The Week 12 HBCU Football Rundown highlights CIAA and SIAC champions crowned this past weekend moving into NCAA Div. II playoffs Saturday.
The fight for the MEAC’s spot in the Dec. 18 Celebration Bowl is over. There is still something to play for however on this, the final week of its regular season.
One half of the SWAC championship equation has been decided. It may take the final two weeks of regular season play to determine the other half.
Bowie State and Albany State move on
North Division champion Bowie State prevailed in the CIAA Championship Game in Salem, Va. 17-7 over South Division titlist Fayetteville State Saturday. It was the third straight win in the title game for BSU (10-1) and head coach Damon Wilson over FSU (8-2) and head coach Richard Hayes III.
In the SIAC Championship Game, Albany State (10-1) prevented a three-peat for Miles with a 31-0 shutout win over the Golden Bears (6-5). Reginald Ruffin’s Golden Bears had defeated Gabe Giardina’s Golden Rams in championship games in 2018 and 2019.
After their championship game wins, Bowie State and Albany State retained their places in the top four of the NCAA Div. II’s Super Region II and will host first round playoff games Saturday. Both will face tough opponents.
The last two NCAA Div. II champions – West Florida in 2019 and Valdosta State in 2018 – have come out of Super Region II.
HBCU Football Rundown – Bowie State’s plight
Bowie State went into the CIAA title game ranked second in the region behind undefeated Valdosta State. BSU stayed at No. 2 when the 28-team playoff field was announced Sunday despite Valdosta State suffering its first loss of the season, 61-42 to defending Div. II national champion and Gulf South co-champion West Florida.
BSU will welcome in the 7th-seed in the region, 8-2 Lenoir-Rhyne, Saturday (1 p.m.) in its first round match up.
LRU finished tied for second at 6-2 in the South Atlantic Conference with Mars Hill and Wingate behind league champion Newberry (9-2, 7-1). LRU’s two losses on the season were to SAC members Newberrry (28-21) and UVA Wise (35-28).
Newberry is the sixth seed in the region and is playing at third-seed West Florida (9-1) in another first round game Saturday (1 p.m.). Valdosta State (9-1), despite its loss to West Florida, retained the top seed in the region and gets a first round bye.
Bowie State and Lenoir-Rhyne have one common opponent this season, CIAA member Virginia State. LRU defeated VSU to open the season on Sept. 4, 48-7. Bowie State pulled out a 51-44 win vs. the Trojans on Oct. 16.
BSU looking for more playoff success
This will be the fourth straight trip to the D2 playoffs for Damon Wilson and his Bulldogs. They are 1-3 in their previous trips but have come awfully close to making deeper runs.
In 2017 vs. Delta State, quarterback Amir Hall threw for 322 yards and led the Bulldogs back from a 31-7 second-quarter deficit. They scored 28 unanswered points and go up 35-31 at the end of three quarters. The comeback fizzled in the final period and the Bulldogs fell at home, 45-35.
In 2018, Hall was back at the controls as the Bulldogs got their first playoff win. Hall passed for 360 yards in a 41-35 home win over West Alabama. In the second round on the road at Valdosta State, the Bulldogs were shut out in the second half in a 66-16 loss.
Maiden playoff voyage for Albany State under Giardina
Albany State (10-1) went into the SIAC championship game ranked third in the region but fell to fourth behind West Florida despite shutting out Miles. Albany State’s only loss of the season was to Valdosta State, 21-3 on Sept. 18. The West Florida win over Valdosta State Saturday likely vaulted the Wahoos into the third position over the Golden Rams.
Albany State is hosting fifth-seed West Georgia (8-2) Saturday (1 p.m.). West Georgia is the only team to defeat West Florida this season. The Wolves downed West Florida 30-26 on Oct. 16. West Georgia lost to Valdosta State 36-34 on Oct. 30.
Albany State and West Georgia have one common opponent, SIAC member Morehouse. WGU shut out the Maroon Tigers 47-0 on Sept. 11. ASU defeated an improved Morehouse team, 14-10 on Oct. 30.
This will be Albany State’s first time in the playoffs since 2011 and the first playoff game for the Golden Rams under third-year head coach Gabe Giardina.
“I am so excited for our team, for our fans and our community,” Giardina told the Albany Herald. “We have worked really hard to get to this point and it is always special when you get a championship and get into the tournament. We earned our way into this. It shows that people from around the country have seen what we’ve done and that we earned that respect.”
SC State claims MEAC title, still has something to prove
To say SC State backed into the MEAC title with a 27-17 non-conference loss to NC A&T Saturday would be incorrect. Buddy Pough’s Bulldogs (5-5, 4-0) won the championship because they have defeated all four of their MEAC opponents as they go into their season-ending match up Saturday (2 p.m.) at Norfolk State.
They won the championship, and their first berth in the Dec. 18 Celebration Bowl that goes with it, when Norfolk State. the only MEAC team SCSU had not faced or defeated, gave up a 26-0 lead and fell to Delaware State Saturday, 28-26. It was the second MEAC loss for the Spartans (6-4, 2-2).
So, SC State’s game with Norfolk State this Saturday will not be for the league title but it is also not meaningless. Pough said on Monday’s MEAC Teleconference that he doesn’t want to go into the Celebration Bowl with a losing record and with two straight losses.
Additionally, NC Central (5-5, 3-1 MEAC) and head coach Trei Oliver could win a share of the MEAC title if they defeat Delaware State Saturday (2 p.m. in Durham, NC) and SC State falls to Norfolk State.
Jackson State wins SWAC East, will help determine West winner
The SWAC East Division title went to head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Jackson State Tigers (9-1, 7-0 SWAC E) after their late-game 21-17 come-from-behind win at Southern Saturday. JSU now will figure in who wins the West Division title and faces the Tigers in the Dec. 4 SWAC Championship Game.
JSU hosts Alcorn State Saturday (1 p.m.) in the final regular season game for both teams. Alcorn State (6-4, 6-2 SWAC West) comes in a game behind Prairie View A&M (7-2, 6-1 W) for the West Division lead a week after knocking off Prairie View 31-29 Saturday in their head-to-head match up .
A JSU win over Alcorn State will give the West Division title and SWAC championship game berth to Prairie View. An Alcorn State win over JSU means Prairie View has to win its Nov. 27 season-ending game at Mississippi Valley State to claim the West division crown and championship game berth.
Prairie View has a non-conference date Saturday (11 a.m.) at FBS power Texas A&M (7-3).
HBCU Football Rundown – Don’t forget about Florida A&M
Florida A&M has been mowing down SWAC opponents since its 7-6 loss to Jackson State to open the season. This week the Rattlers (8-2, 6-1 SWAC E) slipped into the AFCA FCS Coaches Poll at No. 25 as it heads into its season-ending Florida Classic match-up in Orlando (Fla.) with rival Bethune-Cookman (2-8, 2-5 E) Saturday (2:30 p.m.).
There is a 24-team field for the FCS playoffs which will begin next week. Princeton and Dartmouth, currently ranked 20th and 21st in the AFCA FCS poll, do not participate in the FCS playoffs. There are 11 automatic bids to the FCS playoffs and 13 at-large berths up for grabs.
It’s reasonable to assume at this point, if FAMU defeats Bethune-Cookman Saturday the Rattlers would have a decent shot to make the FCS playoff field. If so, it would be the first time a SWAC team has made the FCS playoffs since the conference went to its championship game format in 1999.
But beating B-CU has proven to be no small task for the Rattlers. The Wildcats have defeated the Rattlers in nine straight Florida Classics. The last win for Terry Sims and B-CU was in 2019 when the Wildcats spoiled an undefeated conference season for Willie Simmons’ Rattlers. The 31-27 upset came in both teams last season playing in the MEAC.
HBCU Football Rundown – Looking to go out as winners
They are not in championship or playoff contention but Hampton, NC A&T and Tennessee State – all at 5-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play – are looking to clinch winning seasons in their season finales.
NC A&T (5-5, 3-3 Big South) finishes its first season in the Big South Saturday (1 p.m.) at home vs. Gardner Webb (3-7, 1-5). A win gives the Aggies a winning record overall and in conference play. The same goes for Hampton (5-5, 3-3 Big South) in its season-ender hosting (1 p.m.) North Alabama (2-8, 1-4).
Tennessee State, who has wrapped up its Ohio Valley Conference schedule, has the toughest challenge to finish on a winning note. Eddie George’s Tigers play at FBS SEC member Mississippi State (6-4) Saturday (11 a.m.).
GAMES THIS WEEK
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2021
Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs. Alabama A&M in Huntsville, AL 1 pm
STREAMING GAMES (ESPN+)
Prairie View A&M vs. Texas A&M in College Station, TX 11 am
Tennessee State vs. Mississippi State in Starkville, MS 11 am
Georgetown vs. Morgan State in Baltimore, MD 12 noon
Alcorn State vs. Jackson State in Jackson, MS 1 pm
Va. University of Lynchburg vs. Howard in Washington, DC 1 pm
Gardner-Webb vs. NC A&T in Greensboro, NC (ESPN3) 1 pm
North Alabama vs. Hampton in Hampton, VA 1 pm
SC State vs. Norfolk State in Norfolk, VA (ESPN3) 2 pm
Texas Southern vs. Alabama State in Montgomery, AL 2 pm
Delaware State vs. NC Central in Durham, NC (ESPN3) 2 pm
Florida Classic (ESPN+)
Florida A&M vs. Bethune-Cookman in Orlando, FL 2:30 pm
NCAA Div. II – First Round (Super Region II)
#5 West Georgia vs. #4 Albany State in Albany, GA 1 pm ET
#7 Lenoir-Rhyne vs. #2 Bowie State in Bowie, MD 1 pm ET