ATLANTA–The SIAC has some heavyweight and ballyhooed games on the schedule with some trips to the SWAC and another year of the Chicago Classic. But the games that will decide the conference championship are going to be the grind them out divisional games. Here’s a look at the top five games to look forward to this year in the SIAC.
Tuskegee at Albany State, September 8
Despite my claims about the importance of divisional games, the Whitewater Classic may very well be a precursor to the 2018 SIAC Championship. Tuskegee and Albany State are the preseason favorites to win their divisions and this will show us all who is the better team in September. Which may not mean much come November. Last season Albany State put a 20-7 spanking on Tuskegee but the Golden Tigers won the championship. ASU didn’t even make it to the game.
Tuskegee got off to a very slow start last season and turned it on late. Albany State began the season on fire and then fell apart down the stretch. So this game will be high on entertainment and bragging rights, but there will be lots of football left to play after both teams leave Phenix City, Alabama. This game film could turn out to be a huge premium however.
Fort Valley State at Benedict, September 23
It will not be automatic for Albany State to win the SIAC East just by showing up. Fort Valley State has won the division in both of Coach Kevin Porter’s first two seasons, including the SIAC Championship two seasons ago. If you follow the Wildcats closely they haven’t been fast starters either. However, there’s always one vital September win that saves their season as we reach late October.
If Fort Valley State wants to go back to the championship for the third straight year, this game will certainly factor into any ties or close races in the standings. Slade Jarmon could establish himself as the king of the hill for quarterbacks in the league with a dominant performance on the road.
Benedict has been on the come up since hiring SIAC legend Mike White. White took a team that finished 0-10 in 2015 to a 5-6 team in 2016. In 2017 the Tigers finished 7-2, with a 5-0 record at home. Benedict had Fort Valley beat on the road last year before eventually losing 31-28 in double overtime. That was the season.
Albany State at Benedict, October 27
By the time Albany State rolls into Benedict either one or both of these schools will still be in contention for the divisional title. Last year the Tigers went down to Albany and got away with a 17-12 win, a game where the Tigers led 17-0 heading into the fourth quarter. That loss was the proverbial nail in the coffin for Albany State’s season.
Benedict finished the season last year winning five straight games and was undefeated in Columbia. The Tigers return 16 starters from last year’s team and will have continuity in quarterback Phillip Brown. If Benedict wants to take the next step in the climb to the top with Mike White, they must be in contention when this game arrives and they must win it.
Fort Valley State at Albany State, November 3
See above. At least one team here will be in the running if not both. If the former is the case, playing spoiler in the SIAC is a thing as well. I’ve seen it in person the last two years and I still don’t understand how Fort Valley State does it. They appear out of the championship hunt early and somehow they sneak back into the picture.
Albany State admits they just didn’t have anything left in the tank the last three weeks of the season. They did defeat Fort Valley in last year’s Fountain City Classic but the Wildcats already had the division wrapped up heading into the game, so it was a meaningless win. This year’s matchup in Columbus could be a de facto semifinal game for the SIAC Championship.
Tuskegee at Miles, November 3
The semifinal matchup out west could very well be Tuskegee at Miles. There’s no reason to think that it’s unlikely Tuskegee and Miles won’t be some version of one and two in the SIAC West heading into this game. It really wouldn’t matter anyway, any form of competition between Tuskegee and Miles is a must-see affair.
Miles will depend on the running game of SIAC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Justin Hardy. On the other side will be linebacker Davoris Thomas of Tuskegee University who was selected as Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Last year Tuskegee put a stinging defeat on Miles, 50-20, to end the regular season. There’s no doubt that’s something that Miles hasn’t forgotten. Expect the winner of this game not only to be in the SIAC Championship game but to be the host as well. The eastern division was last year’s host, the west will have its turn this year.