Five HBCU Homecoming Games That Could Matter

The Southern and UAPB rivalry has heated up as of late, including this ugly brawl in 2011. (The Advocate photo)

1. Southern at UAPB

2012 Records: Southern (4-7) , UAPB (10-2)

2012 Meeting: UAPB 50-21

Why it matters:UAPB and Southern just might be the SWAC’s next great rivalry. Two years ago, UAPB edged out a 22-21 win at home in a game that ended in an ugly brawl involving dozens of players. Last season UAPB embarrassed Southern 50-21 on its way to the SWAC title. The two teams were picked to finish 1 and 2 in the SWAC West.

This game features the two best quarterbacks in the conference, UAPB’s Ben Anderson and Southern’s Dray Joseph. Both teams have several weapons on the offensive side of the ball, so it may come down to which defense can force the most turnovers. Defense wasn’t Southern’s strong point last year, but it’s a brand new year.

Leading up to the game, UAPB has two tough games against SWAC East opponents: a matchup with division favorite Alabama State and a rematch of last season’s SWAC championship with Jackson State. Southern has it slightly easier with matchups against Prairie View and Mississippi Valley State on the menu early.

If both teams take care of business early in the season, this could go a long way towards determining who will represent the West Division in the SWAC Championship.

Carlos Fields and WSSU will attempt to go undefeated for the third straight season in 2013. (WSSU photo)

2. Johnson C. Smith at Winston-Salem State

2012 Records: Johnson C. Smith (6-4), WSSU (14-1)

2012 Meeting: WSSU won 63-7

Why It Could Matter: It’s no secret that Winston-Salem State has owned the CIAA the past couple of seasons. WSSU hasn’t lost a game to a CIAA opponent since it fell to Shaw late in 2010. But many of the key components of the Rams juggarnaut teams from 2011 and 2012 are no longer with the team, including quarterback Kam Smith and a trio of talented recievers that accounted for the bulk of the team’s offensive production. Their defense does return several starters, however, including linebacker Carlos Fields and defensive back Larry Hearne.

Johnson C. Smith, on the other hand, seems on the verge of a breakout season. The Golden Bulls quietly put together a solid 6-4 season in 2012, finishing second in the tough CIAA Southern Division. Quarterback Keahn Wallace returns for his junior season as one of, if not the best, quarterbacks in the conference, and sophomore receiver Fred Scott is one of the emerging young stars in the CIAA.

No one knows where things will stand when these two teams meet up on October 12, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead. JCSU has a pretty easy schedule to start with, and should be favored in all of its first five games other than a matchup Davidson. WSSU starts the season against a UNC Pembroke team that nearly beat it at home last year, and then meets the defending SIAC champion, Tuskegee at the Cleveland Classic. Both of those are non-conference games, but momentum is everything in sports and you just never know. Whatever the outcome, it’s likely it’ll be much closer than the 63-7 thrashing WSSU gave JCSU at home last season.

Richard Cue will need to improve his accuracy in 2013 for SC State to improve. (AP Photo)

3. South Carolina State at Bethune-Cookman

2012 Records: SC State (5-6), Bethune-Cookman (9-3)

2012 Meeting: BCU 27-14

Why It Matters: Last season, these two teams met in Week Two for a highly anticipated matchup that many people thought could have long term ramifications, and it did. SC State took a 14-point lead in the first half, only to watch BCU score 27 unanswered points and pick up the first win of what was to become a perfect MEAC record. SC State, meanwhile stumbled to a 5-6 finish, its worst in a decade.

BCU will likely enter the 2013 season as favorites to repeat. They’ve got playmakers on both sides of the ball, from running back Isidore Jackson to defensive back Nick Addison. SC State is hoping for improved production from quarterback Richard Cue and Kentucky-transfer Justin Taylor to bolster their offense.

Whether or not this game matters hinges on whether or not South Carolina State can survive a tough non-conference schedule with its confidence intact. With games against Clemson, Coastal Carolina and Alabama A&M on their plate, that will be an accomplishment in itself. Still, this is the MEAC we’re talking about. ANYTHING can happen.

After a rough 2012, Morehouse is looking to leapfrog Albany State in 2013. (AJC photo)

4. Morehouse at Albany State 

2012 Records: Morehouse (3-7), Albany State (6-4)

2012 Meeting: Albany State 16-13

Why It Could Matter: Albany State finished 6-4 last season, not great, but good enough for seconds place in the SIAC East. Morehouse was behind them in third place, finishing with a 2-5 record. Still, Morehouse gave Albany State all it could handle before falling by three points.

This year, Morehouse will need to cut down on the passing interceptions (14) and pick up on the touchdowns with David Carter out of the picture. If they do, they could leapfrog ASU in the standings and dampen their homecoming.

Damien Flemming enters 2013 as the MEAC’s leading returning passer. (Rattler Nation photo)

5. Florida A&M at Norfolk State

2012 Record: Florida A&M (4-7), Norfolk State (4-7)

2012 Meeting: No meeting

Why It Could Matter: By the time these two meet up on November 2, both teams will likely know where they stand in the MEAC. Both teams are looking to rebound from disappointing 2012 seasons. Norfolk State fell from conference champion to the bottom half of the MEAC standings, and FAMU had to deal with the abrupt departure of head coach Joe Taylor.

Both teams enter 2013 hoping to turn the corner. Norfolk State has talent at skill positions in running back Brendon Riddick and receiver Derrick Demps, as well as preseason All-American linebacker Lynden Trail. The question mark for the Spartans in the quarterback position. Conversely, quarterback Damien Flemming enters his junior season as the leading returning passer in the MEAC. If the Rattlers can get something from their ground game and the defense holds up, they could turn some heads.

Don’t be surprised if either of these teams found themselves in contention for the conference title by the time this game rolls around. If that happens, this could be a fun matchup.

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