CIAA football enters into conference play a week earlier than prior years, as the conference schedule features three divisional crossover games. There are plenty of storylines to follow throughout the schedule, making for interesting conference openers.
- CIAA football has two teams ranked in the top 25 polls: Bowie State (1-1, AFCA #20; d2football.com #24) and Virginia Union (2-0, d2football.com #23). It’s the first time since week five of last season that two CIAA teams are ranked in the top 25 of either poll. Both clubs face stiff tests: BSU faces an upset-minded Shaw (0-2) team that played them close last year, while VUU squares off against an improved Livingstone (1-1). How VUU will handle being the hunted rather than the hunter after coming off its big win against then #2/3 Valdosta State is a big question. Also, how will Bowie State handle another team that has a potentially strong rushing attack after allowing 300 rushing yards against Saginaw Valley State?
- CIAA football hosts two games against winless teams. In game one, Johnson C. Smith and its high-flying offense travels to Chowan. JCSU transfer quarterback Tyrell Jackson leads the conference in average passing yards per game. Can JCSU’s offensive line hold up against the aggressive pair of linebacker Montre Moore and defensive lineman Raydarius Freeman, the conference’s current leaders in tackles for loss? Or will Chowan find some offensive consistency to match its defensive output?
- In game two of winless teams, Elizabeth City State hosts Winston-Salem State. Both teams were shut out last week, and WSSU head coach is responding by starting true freshman Jahmier Slade on Saturday. While WSSU is on its third quarterback in three games, ECSU is riding with its own true freshman in Chase Williams. Predictably, these two schools have the two lowest passing yard averages in all of Division II (WSSU, 77 yards or third worst, ECSU 86 yards or sixth worst). Something has to give. Will it be WSSU riding its rushing game (158 yards a game) to victory, or ECSU jump-starting its offense by exploiting WSSU’s porous defense that’s surrendering 418 yards a game?
- How pesky will Lincoln (1-1) be against Fayetteville State (1-1)? LU plays well at home, but won a tough road game at Central State last week. FSU has been struggling on offense, particularly because its passing offense isn’t operating very well. Lincoln is a tough out, and its strength is within its secondary. If the Broncos cannot get an early jump on the Lions, then there could be a monumental upset waiting to happen.
- Things are not going well at St. Augustine’s (0-2), a team that gives up over 500 yards a game. The Falcons travel to Virginia State (1-1), which boasts a strong running game headlined by Darius Hagans. The Falcons’ opponents have scored 70+ points on them so far. Can VSU match that output?