By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — We’re barely two weeks into a long season, but there’s already an early showdown game set for the SIAC. And to no one’s surprise, it matches the two teams that many thinks will win their respective division.
Albany State (tabbed to win the East) will meet rival Tuskegee (tabbed to win the West) in the Fifth Annual White Water Classic (5 pm ET) at Garrett-Harrison Stadium in Phenix City, Alabama.
Although the contest is officially considered a non-conference game for the Golden Rams, every time these two schools get together something big is usually on the line. Add the fact that both teams lost their season openers last week and you should get a fairly competitive contest.
Last week, the Golden Tigers rolled up 500 yards of total offense but they still fell to Alabama State 26-20 in overtime at ASU Stadium. Hornet quarterback Darryl Pearson scored on a nine-yard touchdown run with 5:09 left to play in regulation forcing OT.
Ezra Gray’s 30-yard scamper proved to be the game-winner.
As for Albany State, they fell to Valdosta State 45-14 in their opener. The Blazers jumped out to a 14-0 lead after one quarter and coasted for the victory. Valdosta used a balanced attack to total 438 yards of offense on 58 plays from scrimmage.
Willie Slater is 4-1 all-time against Albany State. He suffered his first ever loss last season in a 20-7 affair. In fact, the last time Tuskegee faced Albany State after suffering a season-opening loss, the Golden Tigers responded with a 20-12 victory in Phenix City.
The Albany-Tuskegee matchup can be seen live on ESPN Plus.
In other key SIAC games this weekend, Morehouse College seeks its first 2-0 start since 2016 when they travel to Jackson, Tennessee (3 pm ET) to take on the Dragons of Lane College (0-1) in a non-conference game at Lane Field.
The Maroon Tigers defense used a goal-line stand in the final seconds to upset FCS opponent Arkansas-Pine Bluff 34-30 last week at Simmons Bank Field. They avenged losses to the Golden Lions the two previous years to start the season.
The teams combined for over 1,000 yards of total offense in the shootout.
Also, both Clark Atlanta and Central State will try to dent the win column when they battle each other at McPherson Memorial Stadium in the Marauders’ home opener at 1 pm ET.
Following their 2-0 start, North Carolina A&T has broken into the top 10 of both major FCS weekly polls. The Aggies are ranked No. 5 in the media poll and No. 6 in the coaches poll.
They earned two first-place votes to tie their highest national ranking in school history. N.C. A&T reached No. 5 in the FCS media poll in 1993 after a 6-0 start that included wins over Appalachian State, Western Carolina, and Liberty.
Those rankings will be on the line on Saturday when the Aggies face Gardner-Webb (6 pm ET) at BB&T Stadium in Greensboro. Sunday’s 28-23 win over East Carolina marks the third straight year the Aggies have defeated an FBS program.
In other key MEAC games, Norfolk State looks to open 2-0 for the first time since 2012 when they host James Madison at Dick Price Stadium Saturday night at 6 pm ET. Ranked No. 2 in the FCS polls, the Dukes won last year’s meeting with the Spartans 75-14.
The game can be seen live on ESPN Plus.
Also, Howard remains in the state of Ohio for the second straight week as the Bison meet Kent State at 3:30 pm ET. Despite putting up 645 yards of total offense, Howard came up short as they were edged out by Ohio University 38-32.
Caylin Newton led the charge, posting 532 total yards with four total touchdowns. The Atlanta native threw for a career-high 439 yards with three TDs while adding 93 yards on the ground, including a touchdown in the loss.
His 532 total yards is the third-most in program history and Newton’s 439 yards in the air is the most since 2001. Also, Jequez Ezzard etched himself in the HU record book as he set a new school mark with 223 receiving yards on eight catches.
Last season, Howard came up short against the Golden Flashes 38-31, despite a balanced attack of 452 total offense. This came a week after the Bison’s upset win over UNLV. The game can be seen live on ESPN Plus.
Bowie State will look to bounce back from their shootout loss to FCS opponent Wagner College by traveling to Phillippi, West Virginia to face Alderson Broaddus at 12 noon ET in the Battlers’ Multi-Purpose Performance Stadium.
The Bulldogs and Seahawks combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense, but it was penalties that proved to be costly is BSU’s 40-23 loss. While the Bulldogs had 456 yards of offense, they were also penalized 15 times for 131 yards.
As for the Battlers, they dropped a season-opening 45-7 decision to host Saginaw Valley State last Thursday night at the Wickes Stadium. The Cardinals compiled 550 yards of total offense in the win.
Also, Winston-Salem State looks to remain perfect when they welcome Catawba to Bowman Gray Stadium (6 pm ET). The Rams survived a postponement on Saturday night and a weather delay on Sunday afternoon to defeat UNC Pembroke 23-20.
Down 20-16 late in the fourth quarter, running back Kerrion Moore caught a deflected pass for a 63-yard touchdown to give WSSU the win over the Braves. The Rams had squandered a 16-0 halftime lead.
Still licking their wounds from their opener, Grambling State will head to Turpin Stadium (7 pm ET) to meet Northwestern State. The Tigers are coming off a 49-17 loss at Louisiana, while Northwestern State dropped a road tilt to SEC member Texas A&M, 59-7.
The matchup with the Demons marks the fifth time these two teams will meet. Last season, the Tigers got 231 yards through the air from Devante Kincade and 138 yards on the ground by Martez Carter in Grambling State’s 23-10 victory against Northwestern State at Eddie G. Robinson Memorial Stadium.
GSU hasn’t opened the season 0-2 since 2015.
Also, Alabama A&M will look to keep up their defensive momentum when they host North Alabama on Saturday (7 pm ET), renewing an old football series that once was played almost every year.
The prominent storyline from week one was the Bulldogs’ defense in their 37-0 win. Alabama A&M held Miles College to 115 total yards, with just 80 on the ground. Miles also was held to just one third-down conversion in 13 attempts.
Dating back to last season, Alabama A&M now has posted a shutout in six consecutive quarters. The last points surrendered by the Bulldogs was in the second quarter of last season’s finale against Kentucky State.
UNA, which is playing its first season as an FCS program, opened the season last week with a 34-30 win at Southern Utah. Alabama A&M and UNA have played 22 times, with the Lions holding an 18-3-1 advantage in the series.
The last time the two programs played was in 1997, with UNA winning 49-20 in front of a crowd of 19,487 at Louis Crews Stadium.
Two other games of note, Southern (0-1) travels to Ruston, La. to meet Louisiana Tech while Prairie View A&M (1-1) will visit Sam Houston State at Huntsville, Tx. Both games, slated for 7 pm ET kickoffs, can be seen on ESPN Plus.
Tennessee State and Jackson State will meet in the 29th annual Southern Heritage Classic at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Saturday night (7 pm ET). This marks the 25th year in a row (and 27th overall) that the teams have squared off in this Classic which began in 1990 (the two other games were between TSU and Mississippi Valley State and Grambling).
Tennessee State was clicking on both cylinders in a season-opening 34-3 home victory against Bethune-Cookman in the John Merritt Classic. The Tigers finished the contest with 525 yards of total offense, including 201 yards on the ground.
Jackson State opened its season with a 55-7 loss to FBS opponent Southern Miss. The Tigers used sophomore quarterback Derrick Ponder in the opener and in his first career start Ponder passed for 62 yards but did throw a pair of interceptions. Jarrad Hayes would replace him in the second half and finished 7-of-8 with 36 yards and a touchdown.
The all-time series between the two schools is at 29-20-2 in favor of Tennessee State. TSU has claimed victory in each of the last six years. The game will be shown on a tape-delayed basis (10:30 pm ET) on Fox Sports Southeast.
Also, Hampton goes on the road to take on Monmouth University in Long Branch, N.J. for a 3 pm ET kickoff. The Pirates held visiting Shaw to nine yards rushing and benefitted from several short field position starts as HU defeated the Bears 38-10 in their season opener.
Monmouth is looking for its first win of the 2018 season after falling to FBS opponent Eastern Michigan last Friday night. The Hawks won last year’s matchup against HU 30-23 in overtime.
The game can be seen live on ESPN Plus.
Missouri State 52, Lincoln (Mo.) 24
West Alabama 37, Miles College 21
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.