The HBCU Football Rundown for Week FIve features games as the season heads into the first of five weekends in October.
Though its early in the season, with little exception, contenders for conference honors have already been separated from pretenders.
Chowan (4-0) of the CIAA, Alabama A&M (3-0) of the SWAC and Langston (4-0) are the only undefeated teams left in black college football after September. Each would have to be labeled a contender just on that sample of work.
Others have played their way out of contender status. They could play their way back in. If so, they’d better start this week.
HBCU Football: CIAA
The CIAA comes out of September with six winless teams. That’s half the league. Though each of the teams has just one conference game under its belt, the results don’t bode well.
Chowan (4-0, 1-0 N) puts its unblemished record on the line as it hosts winless Winston-Salem State Saturday in Murfreesboro, N. C. (7 p.m. ET). WSSU (0-3, 0-1 S) has almost played its way out of contention particularly after a 19-14 home loss to previously winless Elizabeth City State Saturday.
Chowan (4-0, 1-0) leads the league in scoring (45.0 points per game), total offense (454.5 yards per game) and passing offense (299.5 ypg.) and is second in rushing offense (155.0 ypg.). Quarterback Bryce Witt is setting the league on fire. The 6-4, 235-pound senior has 1,150 passing yards (287.5 yards per game), the only QB with over 1,000 yards, with 15 TDs and just three interceptions.
It’ll likely be a long day for WSSU.
Staying in step with Chowan in the North is two-time defending league champion Bowie State (3-1, 1-0) who is hosting winless J. C. Smith (0-3, 0-1) Saturday (2 p.m. ET).
The other usual contender hanging around in the CIAA North is Virginia Union. The Panthers (2-2, 1-0) host legit S. Div. contender Shaw (2-2, 1-0) in Richmond (1 p.m. ET). Shaw appears to be the toughest challenger to Fayetteville State’s dominance in the South.
Virginia State (0-3, 0-1), the other of a quartet usually contending for CIAA North honors, is looking for its first win Saturday (5 p.m. ET) hosting winless Saint Augustine’s (0-2, 0-1 S).
Two-time defending S. Div. champion Fayetteville State (2-1, 1-0 S) is at home Saturday facing winless Lincoln Pa. (0-4, 0-1).
HBCU Football: SWAC
The other conference where some degree of clarity is emerging is the SWAC.
In the West, new division member Alcorn State’s big 39-38 come-from-behind win last Thursday over defending division champ Arkansas-Pine Bluff let everyone know not to count the Braves (2-2, 1-0 W) out.
They are off this week but a key West Division battle takes place this Thursday (6:30 p.. CT on ESPNU) as UAPB plays its second straight midweek game, this time on the road at Prairie View A&M.
The Panthers (3-1, 2-0), under Eric Dooley and behind new QB Jawan Pass, have emerged as true contenders in the division. Pass (1,099 passing yards, 60.8%, 8 TDs, 5 ints.) is only behind A&M’s Aqeel Glass in SWAC passing stats.
UAPB blew a 19-point lead in falling at home to Alcorn State. Quarterback Skyler Perry was 24 of 39 for 316 yards and a score in that game. Though he’s averaging 226 passing yards per game, he’s only thrown for two TDs. He’ll perhaps have to put up more numbers and TDs to get past the Panthers.
The hotly contested SWAC East
The SWAC East is shaping up as perhaps the the hottest and most contested race in HBCU football. Jackson State (3-1, 1-0 E) is idle this week, if that could ever be said about the Tigers under Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, but the other contenders will do battle.
The one to watch is in Tallahassee, Florida (5 p.m. ET) where Florida A&M (1-2, 0-1 E) hosts Alabama State (2-1, 1-0). FAMU lost its season- and SWAC E. Division-opener 7-6 to Jackson State and does not want to fall two games behind division leaders with a loss.
On paper, the teams appear to be evenly matched. Both have relatively young signal-callers – FAMU redshirt junior Rasean McKay (55-94, 58.5%, 465 yds., 2 TDs, 0 ints.) and ASU redshirt freshman Ryan Nettles (62-98, 63.3%, 587 yds., 2 TDs, 3 ints.). Each has big-time receivers in FAMU’s Xavier Smith (26 rec., 228 yds., 76.0 ypg.) and ASU’s Jeremiah Hixon (19 rec., 238 yards, 79.3 ypg.). FAMU safety Markquese Bell (team-best 19 tackles) and ASU defensive back Irshaad Davis (team-best 18 tackles) are two of the most dynamic defenders in the league.
Keep your eye on the kicking game. FAMU lost all-American punter Chris Faddoul (out for the season with torn ACL) in its last game vs. South Florida. Faddoul was also the holder on place kicks. Jose Romo-Martinez, the team’s capable placekicker (5 of 9 FGs), has replaced Faddoul. He punted twice vs. USF averaging just 32 yards per kick. He also missed two field goals.
Division leader and spring champion Alabama A&M (4-0, 2-0 E) is on the road (2 p.m. CT) trying to keep its record clean at Grambling State (1-3, 0-1 W). Broderick Fobbs’ G-Men are desperate for a season-changing win. Fobbs announced this week that he was turning to three-star freshman Noah Bodden at quarterback after trying three others.
Bethune-Cookman (0-4, 0-2 E), coming off back-to-back tough losses to both SWAC Alabama schools, meets former MEAC rival South Carolina State (0-3) in Orangeburg, S. C. (1:30 p.m.).
HBCU Football: SIAC
Albany State (3-1, 1-0) and Savannah State (3-1, 2-0) have been the most impressive teams in the SIAC East and both have good tests on the road this week vs. top West Division teams.
SSU will travel to Frankfort, Ky., Saturday to face dangerous Kentucky State (2-2, 1-0 W). Albany State is in Fairfield, Al. to meet (6 p.m. CT) two-time defending conference champion Miles (2-2, 1-0 W). Either of these games could be an SIAC championship game preview.
Fort Valley State is at Benedict in an East Division tussle (3 p.m. CT).
HBCU Football: MEAC
In addition to league favorite South Carolina State (0-3) hosting former MEAC member Bethune-Cookman, Norfolk State (2-2) is also facing a former MEAC member when it travels to meet Big South member Hampton (2-1) in the Battle of the Bay (2 p.m. ET).
Delaware State (at Wagner), Morgan State (at home vs. St. Francis) and Howard (hosting Sacred Heart) also have non-conference tilts.
N. C. A&T (1-2), fresh off its first win of the season, 37-14 over N. C. Central Saturday, plays its inaugural game in the Big South conference at home vs. Robert Morris (1-1). RMU barely beat Howard 22-16 Saturday.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 30
Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. Prairie View A&M in Prairie View, TX (ESPNU) 6:30 pm CT
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2
Shaw vs. Virginia Union in Richmond, VA 1 pm ET
Allen vs. Central State in Wilberforce, OH 1 pm CT
Savannah State vs. Kentucky State in Frankfort, KY 1 pm CT
Clark Atlanta vs. Tuskegee in Tuskegee, AL 1 pm CT
Keiser vs. Florida Memorial in Miami, FL 1:30 pm ET
J. C. Smith vs Bowie State in Bowie, MD 2 pm ET
North American vs. Texas Southern in Houston, TX 2 pm CT
Langston vs. Lyon in Batesville, AR 2 pm CT
Lincoln (Mo.) vs. Central Oklahoma in Edmond, OK 2 pm CT
Livingstone vs. Elizabeth City State in Elizabeth City, NC 2:30 pm ET
Edward Waters vs. Morehouse in Atlanta, GA 3 pm ET
Texas College vs. Lane in Jackson, TN 3 pm CT
Fort Valley State vs. Benedict in Columbia, SC 3 pm CT
NC Central vs. Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena, MS 4 pm ET
Alabama State vs. Florida A&M in Tallahassee, FL 5 pm ET
Saint Augustine’s vs. Virginia State in Petersburg, VA 5 pm ET
Albany State vs. Miles in Fairfield, AL 6 pm CT
Lincoln (PA) vs. Fayetteville State in Fayetteville, NC 7 pm ET
Winston-Salem State vs. Chowan in Murfreesboro, NC 7 pm ET
W. Va. State vs. Alderson Broaddus in Charleston, WV 7 pm ET
Tennessee State vs. Austin Peay in Clarksville, TN 7 pm CT
STREAMED / TV GAMES
Delaware State vs. Wagner in Staten Island, NY (NEC) 5 pm ET
St. Francis vs. Morgan State in Baltimore, MD (ESPN+) 12n ET
Sacred Heart vs. Howard in Washington, DC (ESPN+) 1 pm ET
Bethune-Cookman vs. S. Carolina State in Orangeburg, SC (ESPN+) 1:30 pm ET
Norfolk State vs. Hampton in Hampton, VA (ESPN+) 2 pm ET
Alabama A&M vs. Grambling State in Grambling, LA (ESPN+) 2 pm CT
Robert Morris vs. NC A&T in Greensboro, NC (ESPN3) 1 pm ET