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HBCU Gametime: Bethune-Cookman No. 1 in Poll

The HBCU sports season is officially on, and as host of the national sports talk radio show, From the Press Box to Press Row, I cover all the action on the games that showcase our Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCU GameTime will provide a weekly rundown on what’s happening on the field, and occasionally other sports-related topics. Let’s play!

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime

Donal Ware, HBCU GameTime

The votes have been tallied for the Boxtorow coaches’ poll, and after finishing No. 2 in last year’s final poll, Bethune-Cookman enters 2013 No. 1.

The Wildcats received 10 of 17 first place votes.

Despite finishing 2012 No. 1, Arkansas-Pine Bluff received five first place votes, but finished No. 2 behind Bethune-Cookman and one point ahead of Tennessee State who received two first place votes.

TSU defeated both Bethune-Cookman and Arkansas-Pine Bluff last year, but finished third in the final poll.

The Wildcats also entered last season as No. 1 in the preseason poll.

The Boxtorow HBCU FCS coaches’ poll is administered by FROM THE PRESS BOX TO PRESS ROW and is voted on by the HBCU Football Championship Subdivision coaches.

2013 Boxtorow FCS HBCU Preseason Football Coaches Poll

Rank School                     W-L    Pts.      Previous Rank

1.   Bethune-Cookman (10)   9-3        160       2

2.  Arkansas-Pine Bluff (5)  10-2       141        1

3.  Tennessee State (2)           8-3        140       3

4.  Alabama State                    7-4         97         6

T-5  Jackson State                  7-5         89         4

T-5  North Carolina A&T     7-4         89          5

7.  North Carolina Central   6-5          42         10

8.  Howard                               7-4           41         7

9.  Alabama A&M                   7-4           33        8

10.  South Carolina State      5-6           32        NR

Others receiving votes: Delaware State (6-5) 31, Southern (4-7) 11, Florida A&M (4-7) 9, Savannah State (1-10) 7, Alcorn State (4-7) 5, Mississippi Valley State (5-6) 2, Prairie View A&M (3-8) 2, Hampton (3-7) 2.

Boxtorow National Game of the Week

Bethune-Cookman (0-0) vs. Tennessee State (0-0)

Tennessee State’s annual John Merritt Classic – named for its legendary coach John Merritt and one of only two football Classics solely hosted by a single NCAA FCS institution – could set the tone for the HBCU season and will no doubt be one of the biggest games of the season. The two teams played last year in Daytona Beach and TSU won a close affair 21-14.

Enter Ronald Butler, a redshirt freshman and former two-star recruit. And while Butler hasn’t taken any snaps for the Tigers, he’ll have plenty of weapons. TSU typically has a solid offensive line and this year is no different as the unit is led by preseason Boxtorow All-American Kareem Edwards. The line may have to double team Wildcats defensive end LeBrandon Richardson who got to opposing quarterbacks nine times last year.  Despite losing 1000-yard rusher Trabis Ward, redshirt sophomore Telvin Hooks saw plenty of action last year amassing 425 yards rushing, averaging 5.7 yards per carry.

Wide receivers Joe Bowens and Devin Wilson will play a much bigger role this year and are big targets for Butler, as is Boxtorow All-American and former Florida transfer tight end A.C. Leonard who registered 51 receptions for 733 yards and six touchdowns in 2012. Defensively is where the Tigers will be strongest this year. Preseason OVC Defensive Player of the Year Stephen Godbolt III is one of the best cornerbacks in the country and it will be interesting to watch the matchup between he and Poole.  Nick Thrasher, who led the Tigers with 105 tackles, leads a talented linebacker corps.  Defensive end Antonio Harper needs to put pressure on Wildcats quarterbacks, who all have the ability to scramble.

Florida A&M (0-0) vs. Mississippi Valley State (0-0)

MEAC SWAC Challenge, Sunday, September 1, Orlando, FL, Citrus Bowl

12 Noon ET, TV: ESPN

In this annual game where teams from each conference are selected a year in advance, the MEAC is 6-2 all-time and has won the last two match-ups. The SWAC is hoping its fortunes can change with Mississippi Valley State as its representative.  The Delta Devils went 5-6 last year, but the team had won a combined four games during the 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons.  The nation will have the opportunity to see MVUS defensive lineman Robert Simpson who led one of the top ranked defenses last year with 29 tackles for loss.

The Rattlers also have a big time player in quarterback Damien Fleming, the Preseason MEAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year.  Fleming completed 70 percent of his passes for 2,147 yards passing, 16 touchdowns and just five interceptions.  Returning to FAMU in his first season as head coach is Earl Holmes, the Rattlers all-time leading tackler and former fourth-round draft pick by the Pittsburgh Steelers who played 10 seasons in the NFL.  Also returning is Florida A&M’sfamed Marching 100 band for the first time in almost two year since its suspension after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion.

Listen to the game on Classics Sports Radio Network by logging on to www.boxtorow.com/classicsportsradio. You can follow Donal Ware on Twitter @dware1 and @boxtorow.