The Celebration Bowl is a little more than a month away, and nearly 1/3 of the teams that are eligible for the game are still in the hunt.
The participants of the annual clash between the MEAC and SWAC are far from decided — on both ends. As many as seven programs still have some level of shot to end the season in Mercedes-Benz Stadium at the Celebration Bowl.
North Carolina Central, the reigning Celebration Bowl winner, looked like a shoo-in to represent the MEAC for the third time ever and the second year in a row. Then it went up to D.C. and lost to a Howard University squad that had just lost to South Carolina State the week prior. The win would have sealed the berth for NCCU.
Now it is Howard University that finds itself in the driver’s seat for the MEAC. A win over Morgan State on Saturday would punch HU’s ticket to the Celebration Bowl for the first time in program history, regardless of the results of NCCU’s game against Delaware State. A Morgan State win and an NCCU win gives NCCU a return to the Celebration Bowl to represent the MEAC. If Morgan State wins and North Carolina Central loses, Morgan State would go to the Celebration Bowl with a 4-1 conference record. NCCU owns the head-to-head with Morgan State.
The SWAC has FOUR teams still in contention to get to the Celebration Bowl. Florida A&M has already racked up the SWAC East title, and awaits the SWAC West winner in the conference title game to see who will battle the MEAC representative.
There are three potential SWAC West winners as the final week approaches — and none of them will face each other. Prairie View A&M has the most direct route to the championship game. If it takes care of business against Alabama State, it will return to the SWAC title game for the second time in three seasons. Alcorn State will have to rebound from a humiliating defeat against Texas Southern AND have PVAMU lose to Alabama State to get to the SWAC title game for the first time since 2019. Grambling State is in the running as well, but it will need both PVAMU and Alcorn State to lose their games AND beat rival Southern University in the Bayou Classic to get in.
So we will know the MEAC representative this week, but we still may not know the SWAC Championship Game matchup for another two weeks. Either way, it makes for a compelling road to Atlanta and the Celebration Bowl.