Conference Football Races Become Clearer
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
While there is still more football to play in the final weeks of the HBCU football season, teams in respective conferences have begun to take control of their own destiny.
Bethune-Cookman took a big step with its 14-3 homecoming victory over South Carolina State, who like B-CU, was unbeaten in conference play. The Bulldogs will need to win their remaining four games against the bottom teams of the MEAC and get some help from some of the Wildcats remaining opponents.
B-CU on the other hand still has to face an unpredictable North Carolina Central team in Durham. The Wildcats also have to face a very hot Hampton team, which has conference aspirations of their own. After starting the season 0-5, the Pirates have won three straight and only have one conference loss. They face Morgan State in Baltimore on Saturday then host NCCU next Saturday before facing the Wildcats in Daytona Beach on November 16.
Virginia State hasn’t quite wrapped things up in the Northern Division, but they are pretty close. The Trojans are 5-0 in league play and a win in one of their last two games against Chowan or Virginia Union seals the deal. Virginia Union still has an outside shot with a 3-2 league mark, but would have to beat Elizabeth City State at home on Saturday then defeat VSU to end the season. Elizabeth City State is mathematically alive, but it can only create a three-way tie, which would result in a flip of the coin and the right to represent the North in the championship game on November 16 in Winston-Salem, NC. Obviously, ECSU would have to win its last two games against Virginia Union and Bowie State.
The Southern Division race is still open and while two-time defending champion Winston-Salem State is undefeated in conference play, two other teams have control of their own destiny. Like VSU, not many saw Fayetteville State as a factor heading into the season under first-year head coach Lawrence Kershaw. The Broncos are 4-1 in the conference and play 2-6 Livingstone on Saturday. The Shaw Bears are saying “not so fast my friends.” The Bears have the hardest road, but are very much alive. They have already defeated the Broncos and despite being 3-2 in league play, if they can defeat WSSU on the road on Saturday and defeat cross-town rival Saint Augustine’s on November 9, they could win the conference, if the Broncos lose one of their two remaining games and the Rams fall to the Broncos on November 9. The likely scenario however is that the Rams and Broncos will meet in Winston-Salem on November 9 to decide the South.
Tuskegee has been the most consistent team in the SIAC and are 7-1, yet still has a strong fight on its hand in the West. The Golden Tigers should be able to handle Central State on Saturday, but face Miles on November 9, which could be the game that determines who represents the West in the SIAC championship game on November 16. Miles on the other hand has a tough road game Saturday against Stillman before playing Tuskegee.
The Eastern Division is a little more complex. Albany State and Fort Valley State are undefeated in conference play and looking forward to a November 9 showdown in Columbus, GA in the annual Fountain City Classic. First ASU must defeat Benedict, who is still alive. The best Benedict can do is create a three-way tie as the Tigers lost to FVSU earlier in the season.
The races in the SWAC are much closer than in any other conference. In the East, Jackson State is undefeated and has already defeated Alabama State, its only conference loss. Alcorn State is surging, winners of four straight with its only conference loss coming at the hands of Alabama State. JSU closes the season out on the road on November 9 against Alabama A&M and the following week against Alcorn State. Alcorn still has to face Alabama A&M and Prairie View A&M before its meeting with JSU. Alabama State has Southern and Mississippi Valley State remaining.
In the West it’s a two-horse race between Southern and Prairie View A&M. SU currently has a half game lead over the Panthers. Southern’s toughest game will be at Alabama State on November 8, while PV is at Alcorn on November 7 and closes the season out against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the defending SWAC champions. SU owns the tiebreaker over PV having won 62-59 in double overtime in Baton Rouge on September 14.
Tennessee State/Ohio Valley Conference
Tennessee State fell to Eastern Illinois 34-16 on Saturday. It was the Tigers’ first conference loss, while EIU remains undefeated. It doesn’t get any easier for the Tigers as they face one-loss Eastern Kentucky on the road on Saturday and Austin Peay the following week.
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