College season is now officially less than three months away. Saturdays filled with friends, fun and football will soon be here, and I can’t wait for the action to start. I look forward to traveling to different schools, seeing the games in person and meeting the members of the HBCU Gameday community every year and 2019 will be no different.
Every year I get a chance to go new places and its been great. Covering as many schools as HBCU Gameday does, its impossible to get everywhere every season for the entire crew, much less one person.
However, if I had an unlimited travel budget, this is what my itenarary would look like.
Week One: Prairie View vs. Texas Southern (8/31)
I’ve been to the Labor Day Classic in Virginia (Virginia State vs. Norfolk State) and Alabama (Tuskegee vs. Alabama State) over the past two seasons, so it only makes sense that I’d pick the one I hadn’t been to yet. And this year has a pretty compelling story line as Texas Southern comes in with a new head coach who is looking to turn the tide in Houston. Prairie View, meanwhile, comes into the season with something to prove in its second year under head coach Eric Dooley after cooling off from a fast-start in 2018.
Week Two: Tuskegee at Alabama State (9/7)
Attended this game last year for the first time and immediately got the hype. Amazing atmosphere to watch, even as someone with no particular rooting interest. On paper, this is a Division I vs. Division II matchup, but when you get inside that tailgating area and see folks spilling out into the street and the adjourning neighborhoods, you realize this game is bigger than any divisions that the NCAA has mandated. It’s about family, food and football, probably in that order.
Week Three: Hampton vs. Howard (Chicago Classic)
It’s been two years since these two private school giants met on the football field, and this time they’ll do it at historic Soldier Field. Both teams have something to prove this season, as Howard will look to show there is life after Mike London with new head coach Ron Prince. Hampton, meanwhile, will look to show its former MEAC rival that it still wears the pants in this rivalry as it preps for its first-ever season as a member of the Big South.
Week Four: Southern at FAMU (9/21)
There are a lot of compelling games set to take place on Sept. 21. Jackson State and Tennessee State will get together again after rain called off last year’s Southern Heritage Classic. Winston-Salem State will travel to “The Shed” to take on Tuskegee in a series of the most successful D2 HBCU programs in this decade. And there will be several other great games. But no matter what games fans attend on that date, most will have one eye towards what is perhaps one of the most-heated non-conference rivalries in HBCU football.
Both teams were one win away from playing in the Celebration Bowl last year, a matchup that many thought might bring the most fans to the four-year-old bowl game. That didn’t happen last year, and it won’t happen this year as FAMU is ineligible for postseason play. Still, both teams are contenders for their respective titles and anytime the Marching 100 and Human Jukebox get together, its worth the price of admission.
Week Five: Prairie View A&M vs. Grambling (9/28)
This has become a must-see game in the SWAC. PVAMU got the better of Grambling last season under Dooley, who helped re-build Grambling as a member of Broderick Fobbs’ staff. This year the two teams will be looking to get a leg up in a tough SWAC West as the loser will likely be chasing the other plus Southern.
Week Six: Howard at Harvard (10/05)
This one is bigger than sports. Harvard, generally regarded as the most prestigious institution of higher learning in the country, has never faced an HBCU. It makes since that the first one it faces will be Howard, long thought of as one of the most prestigious HBCUs.
Week Seven: Prairie View at Southern
Depending on the outcome of the PVAMU/Grambling game, this could go a long way towards deciding the SWAC West Division title. Plus I’ve been told I have a tailgate appointment at Mumford sometime this fall and this would be the perfect time to come.
Week Eight: NC A&T at FAMU
Last summer I wrote that the MEAC needed FAMU and A&T to become rivals again. We got a taste of it last season when FAMU, fresh off of Hurricane Michael, came up to Greensboro and knocked off A&T. With no Celebration Bowl for FAMU this season, beating A&T again would be a big feather in its cap as it looks to continue to build its program.
Week Nine: Howard at A&T (10/26)
Someone in the MEAC office had the bright idea a couple of years back to allow A&T and Howard to not play each other for two years. In those two years, A&T has gone 15-1 in the MEAC while Howard developed into a high-powered offense with star power. We’ll never know what could have happened those two years, but on a (hopefully) cool autumn afternoon in Greensboro with a capacity crowd the rivalry will be renewed just as sure as Jay Walker is going to resurrect the ghost of him scoring THAT touchdown. Oh yeah, and it will be GHOE.
I’ll take some heat for picking this over the Magic City Classic. I can deal with it until both AAMU and Alabama State are legit SWAC East title contenders. If that happens this year, I will come to Birmingham and skip the short trip to Greensboro. Make it happen, please!
Week 10: Shaw at Winston-Salem State (11/02)
Five years ago Winston-Salem State rolled into Durham and put up 60 points on Shaw during Senior Day. Since then, however, the series has been very exciting and compelling. WSSU has won three of the last five matchups, but Shaw’s wins were memorable ones as it won 2015 in overtime at WSSU’s homecoming and last season it keep its rival to the east from getting to the CIAA Championship Game. This season will add another layer as former Shaw head coach Robert Massey will serve as WSSU’s interim head coach.
For transparency it’s my homecoming/10th year class anniversary. And its my birthday. Sorry, not sorry.
Week 11: Alcorn at Grambling (11/09)
These two didn’t meet in the SWAC Championship Game for the fourth time last season, but this is still one of the better cross-division rivalries in the SWAC.
Week 12: CIAA Championship Game
Part of the biggest reason this is on the list we just don’t know WHO will be there. We usually have a good idea. But this could be ANYONE. Fayetteville State probably feels like its their time after being the bridesmaid the last two years. Winston-Salem State probably feels like its time order was restored. In the North, Bowie State will look to show that it was more than just a one-man band. Virginia Union is looking to ride Tabyus Taylor and a fierce defense to a trip West. The possibilities are endless.
Week 13: North Carolina Central at North Carolina A&T
Now I know the folks in Florida are gonna roll their eyes, but with FAMU ineligible for the Celebration Bowl, I’m going with old faithful. Hopefully it will be a more competitive game than last season’s 45-0 A&T blow out on the road.
Week 14: BAYOU CLASSIC
Nothing like it in all of college football. I had the pleasure of going in 2016 and 2017 and felt sick when I didn’t make it last year. Hoping to start a new streak in 2019. From the food to the battle of the bands on Friday night to the game on Saturday its wall-to-wall fun and has been an exciting game the last couple of years.