North Carolina A&T’s win over Jacksonville State on Saturday night was the headline of HBCU football, but it nearly came in second place.
Prairie View A&M almost topped that in Houston as it fell to Rice 31-28 after leading heading into the fourth quarter. It was something that very few people saw coming in the team’s first game under new coach Eric Dooley.
Once upon a time, not long ago, HBCUs playing “Money Games” against FBS schools were assured of a big time beat down in exchange for that check. With transfer rules being as loose as ever and more tools at hand; FCS programs are making noise. One way to make that noise is to compete with, and beat, an FBS opponent. It has happened a lot recently and almost happened on Sunday night.
Last season, Howard made headlines by beating UNLV on the road. Tennessee State beat Georgia State on the road. North Carolina A&T did the same by beating Charlotte last season and Kent State the previous season before that. Even outside of HBCU football, there’s always a few FCS opponents each season that has teams on the ropes for large portions of games.
Within the HBCU landscape, here are the HBCU vs FBS games to watch out for.
Bison on the Trail: Howard @ Ohio (Sept 1st) and Kent State (Sept 8th)
There are two HU’s in the HBCU world and Ohio is trying to beat both of them. Last season, the Bobcats cruised to a 59-0 win over Hampton. This season, Howard steps up to the plate. After an above average year in the Mid-American Conference, Ohio is looking to improve and Howard is the first step.
The last time Howard faced an FBS opponent to start the season, they made national headlines by beating UNLV. Caylin Newton and the Bison surely are ready to do the same.
After that game last year, Howard almost did it again. Kent State is Howard’s next opponent and the Bison has a score to settle. They had the Golden Flashes on the ropes. HU’s offense outgained KSU’s offense and also gained more first downs as well. Newton added one touchdown towards the end of the game but HU ran out of time. Their 31-38 loss was a moral victory but this time, a real win is on everyone’s minds.
Saturday, September 1st: North Carolina A&T @ East Carolina
Last season, North Carolina A&T rolled into Charlotte, NC and beat the Charlotte 49ers 35-31. This year, A&T rolls into Greenville, NC, to take on East Carolina following its big-time win over Jacksonville State on Saturday.
ESU got embarrassed by FCS Powerhouse James Madison last season at home. Having knocked off FBS teams on each of the last two years can surely give the Pirates that same punch. The question lies, can A&T pull it off?
Saturday, September 1st: Alcorn State @ Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech has not lost against an FCS opponent since 1983. That’s a very long time. From a football aspect, what to look out for here is the stamina and brain power of the Alcorn State defense. Georgia Tech runs the Triple Option religiously. Most schools don’t even fully run the Triple Option at all anymore. It’s effective and shreds defense to pieces. ASU’s defensive coordinator Cedric Thorton has a lot to handle in this game.
Quick side note, West Virginia legend Pat White is the QB coach for Alcorn State. SWAC Pre-Season first-team QB Noah Johnson will learn a lot from White. Expect Johnson to have an impact in this game and others as well.
Saturday, September 1st: Grambling @ Lousiana-Lafayette
Grambling almost shocked the world in 2016 by losing to Arizona by only 10 points on the road. In 2017, The Tigers’ next FBS opponent Tulane, played lights out. Enter the 2018 season. The defending SWAC champions are starting their season against Lousiana-Lafayette.
Will Grambling bring the heat against the Ragin Cajuns? We will see as Grambling looks to replace big-play guys in DeVante Kincade and Martez Carter.
Saturday, September 1st: Southern @ Texas Christian
Southern is looking for their first SWAC title since 2013. But it starts the season against Big Bad TCU. Texas Christian is a premier program so this game is really an opportunity for Southern to test their skills.
HBCU Uniform Updates: @SouthernUsports drops a slick new number from @UnderArmour while @PVAMUPanthers goes all-out with @adidasfootball while the Gameday crew gives their take on #NCAT and #GramFam unishttps://t.co/4Vdn9Zkwhn pic.twitter.com/WOKFInmUpv
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) August 18, 2018
Saturday, September 8th: South Carolina State @ Central Florida
The last time these two schools clashed, UCF won by a score of 38-0 back in 2016. Controversial or not, UCF was the only undefeated team in the FBS at the end of last season. The Golden Knights are surely loaded so SC State is in for a tough one. But, the Bulldogs always plays tough and has guys with NFL potential.
This is the second game of Coach Buddy Pough’s last season with the Bulldogs. He’s 120-64 in 16 seasons of coaching at SC State.
Saturday, September 15th: Prarie View @ UNLV
The last time an HBCU opponent walked into Sam Boyd Stadium, they walked out with a win. UNLV was on the wrong side of history last season and are expecting to not repeat last year’s loss. As for PVAMU, it will likely use that Rice performance as a learning experience.
Saturday, September 22nd: Texas Southern @ Houston
Texas Southern plays nine of its games in the state of Texas this season. with its fourth game is the toughest on paper. Houston has the top defensive player in the country, Ed Oliver. The challenge for TSU is to productively run their offense despite Oliver being everywhere on the field.
Saturday, September 29th: Tennessee State @ Vanderbilt
This is an interesting matchup. Tennessee State is a very good program with a lot of good players. What makes this even more interesting is that TSU doesn’t really have to travel far for this game at all. Vanderbilt’s has the home-field advantage, but be sure that Big Blue will be in the building.
The test is if TSU can compete with some of the top athletes in the country. Of course, TSU did get a win against an FBS team last year, defeating Georgia State at home. But even though Vandy is in the lower tier of the SEC in terms of football, it’s still an SEC team. The stars will have to align to pull this off.