The SWAC Football Championship and the opportunity to represent the conference against MEAC Champion North Carolina A&T at the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl in Atlanta on December 15 is on the line this Saturday when Southern (7-3) takes on Alcorn State (8-3) in Lorman, MS.
This is a rematch from late September when the Braves traveled to Baton Rouge to face the Jags on Homecoming night and thumped Southern 20-3. But that was two months ago. A few things have changed since then.
The loss to Alcorn, considered to be a turning point in the season for Southern, led Jaguars coach Dawson Odums to make a quarterback change and start sophomore Ladarius Skelton in Week 6.
The move would pay dividends as the dual-threat athlete, averaging 252 total yards per game and amassing a 14-4 TD to turnover ratio, would lead the Jags on a five-game win streak, including a 38-28 victory over two-time conference champion Grambling last Saturday.
The one thing that didn't change was how good Alcorn State has looked this season.
Led by SWAC Offensive Player of the Year Noah Johnson, the East Division champions finished the season 7-1 in conference play. The redshirt junior led the conference in completion percentage (63.4%) and passing efficiency (137.7)
Johnson also thrived as a dual threat, finishing fourth in the SWAC in passing yards per game (176.7), fifth in rushing yards per game (73.9) and finishing second in the conference in total yards of offense with 2,757.
Keys to the Game
Alcorn and Southern each have very potent offenses, averaging at least 30 points per game. Expect to see both teams open up their passing game with their stout ground attacks.
Southern's tandem of Skelton and running back Devon Benn will look to keep pace with Alcorn State's three-headed monster of Johnson, running back PJ Simmons and the SWAC Newcomer of the Year De'Shawn Waller.
These are the best defenses in the conference, with both teams allowing 16 points per game in conference play. Southern's Jordan Lewis and Calvin Lunkins and Alcorn's All-SWAC defenders Sterling Shippy and Trey Whittington are keys. These standouts are ranked in the top 10 in the conference for tackles-for-a-loss and sacks.
SWAC Coach of the Year Fred McNair and Alcorn State has only participated in two games since November 1. Will the Braves be well-rested or will they start out rusty? The Jags will need to take advantage early and/or keep pace with Alcorn if they look to win their first SWAC title since 2012.
Coach Dawson Odums is 1-7 against the Braves.
|Alcorn State Braves