By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus
There seem to be three certain things that hold true every Thanksgiving — turkey, Friday indigestion, and Grambling State and Southern University fighting for supremacy within the SWAC.
While many can bear witness to the first two — not necessarily in that order — the latter has been one of the greatest traditions in all of sports. The Bayou Classic in New Orleans has been in a class all by itself for many generations.
Saturday’s meeting between the Tigers (6-4, 4-2) and Jaguars (6-3, 5-1) is the 70th overall in a series that began in 1932 with SU winning in a 20-0 shutout. They began meeting in the Bayou Classic in 1974 as GSU took the inaugural contest 21-0.
The SWAC’s West Division title is on the line in this winner-take-all game on Saturday. Last weekend, Alcorn State (8-3, 6-1) secured the East Division title for the fifth consecutive season and will host the SWAC Championship Game on December 1st.
Both teams, who were idle last week, are arguably playing their best ball of the season.
Southern has won four straight dating back to a 38-0 shutout against Prairie View A&M on October 13th. In their last game — a 56-24 home victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff — SU racked up 20 first downs and 589 total yards of offense against the Golden Lions.
As for the Tigers, they’ve won three straight including a 29-16 non-conference win at Alabama A&M on November 9th. In fact, GSU is 14-2 in the month of November under head coach Broderick Fobbs.
To show even more contrast, the Jags lead the overall series against the Tigers 36-33. However, it’s Grambling State who leads the Bayou Classic series 23-21, including winning the last three matchups.
In last year’s classic, GSU jumped out to an early lead and led 17-7 at the break. Southern would rally and take a 21-20 lead with 5:02 remaining. An 11-yard scoring run by Martez Carter with 3:22 remaining would put the Tigers up for good as GSU won 30-21.
To emphasize just how close these games between the Tigers and Jags have been, you must consider this — in the 69 previous games in the rivalry, 21 of those games have been decided by at least one score.
Saturday’s game, which can be seen live at 5 pm ET on NBC Sports Network, should be no different. Especially with the West Division title and another trip to the championship game on the line.
And in case you forgot, the SWAC champion will face the MEAC champion Aggies of North Carolina A&T (9-2, 8-1) in the December 15th Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta
BOWIE STATE TAKES ANOTHER STEP
The most successful football season in Bowie State history will add another chapter Saturday in Georgia as the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (10-2) meet top-seeded and undefeated Valdosta State (10-0).
Last week, BSU defeated West Alabama 41-35 in Bowie to advance onto the second round of the NCAA’s Division II Playoffs. The Bulldogs outlasted fifth-seeded UWA to gain their first ever playoff win.
Harlon Hill candidate Amir Hall added even more to his already impressive resume in leading the Bulldogs to the victory. He finished the game completing 31-of-48 passes for 360 yards and one touchdown also paced BSU in rushing yards with 51 and one score.
However, it was a Roger Richardson 36-yard interception return for a score with 9:08 remaining that proved to be the margin of victory. The Tigers added a late score, but the BSU defense held down the fort to get the win.
They’ll have their hands full on Saturday facing the top scoring offense in the country. The Blazers averaged 52.2 points per game and have scored 44 or more points in every game this season as the only school in all three NCAA Divisions to do so.
Also, the Blazers are the top team in Division II in yards per carry this season at 8.0. The game, scheduled for a 1 pm ET kickoff, can be seen live on the CIAA’s Digital Sports Network.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at email@example.com.