By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
For all sports fans, we’re entering that period on the calendar where it’s the most enjoyable time of the year. Major League Baseball is knee deep in their postseason. The NHL has already started with the NBA and college hoops not too far around the corner.
On the gridiron, teams and schools in the NFL and college football respectively are slowly starting to round into form. We saw all of that play out last weekend on the HBCU side with a series of upsets that will have a huge bearing on upcoming conference play.
In the SIAC, Morehouse College remained unbeaten (6-0) following their triple-overtime win over Tuskegee (3-3) in the 83rd Tuskegee-Morehouse Classic. In a key SWAC East contest, Alabama State (2-3) outlasted Alcorn State (4-2) in five overtimes at Lorman.
And in the CIAA, Bowie State (4-2) got upended by Chowan (2-3) at Murfreesboro.
With a handful of homecoming games as well as key divisional matchups slated for this weekend, we could very easily see some more topsy-turvy action this Saturday. Here’s a brief look at some of the big games on the schedule.
When Florida A&M hired Willie Simmons as their head football coach, FAMU followers dubbed it as the beginning of the “Willenium” era. The Rattlers will face their biggest test of the season as they travel to meet North Carolina A&T (1 pm ET) in a battle for sole possession of first place.
Following a disappointing home loss to Jackson State, FAMU went on a three-game winning streak against MEAC foes Savannah State, N.C. Central, and Norfolk State. The Rattlers (4-2, 3-0) outscored their opponents 103-27 during that span including last week’s 17-0 shutout against the Spartans.
The Aggies (5-1, 2-0) have also been able to bounce back from their huge non-conference loss to Morgan State a few weeks ago. A&T has defeated South Carolina State and Delaware State in consecutive weeks. They’re also ranked No. 10 nationally in both FCS weekly polls.
FAMU will be seeking to end a six-game losing streak to the Aggies, their longest such streak against A&T in series history. The Rattlers last win in Greensboro was a 22-19 overtime win on Nov. 6, 2010.
In fact, the two schools have gone into overtime twice in the past 10 years.
Howard will finally play their first home game of the season when they host winless Delaware State at Greene Stadium at 1 pm ET. The original home opener versus Savannah State in September was postponed due to Hurricane Florence.
Last week, the Bison (1-3, 1-1) were on the short end of a 40-35 shootout with N.C. Central in Durham. The teams combined for over 1,100 yards of total offense including 598 by Howard.
The Hornets (0-5, 0-2) hold a 37-36-1 lead in the all-time series. However, the Bison have won the last two meetings including last year’s 52-23 win at DSU’s Alumni Stadium. Both games can be seen live on ESPN3.
Bowie State won’t have a long time to lament last week’s upset loss at Chowan. The Bulldogs will host Virginia State for Homecoming. Last week, VSU (3-2, 3-0) dominated the Vikings of Elizabeth City State 41-19, at Rogers Stadium.
The Trojans rolled up 421 yards of total offense including 250 in the air from quarterback Cordelral Cook (18-of-26 and a pair of touchdowns). BSU lost despite seeing Amir Hall throw for a season-high 428 yards.
Hall has 9,351 yards for his career, 1,270 shy of the CIAA’s all-time passing mark of 10,621 held by N.C. Central’s Earl “Air” Harvey. VSU leads the overall series against BSU 21-10 including last year’s 47-35 home win.
The game, slated for a 1 pm ET kickoff, can be seen live on The Aspire TV Network.
As for Chowan, they’ll host Virginia Union (4-1, 3-0) for the Hawks’ Homecoming at 1 pm ET. Chowan is averaging 37.8 points per game this season and posting 45.0 points per game at home.
Speaking of scoring, the Panthers throttled Lincoln (Pa.) last weekend in a 90-0 victory at Richmond. VUU has been averaging 46.4 points per game while holding their opponents to just 19.8 a contest.
VUU leads the overall series 7-3 with all three of Chowan wins coming in Murfreesboro.
Alcorn State will look to bounce back off the loss to Alabama State by heading to Huntsville to meet Alabama A&M (3-3, 2-1) in the Bulldogs’ Homecoming scheduled for 3 pm ET at Lewis Crews Stadium.
The Braves are ranked No. 2 in the FCS in total defense, holding opponents to 242 yards per game. Alabama A&M is ranked 39th in the FCS, and second in the SWAC, in total defense, holding opponents to 369.7 yards per game.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are averaging 145 rushing yards and 206.8 passing yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Aqeel Glass is third in the SWAC in passing yards per game (196.7) and passing efficiency (121.9). He’s passed for 1,180 yards and 10 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
Also, Jackson State (2-2, 1-1) will host winless Mississippi Valley State (0-4, 0-1) for Homecoming at 3 pm ET. The Tigers haven’t been .500 this late in a season since 2013 when JSU went 8-4 and reached the SWAC Championship Game.
In the West, Prairie View A&M (3-3, 2-0) and Southern (2-3, 1-1) both come off of bye weeks to meet at Panther Stadium. It’s the home opener for PVAM who opened the season with six straight road games.
The Jaguars have defeated Prairie View A&M in the previous two seasons in a pair of high scoring affairs (37-31 in 2017 and 44-34 in 2016). The Panthers last defeated Southern 47-42 during the 2015 campaign.
The game, scheduled for a 6 pm ET kickoff, can be seen live on ESPN3.
Also, Grambling State (2-3, 1-1) returns to SWAC play as they hit the road to meet Texas Southern (7 pm ET) at BBVA Compass Stadium. GSU is coming off their best offensive output of the season with a 62-7 home victory over Oklahoma Panhandle State.
The Tigers (1-4, 0-1) are coming off a 42-21 home loss to Alabama A&M. They’re seeking its first victory since Week 1 and its first win over Grambling State since 2013. GSU will also be looking to avoid back-to-back SWAC losses for the first time since 2014.
On Friday, Morehouse College announced that their Eastern Division opener against Albany State scheduled for Saturday has been changed to Sunday due to the extensive damage created by Hurricane Michael in the Albany area.
Following their win over Tuskegee, the Maroon Tigers (6-0, 2-0) received votes in the American Football Coaches Association Division II Top 25 Poll for the first time since 2010.
They currently lead the SIAC in scoring offense (32.2), total offense (406.5), rushing offense (187.5), passing offense (219.0), kickoff returns (25.1), first downs (19.8), and time of possession (38:18). The Maroon Tigers also lead the nation in turnover margin (1.83), fourth in red-zone defense, 11th in third-down conversion defense (.257).
After opening 0-3, the Golden Rams (3-3, 2-0) have won three straight including conference wins against Lane College and Miles College. Last week, ASU rolled up a season-high 500 yards in route to a 35-21 win over Catawba College at Shuford Stadium.
ASU ran for 385 yards on the ground while also holding the Indians scoreless in the second half. Slated for a 1 pm ET kickoff at B.T. Harvey Stadium on the campus of Morehouse College, the game will be streamed live on FloSports.
Tuskegee (3-3, 1-1) will look to bounce back from last week’s loss as they travel to Fort Valley State in a rematch of last year’s SIAC title game. Dating back to the 2000 season, the Golden Tigers have won 14 of the last 16 meetings against FVSU.
TU is currently on a 14-game SIAC road trip winning streak. Not counting a neutral site contest, the Golden Tigers haven’t lost at a visiting conference team’s home since falling at Kentucky State in 2011.
Fort Valley State (1-4, 1-1) is seeking their first home win since it took down Morehouse College 52-7 last October 28th. Scheduled for a 5 pm ET kickoff, the game can be seen live on ESPN3.
Also, Clark Atlanta (1-4, 0-2) will host Benedict College (4-1, 2-0) in CAU’s Homecoming at 2 pm ET. The Tigers have won four straight following a season-opening loss to Florida Tech. This game can also be seen live on FloSports.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.