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Jackson State, Hampton Kickoff HBCU Football 2013

Zach Pendleton will have to step up big for Jackson State to help it defeat Tulane in Thursday night’s opener. (Daily Ledger)

Jackson State at Tulane (New Orleans Superdome)

Jackson State enters the 2013 season with high expectations after an appearance in last season’s SWAC title game. JSU brings back an experienced crew, including nine players named to the preseason All-SWAC team. They face a Tulane team that has spent the past few years in the FBS cellar. Last year’s Green Wave finished 2-10.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js //platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsJackson State wins if: Unlike many HBCUs who will compete against FBS schools, Jackson State has a legit chance to win this game. Starting for the Green Wave will be Nick Montana, son of NFL Hall of Famer, Joe. Montana will be starting his first Division I game, under the bright lights of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Cornerback Qua Cox is one of the best defensive backs in the FCS, and has a nack for taking the ball from the opposition. If JSU can force a few turnovers and control time of possession with its powerful ground game via running backs Tommy Gooden and Rakeem Sims and quarterback Clayton Moore can make a few plays with his feet and his arm, JSU could start the season off with an upset win.

Jackson State loses if: JSU loses if it turns the ball over, or if it falls behind early. The Tigers were a run-first team last year, and with Rico Richardson in the pros, it will probably stay that way for the early part of the season. If they fall behind by double digits, all the pressure will be put on Moore and the passing game to produce.

Antwon Chisholm should get plenty of opportunities against Western Illinois on Thursday. (Daily Press photo)

Hampton at Western Illinois

Hampton enters the 2013 season coming off of its worst season since entering Division I in 1995. Head coach Donovan Rose enters the season with a 22-21 record after four seasons. It’s not a terrible winning percentage, but for a Hampton program that has been among HBCU football’s elite for nearly two decades, its not anything to brag about. Word on the Hampton Road’s streets say Rose’s fate may depend on how well his team performs this season.

Hampton wins if: Hampton’s opponent, Western Illinois is coming off a forgetful season of its own, going 3-8 and scoring under 10 points per game. Despite Hampton’s record, they do have talented defenders, most notably linebacker Delbert Tyler. If the Pirates defense can force a few turnovers, or even better, score a touchdown on its own, this is a winnable game for them.

Hampton loses if: Hampton has offensive questions of its own. Those issues start under center, as JJ Williamson edged out Brian Swain, but according to Rose, there isn’t that much distance between the two, and either could play. Hampton will also have to find a way to produce without last year’s primary offensive weapon, running back Jeremiah Schwartz. Anton Chisholm will have big shoes to fill at tailback. If the veteran offensive line can’t break open the holes for him, too much reliance on the passing game could be Hampton’s undoing.

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