By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — While some schools still have a non-conference game remaining on their schedule this week, Saturday is the unofficial start of conference play for most teams this weekend.
Between bye weeks and the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, some teams are just looking to get back on the field following a brief absence. Let’s take a brief look at some of the key conference matchups set for Saturday.
After last week’s bye, North Carolina A&T (3-0) not only looks to stay perfect, the Aggies will be seeking their 16th straight win dating back to last season. Ranked No. 4 in both national FCS polls, A&T hosts Morgan State (0-3) in Greensboro at 6 pm ET.
It’s the third straight road game for the winless Bears, who’ve won 7 of the last 10 meetings against A&T since 2006. However, the Aggies convincingly won last year’s matchup 49-17.
Also, Howard enters league play after seeing their home opener against Savannah State postponed last week. The winless Bison (0-2) will turn their focus to the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats in the 35th annual Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.
In the 1998 classic, Howard beat BCU 32-25 at the RCA Dome. Last season, with less than 1:00 remaining, quarterback Caylin Newton ran a go-ahead 5-yard touchdown and gave HU a 26-24 victory.
The Wildcats (1-2) are coming off a 49-28 setback against Florida Atlantic. Both teams finished second and third, respectively, a year ago in the conference play after going 7-4 overall (6-2 MEAC).
And, Norfolk State (1-1) travels to Orangeburg, S.C. to meet South Carolina State (0-2).
The weather hasn’t been a friend to NSU as the Spartans haven’t played a full game of football since Sept. 1 versus Virginia State. NSU’s game versus James Madison was halted due to weather after a quarter while last week’s contest at Liberty was postponed.
All three games can be seen live on ESPN 3.
Off to their best start since opening 5-0 in 2010, Morehouse College (3-0) will meet the winless Golden Bears of Miles College in the 21st Chicago Football Classic at Soldier Field at 4:30 pm ET.
While the Maroon Tigers thrashed Central State 41-14 last week, Miles allowed two fourth-quarter touchdowns, the last coming with just 21 seconds left on the clock, in a tough 21-19 loss to Fort Valley State.
The loss drops the Golden Bears to 0-3, just the second time in past 10 years that Miles has dropped its first three games in a season. The game can be seen live on FloFootball.com.
Also, Tuskegee (2-1) will step away from conference play to face Missouri S&T in their home opener at 1 pm ET. The Golden Tigers overcame a 17-10 deficit in the third quarter to defeat Clark Atlanta 24-17.
And on Sunday, Benedict College (1-1) will return to action against Fort Valley State (1-2) in the Palmetto Capital City Classic in Charlie W. Johnson Stadium (4:30 pm ET). The Tigers’ game at Fayetteville State was canceled last week due to Hurricane Florence.
The game can also be seen live on FloFootball.com.
Coming off back-to-back wins over Louisiana College 78-0 and Texas Southern 27-15, Alcorn State (2-1) travels to Rice-Totten Stadium to meet winless Mississippi Valley State (0-2) at 7 pm ET.
The Delta Devils had a bye week last week but dropped its first two games to North Dakota 35-7 and Jacksonville State 71-0. Vincent Dancy is in his first year as head coach after serving as the program’s defensive coordinator since February 2015.
Off to an uncharacteristically slow start, Grambling State (0-2) will open up SWAC play in its 2018 home opener as they take on Alabama State (1-2). GSU hasn’t started 0-2 since 2015 and has not lost more than two games in a season since 2014.
The Hornets started the year with a thrilling overtime win over Tuskegee but lost the last two games against ranked opponents — Sept. 8 to FBS No. 7 Auburn, 63-9, and on Sept. 15 to FCS No. 8 Kennesaw State, 62-13.
The Tigers have won the last three meetings, with the Hornets’ last win in the series coming in 2014 (37-23). Grambling State is currently on a 25-game conference winning streak.
Also, the inaugural Gulf Coast Challenge between Southern (1-2) and Alabama A&M (1-2) will be played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama at 5 pm ET. The game is not officially connected to the former Gulf Coast Classic, which Southern competed in 13 times — the last being against Alabama State in the final edition of the game in 2009.
After a season-opening loss, Bowie State (2-1) has bounced back in a big way. The Bulldogs open CIAA play by traveling to George Williams Athletic Complex in Raleigh to meet winless Saint Augustine’s at 1 pm ET.
BSU racked up 570 yards of total offense with senior quarterback Amir Hall leading the attack with 352 passing yards, 95 rushing yards, and three scores in their 47-41 victory over McKendree.
After playing two straight FCS teams to start the season, the Falcons will face their first Division II team in 2018. St. Aug’s scheduled game against Virginia State last week was canceled due to Hurricane Florence.
Also, Winston-Salem State (1-1) hosts the Virginia Union Panthers (1-1) in a 6 p.m. game at Bowman Gray Stadium. The WSSU defense is currently leading the CIAA and is ranked 10th nationally in rushing defense.
As for VUU, they’re the league’s top rushing offense averaging 213.5 yards per game with five rushing touchdowns. Sophomore Tabyus Taylor is leading the CIAA with a 137 yards per game average.
The game can be seen live on ESPN3.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.