham snapped NCCU’s 18-game conference win streak as well as their school-record 11-game home win streak at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
As for the Hornets’ 17-14 victory over the Bulldogs, DSU snapped a 17-game losing skid as they won for the first time since defeating Howard 32-31 in the 2015 season finale. They also ended a 12-game slide in conference play.
Also in the SIAC, Clark Atlanta was able to defeat Albany State 44-36 in the Panthers’ homecoming contest. Quarterback Johnathon McCrary threw for 357 yards and five touchdowns as CAU handed the Golden Rams their first conference loss this season.
The Panthers still have a shot at the SIAC title, though a lot of things would have to happen. They took a step backward Thursday night as they lost to Miles College 38-17 at Sloan Stadium.
With the win on ESPN3, the Golden Bears (6-3, 4-1) remained in the Western Division title hunt. Ironically, Albany State (5-3, 3-1) and Miles are ranked eighth and ninth respectively in the first NCAA Division II Super Region 2 poll of the 2017 season.
According to Onnidan.com, the conference has redefined how to determine this year’s berths to the championship game. The Eastern and Western Division winners will be determined by a six-game conference schedule that includes the four games against teams in your division and the last two cross-divisional games played.
Fort Valley State is now listed in first place in the East with a 4-0 conference record. The Wildcats are 2-0 vs. East Division foes (wins over Clark Atlanta and Benedict) and has two wins over the last two weeks vs. their cross-division foes from the West (Lane and Central State).
Their 29-10 loss to Miles of the West Division on Sept. 16 is not included in the conference standings. In the West, Tuskegee leads with a 4-0 conference record based on wins over divisional foes Lane and Kentucky State and wins over its last two cross-divisional opponents, Morehouse and Clark Atlanta.
Their 20-7 loss to Albany State on Sept. 9 does not count in the conference standings. This weekend, Tuskegee (6-2) will host Central State (1-7, 0-4) in the homecoming for the Golden Lions at 1 p.m. ET. There will also be a reunion honoring TU’s 1967 and 2007 football teams, as well as its coaches, managers, and trainers.
As for Fort Valley (4-3), it’s their first 4-0 start in conference play since the Kent Schoolfield era in 1998. They’ll host Morehouse College (3-5, 1-3) in the Wildcats’ homecoming contest at 2 p.m. ET.
N.C. Central’s loss now leaves North Carolina A&T (5-0) and Hampton (4-0) with the only unbeaten teams in conference play and on top of the standings. The 8-0 Aggies, who moved into the FCS Top Ten in both the Coaches (6th) and STATS (7th) polls this week. are idle.
As for the Pirates (5-2), they’ll travel to Daytona Beach to meet Bethune-Cookman (3-4, 2-2) for the Wildcats’ homecoming at 4 p.m. ET. HU outlasted Florida A&M 31-27 for their third straight homecoming win and third straight win overall.
NCCU (5-2, 3-1) will look to bounce back as they host Delaware State (1-6, 1-4) in the Eagles’ homecoming at 2 p.m. ET. They’re 62-19-2 in homecoming games since 1931 and have won eight of the last nine contests against the Hornets, including four straight.
Somewhat similar to the SIAC, the conference is determining its division winners
based on a seven-game conference schedule. It is using five games vs. division foes and
two designated cross-divisional games.
North Division-leading Virginia State (7-0, 3-0) is now ranked 17th in this week’s AFCA/NCAA Division II Coaches’ top 25 poll, moving up four spots. VSU is also ranked third in the first NCAA Division II Super Region 2 poll of the season, just ahead of Bowie State.
The Trojans, who are 7-0 for the first time since 1970, will travel to Murfreesboro to meet the Hawks of Chowan (3-5, 1-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. In their 73-21 victory over Lincoln (Pa.) last week, VSU racked up 699 yards of total offense.
In the South Division, Fayetteville State (4-4), St. Aug’s (3-5) and Winston-Salem State (5-3) are currently deadlocked with 3-2 conference records. They’ll all be in action this weekend.
The Broncos travel to Salisbury to face winless Livingstone College (8-8, 0-3) in the Blue Bears’ homecoming while WSSU hosts Shaw (3-5, 1-2) in the Rams’ homecoming at Bowman Gray Stadium. Both kickoffs are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET.
St. Aug’s will host J.C. Smith (1-7, 1-2) for the Falcons’ homecoming slated for 1 p.m. ET.
Following their 41-14 win over Alcorn State, Grambling State (6-1, 3-0 SWAC) jumped four spots to No. 13 in the FCS Coaches Top 25 and moved up two spots to No. 15 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll.
The Tigers also remained in the top spot in the SBN Sports Network Black College Football Poll and in the Urban Media Today Black College Football Poll. They’ll host winless Texas Southern (0-6, 0-2) in GSU’s homecoming game scheduled for 2 p.m. CT.
Grambling State is far and away the top team in Division I football–FBS or FCS–in turnover ratio. The Tigers have a plus 20 margin in the category, seven better than South Florida, who leads FBS football with a plus 13 margin, and six better than Norfolk State in FCS football, who holds a plus 14 margin.
CLASSIC SPOTLIGHT: 76TH MAGIC CITY CLASSIC
For the Hornets of Alabama State (1-5, 1-2 SWAC) and the Bulldogs of Alabama A&M (3-4, 3-1), it’s been a trying season. Just a month ago, ASU fired head coach Brian Jenkins and replaced him with former Morgan State coach Donald Hill-Eley after a 0-4 start.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have won three of their last four including a 49-14 victory over Mississippi Valley State two weeks ago. The turnaround came following a 0-3 start by James Spady’s squad.
They’ll meet each other on Saturday at historic Legion Field for the 76th annual McDonald’s Magic City Classic in one of the longest-running rivalry games in the nation. Both teams enter the contest fresh off bye weeks, and both teams won their final game prior to the meeting.
The series has been continually played since 1945 with 13 years off since the series began in 1924. During the series, there have been 11 times where a team has not scored in the contest, and eight of those belong to Alabama State with a scoreless tie back in 1956.
The Bulldogs lead the series 39-33-3 including last year’s 42-41 overtime thriller.
The two teams have met 80 other times in school history with Alabama A&M holding a 40-37-3 advantage in the overall series. The two longest winning streaks in the series belong to Alabama State who won the first seven contests from 1924 until 1941, while not allowing a point in the series until 1940. They also own a six-game winning streak from 1990 until 1995.
The game, scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. CT kickoff, will be shown live by ESPN3/Watch ESPN and on a tape-delayed delayed basis (10:30 p.m. ET) on ESPNU.
NEWS AND NOTES
SWAC ANNOUNCES LINEUP FOR FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
The Southwestern Athletic Conference has revealed on its star-studded talent line up for the 2017 Toyota SWAC Football Championship game.
Headlining the game in a post-game concert will be R&B soul sensations Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, TV/radio personalities Big Tigger and Traci Steele will serve as the official SWAC emcee hosts and prominent singer Tamar Davis, as seen on The Voice, will be performing “God Bless America” alongside Rotimi, as seen on Power, will be performing the national anthem, respectively.
The championship game, known as “Final Judgement” for being the final edition in the SWAC Football Championship game era, will be played on December 2, 2017, at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas.
Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT and the game will be shown live on ESPNU.