By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
Webster’s Dictionary defines the word parity as the quality or state of being equal or equivalent. Following another weekend of upsets and last-second finishes, Mr. Webster’s definition can certainly be used as the buzzword for HBCU football so far this season.
Whether it’s Southern shutting down Prairie View A&M on the road, Florida A&M outlasting North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, or Albany State handing Morehouse College it’s first loss of the season, we’ve already seen that on any given Saturday — or Sunday — the unexpected can definitely happen.
The action is set to get ramped up, especially in the SIAC and CIAA, as there are only three weeks left in both conferences regular season.
In fact, due to the wrath inflicted by Hurricane Florence and the numerous re-scheduling challenges presented to several teams as a result, the CIAA has updated its championship criteria for the 2018 season.
Instead of determining divisional champs based on a seven-game regular season composite schedule, a six-game criteria will be used to determine this year’s champions who’ll then advance to participate in the title game on November 10.
The CIAA states that the updated criteria — for this year only — will include one cross-division game and teams’ full divisional schedule, for games between September 29th and November 3rd.
This weekend, Virginia Union (5-1, 4-0) will host Bowie State (5-2, 3-1) at Hovey Field in Richmond (1 pm ET) in a key Northern Division battle. The Bulldogs bounced back from their upset loss to Chowan two weeks ago and defeated Virginia State 20-15.
VUU got another standout performance from Tabyus Taylor (177 rushing yards, 4 TDs) in their 48-38 win over the Hawks at Murfreesboro. He also now has 15 rushing TDs on the year, tying him with Jeff Haynes for the second-highest total in a single season for VUU.
As for the Trojans (3-3, 3-1), they’ll host Lincoln, Pa. in VSU’s Homecoming game at 2 pm ET. The Lions (1-6, 1-3) snapped a 24-game losing streak which dated back to September of 2016 with their 21-20 win over Elizabeth City State.
The Trojans lead the all-time series with a 14-0 record, including a 7-0 mark at Rogers Stadium. Also, Chowan (2-4) travels to Elizabeth City State (1-4) for a 1:30 pm ET kickoff at Roebuck Stadium.
In the Southern Division, Fayetteville State (4-1, 3-0) looks to remain perfect in conference play when they travel to Durham Saturday at 1 pm ET to take on Saint Augustine’s (2-4, 2-2) for the Falcons’ homecoming.
The Broncos tallied 461 yards of total offense and opened the game with a 99-yard kickoff return from redshirt sophomore Brandon Smith en route to their 70-6 thumping of J.C. Smith.
The Falcons saw their two-game winning streak end last week as they lost to Winston-Salem State 36-6 at Bowman Gray Stadium, the final contest in a three-game road trip for St. Aug’s.
WSSU (3-3, 2-2) will host Livingstone in the Rams’ Homecoming game at 1:30 pm ET. The VUU-BSU matchup will be featured on the Aspire Network. All five games can also be seen live on the CIAA Digital Sports Network.
Fresh off their triumph over the Maroon Tigers, Albany State (4-3, 3-1) will host the Panthers of Clark Atlanta (2-5, 1-3) at 2 pm ET for the Golden Rams’ Homecoming at Hugh Mills Stadium.
The game was originally scheduled to be played at the ASU Stadium. However, significant damage to the field and facility caused by Hurricane Michael prompted the relocation.
As for Morehouse College (6-1, 5-1), they’ll travel to Columbia to meet Benedict College (5-1, 3-0) in the Tigers’ Homecoming at 2 pm. BC blocked two field goals in the last 4:34, including the last with just 45 seconds left, to hold on to a 27-24 victory over CAU.
Tuskegee (4-3, 4-1) is in the driver’s seat regarding the Western Division. The Maroon Lions will host winless Kentucky State (0-7, 0-3) for their Homecoming game (1 pm ET) at Cleve L. Abbott Memorial Stadium.
While Kentucky State leads the overall series with Tuskegee 15-13, the Golden Tigers have won five of the last six meetings and have outscored the Thorobreds 185-74 in that span.
Also in the West, Miles College (2-5, 2-1) and Lane College (1-5, 0-3) will meet in Jackson at 3 pm ET while Central State (3-4, 1-3) steps out of conference play to battle Robert Morris (1-5) in Moon Township, Pa. at 12 noon ET.
The ASU vs. CAU and Miles vs. Lane contests can both been seen live on FloSports.com.
Following Southern’s 38-0 shutout of Prairie View A&M last week, there’s a three-way tie between Grambling State, Southern, and PVAM (all are 2-1) atop the Western Division. The Panthers hold the tiebreaker over GSU based on the head-to-head result.
The Tigers (3-3) travel to Lorman to meet Eastern Division rival Alcorn State (5-2, 3-1) in a SWAC Championship Game rematch (3 pm ET) at Jack Spinks Stadium. ASU took a 49-21 win in 2015, but GSU has won the last two crowns (27-20 in 2016 and 40-32 in 2017).
The Braves have won five of their last six including last week’s 35-26 win over Alabama A&M. However, the Tigers are 15-0 in the month of October under head coach Broderick Fobbs.
While Prairie View A&M (3-4) is idle, Southern (3-3) will meet Texas Southern (1-5, 0-2) in the State Fair Showdown (3 pm ET) at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. TSU has lost five straight including last week’s 34-21 home loss to Grambling State.
Also in the East, Jackson State (3-2, 2-1) will step outside conference play Saturday as they host North Alabama at 3 pm ET. The Tigers got their first Homecoming win since 2015 as they defeated Mississippi Valley State 23-7 at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Alabama State (2-4, 1-1) is idle Saturday.
With Florida A&M (5-2, 4-0) claiming sole possession of first place, everyone is fighting to chase the undefeated Rattlers as the league features six one-loss teams entering this weekend’s schedule.
While the Rattlers are idle on Saturday, two of those one-loss teams will meet in Daytona Beach as Bethune-Cookman (4-3) hosts North Carolina A&T (5-2) at 4 pm ET. BCU held off a late South Carolina State (1-5, 1-2) rally for a 28-26 win at Oliver C. Dawson Stadium.
Both Norfolk State (3-2, 1-1) and North Carolina Central (2-3, 1-1) fill come off their bye week to meet at Dick Price Stadium in the Spartans’ Homecoming slated for a 2 pm ET kickoff.
The last four meetings have all been decided by a touchdown or less. Last year’s 28-21 win by NSU broke NCCU’s four-game win streak in the series and was also the Spartans’ first win over the Eagles since the two teams moved to the FCS level.
Also, Howard (2-3, 2-1) heads to Baltimore to meet Morgan State (2-4, 1-1) in a 7 pm ET kickoff at Hughes Stadium. Both schools are coming off home wins from last week as the Bears outlasted Savannah State (18-11) and the Bison throttled Delaware State (55-13).
All three games can be seen live on ESPN3.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at anthonymcclean@basnnewsroom.