The 2023 HBCU football season is swiftly approaching and — once again — it’s time for the HBCU Gameday Staff FCS poll.
We debuted our HBCU Gameday Staff FCS and Division II polls in 2022 and came up with some interesting results, providing ammunition for some and overrating others while a few fell exactly where we thought they would be. Here they are now.
1) North Carolina Central — 76 points (six first place votes)
Last year we infamously left NC Central off the 2022 Preseason HBCU Gameday Staff FCS poll, and Trei Oliver let us know during MEAC Media Day that he felt there weren’t 10 teams in black college football better than his squad. Throughout the season it proved us wrong, from the Aggie-Eagle Classic all the way up to the Celebration Bowl.
The 2023 squad brings back most of its key pieces, most notably quarterback Davius Richards, the reigning MEAC Offensive Player of The Year and a 2024 NFL pro prospect.
2) Florida A&M — 73 points (two first-place votes)
The past three seasons (2022, 2021 and 2019) FAMU has finished 9-2, yet has zero conference championships and Celebration Bowl appearances. The 2019 team was kept out of the Celebration Bowl by self-imposed NCAA sanctions. The 2021 and 2022 teams were kept out by early season losses to Jackson State. Is this the year Willie Simmons and Co. finally bring true hardware back to Tallahassee?
Jackson State — 50 points
The two-time defending SWAC champion and Celebration Bowl runner up Jackson State has lost a lot from last year’s team. A total of 12 All-SWAC players competed under Deion Sanders last year. Only one of them, tight end D.J. Stevens, will hit the field against South Carolina State. First-year head coach T.C. Taylor and his staff have admirably filled up the roster, so we’ll see if there is enough talent to balance out the losses.
4) Southern — 47 points
Southern claimed the SWAC West title last season in its first year under Eric Dooley, losing to Jackson State. Quarterback is still a question, but as long as the defense remains strong, it should be in the race.
5) Howard — 42 points
After a slow start in 2022, Howard took care of business in the MEAC — minus one Saturday in Durham. Larry Scott has his program headed in the right direction as he tries to do what coaches have been unable to do for nearly 30 years — maintain momentum with the Howard football program.
6) Alabama State — 33 points
Eddie Robinson led a feisty defense that challenged both Jackson State and FAMU last fall. The team has seen tough transfer portal losses and has questions at quarterback, so time will tell if it is truly a SWAC contender or pretender.
7) A&T — 29 points
NC A&T started off slow last season, but nearly came back to win the Big South title. But it’s a brand new day as Sam Washington is no longer the team’s head coach and the program is headed to a more-competitive Colonial Athletic Association. New head coach Vincent Brown has the task of leading the program in a league he knows very well, but with a roster that is still coming together.
8) SCSU — 27 points
This time last year, South Carolina State was thinking back-to-back. Now the refrain is “don’t call it a comeback” as SCSU looks to recover from a very disappointing season from the 2021 Celebration Bowl Champions.
9) Morgan State — 19 points
Damon Wilson heads into his second season in Baltimore as potentially the biggest question-mark in the MEAC. If the offense can develop some sibilance of balance, the Bears will definitely have a say in who wears the MEAC crown.
10) Prairie View — 16 points
The 2021 SWAC West Champions took a step back last season, but clearly our staff sees something that they like in them.
Tennessee State — 3 points