By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN — Welcome to the opening phase of championship weekend. Two crowns will be handed out on Saturday in Fort Valley, Georgia, and Salem, Virginia. And for the winners, it could be the start of something big.
Tuskegee and Fort Valley State will meet at 2 p.m. ET for the SIAC Championship. The host Wildcats will be fighting for the title of consecutive champs for the third year in a row after winning back to back East Division titles.
The last time the championship game was held on a member school’s campus was in 2011 when Clark Atlanta hosted the contest but did not play in the game. The Wildcats will be vying for their 12th SIAC championship
As for the Golden Tigers, they’ll be making their first appearance in the championship game since their 2014 win over Albany State. With 15 returning players from that team, TU is ranked second in scoring offense and scoring defense against SIAC opponents.
TU head football coach Willie Slater and the Golden Tigers have claimed six SIAC championships since 2006, including a string of four consecutive from 2006 to 2009. The Golden Tigers have won 13 of the last 15 meetings with the Wildcats.
The game can be seen live on ESPN3/Watch ESPN.
The CIAA Championship will also be on the line Saturday in Salem, Virginia as Fayetteville State (6-4, 5-2) will meet Virginia State (9-0, 7-0) at 4:30 p.m. ET. Riding a five-game winning streak, the Broncos are seeking their first crown in 15 years.
FSU clinched the Southern Division crown last week by defeating defending champion Winston-Salem State 23-22 at Bowman Gray Stadium. It was the Broncos’ first win against the Rams since 2004.
The Trojans have averaged 47.3 points per conference game while marking 235.0 passing and 278.4 rushing yards. The VSU defense is ranked fifth in the CIAA in sacks (20) and grabbed a total of 420 conference tackles this season.
Regionally, the Trojans have been recognized for their outstanding performance this season and are currently ranked No. 3 in NCAA Super Region 2.
FSU will face Virginia State for the first time this season. The last time the two met was in 2015 when the Broncos defeated the Trojans 33-20. The game will be broadcast live on the Aspire Network.
The Division II playoff pairings will be announced this Sunday.
North Carolina A&T (9-0, 6-0) has a chance to win a share of the MEAC crown with a win over Savannah State (2-7, 2-4) on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET. A win could also secure an NCAA FCS playoff spot if the Aggies do not make the Celebration Bowl.
If the Aggies win a share of the title on Saturday, it will be their third conference title in four years and their ninth MEAC championship. They’re the lone MEAC team ranked amongst FCS teams. A&T is No. 7 in the FCS Coaches poll and No. 9 in the STATS FCS poll.
A&T could also win the title outright and secure a Celebration Bowl bid if N.C. Central (7-2, 5-1) loses at home to Bethune-Cookman (5-4, 4-2) and Howard (6-3, 5-1) loses at home to Norfolk State (3-6, 3-3).
The Bison have secured their first winning season since 2012 as they defeated Florida A&M last weekend. This marks its best record since 2012 as the Bison finished 7-4 in
and were undefeated at home.
The teams in each division with the best divisional records will advance to the Toyota SWAC Football Championship on December 2 in Houston.
For the fourth straight season, Alcorn State (6-3, 4-1) is seeking to clinch the Eastern Division crown. The Braves will play their final home game Saturday when they host Mississippi Valley State (2-7, 1-4) at 2 p.m. CT.
It would make them 3-0 in the division and because they hold a head-to-head tie-breaker advantage against second-place Alabama State (Alcorn State defeated Alabama State 24-10 back on Oct. 5), then the Braves would represent the East.
If Alcorn loses this Saturday, it would boil down to next weekend.
The Hornets (3-5, 3-2) would need to defeat Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State would have to lose both their remaining divisional games against Mississippi Valley State and at Jackson State if they were to represent the East.
In the West, defending HBCU champion Grambling State (8-1, 5-0) is in the driver’s seat with a one-game lead over Southern (6-3, 4-1). The Tigers moved up one spot in the latest FCS Coaches Poll from No. 12 to No. 11 and remained No. 13 in the STATS FCS Top 25 Poll.
They’ll travel to ASU Stadium to meet the Hornets at 2 p.m. CT. The game can be viewed via live stream on the SWAC Digital Network. Also, Southern hosts Texas Southern (1-7, 1-3) on Saturday in their final home game.
More than likely, it will come down to the Bayou Classic on Thanksgiving weekend in New Orleans to determine the West Division winner regardless of what occurs between now and then.
NEWS AND NOTES
SWAC SUSPENDS FOOTBALL REFEREES
The Southwestern Athletic Conference announced on Wednesday that the entire officiating crew from this past Saturday’s Prairie View A&M and Southern University football game will be suspended for their next assignment on November 18 between Alcorn State at Jackson State with one official being suspended for the remainder of the 2017 football season.
After a thorough review, the Conference Office concluded that there was an erroneous call made. The play in question occurred with 12:48 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard pass that was ruled a touchdown.