Week 6. We’re in the final week of the first half of the College Football season.
Last week, Howard, SCSU, MVSU, and Texas Southern got off the schneid (but one of those wins didn’t count), Delaware State got their first road win since the spring, A&T was triumphant for the first time in their new conference, while Grambling and Tennessee State earn upsets.
This week, Homecoming Season continues in Alabama, Florida, and Virginia, familiar faces will meet as out-of-conference foes (again), Big South and SWAC conference play continues, and the MEAC will open up intraleague play in prime time.
Norfolk State, Prairie View A&M, Tennessee State will be on byes this weekend. That means 11 games will be on this week’s slate.
Thanks to a few upsets, I finished 7-5 with my picks last weekend (35-20 overall).
I need to do better this week. Let’s make some picks.
FCS vs. FCS Non-Conference
South Carolina State (1-3) at Florida A&M (2-2)
Saturday, October 9, 6:00 PM (Facebook Live)
Meeting for the 50th time in the history of these programs. these long-time conference foes will meet as out-of-conference opponents for the first time since 1973.
This version of Bulldogs vs. Rattlers will be run-heavy.
FAMU head coach Willie Simmons has admitted that his offense looks “different.” Understanding that QB Rasean McKay is “still learning the game,” the Rattlers will rely on their three-man running back committee of Bishop Bonnett, Terrell Jennings, and Jaylen McCloud to win.
Even though SCSU head coach Buddy Pough is 8-0 all-time in Tallahassee, he’s acknowledged that Saturday will be “a knockdown, drag-out show.”
Yes, that physical Rattler defense, led by DBs Markquese Bell and Kortney Cox, will look to first stop the run, but will also be challenged by QB Corey Fields, Jr. The sophomore out of Hollywood, SC has amassed a minimum of 300 yards per game of total offense against the three SCSU opponents not named Clemson.
Bulldogs 31, Rattlers 28
North Alabama (0-5, 0-1 Big South) at North Carolina A&T (2-2, 1-0 Big South)
Saturday, October 9, 1:00 PM (ESPN+)
Despite this weekend’s contest being the first-ever meeting between the two schools in any sport, UNA’s head coach Carl Willis is completely aware of Sam Washington’s offensive coaching philosophy.
“They are a team that likes to line up and run the ball right at you, and that will be a challenge for us defensively,” said Willis. “They’ll be one of the best running teams that we will face all season.”
The Lions defense, which allows 211.0 YPG on the ground, will look to stagnate that Aggie run game. Easier said than done, now that RB Jah-Maine Martin finally recorded his first 100 yard-game of the season last week.
The Aggies have trailed at the end of the first half in their only losses of the season. If A&T somehow finds themselves down at intermission, they shouldn’t panic. Although UNA has held leads in four of its five games this season and outscored its opponents in the first half 62-61, they have been outscored 114-35 in the second half.
Aggies 28, Lions 20
#17 Kennesaw State (3-1, 0-0) at Hampton (2-2, 0-0)
Saturday, October 2, 2:00 PM (ESPN3)
In 2019, KSU thumped Hampton 50-7 in their first-ever meeting. YIKES! Yet, the Pirates thought it would be a good idea to schedule the Owls as their homecoming opponent.
Fresh off their 31-7 drubbing of #17 Jacksonville State, Kennesaw State will look to continue to do what they’ve done all season long, control the clock.
Behind that offense which racks up 275.8 YPG on the ground, the Owls average a TOP of 36 minutes per, second-best in the nation.
Hampton will have to counter with their run game that averages 217.3 YPG — led by RBs Elijah Burris (79.5) and Darran Butts (74.25) — to compete.
Owls 35, Pirates 10
Morgan State (0-4, 0-0 MEAC) at Howard (1-4, 0-0 MEAC)
Friday, October 8, 8:00 PM (ESPNU)
This war of attrition between regional rivals will start out with two defenses that could be considered shaky at best.
Even with Bears head coach Tyrone Wheatley believing that his team is “improving in every category except the ‘W’” and Bison head coach Larry Scott celebrating the performance of Howard’s defensive line in his first-ever victory last week, both teams allow over 37 points and 465 yards per game.
The difference in Friday night’s game could be Howard QB Quinton Williams, who has passed for 1,047 yards, 8 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions in his four starts against FCS opponents.
Bison 24, Bears 14
Virginia Lynchburg (0-5) at Delaware State (2-3)
Saturday, October 9, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Losers of fifteen straight, the Dragons will head to Dover to face the team that started that streak.
VUL has only won eight games since resurrecting the program in 2011 and has never beaten an FCS opponent, yet DSU head coach Rod Milstead thinks that this team is “dangerous.”
Concerns about his defense falling for trick plays aside, Milstead should earn back-to-back wins for the first time since his first year at the helm in Dover (2018).
This probably won’t be pretty. VUL has been outscored this season by an average of 54-8.
Hornets 49, Dragons 7
Tennessee Tech (1-4) at North Carolina Central (2-3)
Saturday, October 9, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
The Golden Eagles will travel to Durham to face NCCU in the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
Although TTU won its first game of the season last week, NCCU head coach Trei Oliver doesn’t believe that their record is “indicative of how they play.”
If the Eagles want to avoid losing their third straight against non-conference opponents, they should take heed of these key points:
Take advantage of TTU’s careless ways with the ball. The Golden Eagles are the fourth-worst team in the nation in turnovers lost, giving up the rock 14 times this season.
Give the ball to RB’s Isaish Totten, Latrell Collier, and Jamal Currie-Elliott. The Golden Eagles defense has given up 721 yds and 10 TDs on the ground.
Cut down on the mental mistakes. Last week, the Eagles suffered a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to previously winless MVSU thanks to a Pick Six on the last play before halftime (NCCU was leading 10-3), a facemask penalty against NCCU on the ensuing kickoff after taking a 16-10 lead with 26 seconds remaining in the game and allowing MVSU to drive 46 yards in 19 seconds to win with no time on the clock.
Eagles 20, Golden Eagles 17
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-3, 0-2 SWAC) at Alabama State (2-2, 1-1 SWAC)
Saturday, October 9, 3:00 PM (Bounce 12.2)
Even though both teams are coming off losses last week, neither is technically out of contention for their respective divisional title hopes. But a win this week would be beneficial.
I would anticipate Coach Hill-Eley to attack that UAPB rush defense, which is yielding 216 YPG, but what a difference a few months makes. Averaging 153 YPG on the ground in the spring, ASU is now putting up 60 yards less in the fall. This decline in the run game, along with averaging 13 PPG this fall, has led to the departure of ASU offensive coordinator Joe Blackwell.
If the Hornets can’t get their offense going, look for the second-highest scoring offense, led by QB Skylar Perry and RB Kierre Crossley, to take advantage. If they do, Hornet Nation will have a long homecoming.
Golden Lions 27, Hornets 13
Grambling State (2-3, 1-1 SWAC) at Alcorn State (2-2, 1-0 SWAC)
Saturday, October 9, 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
Yeah, I didn’t expect much from Grambling last week. Who knew that freshman QB Noah Bodden would pass for 3 TDs in his first start and that the Tigers defense would force five turnovers? Well, it looks like Coach Fobbs had an idea.
“We knew how talented Noah was,” says Fobbs. “We wanted to make sure that we were focused on we took care of him as a young kid. Noah got here in the second week in July. It would have been unfair to throw him in there against (Southern Miss) and (Houston).”
Well, it doesn’t get any easier this week for the G-Men, as they face a rested Alcorn State team coming off a bye. Braves QB Felix Harper has seemingly rebounded since their loss against NCCU, tallying 837 pass yards and 5 total touchdowns in their last three games. Look for Coach McNair, who is 1-4 against Grambling, to find ways to defend that Tiger pass rush which has amassed 14 sacks and forced 5 INTs so far this season.
Braves 30, Tigers 24
Jackson State (3-1, 0-0) at Alabama A&M (3-1, 1-1)
Saturday, October 9, 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
So, you’re telling me that the nation’s sixth-best offense and eighth-best defense will face off at Alabama A&M’s Homecoming!??! Did you say that Glass & Sanders, the two best signal-callers in the SWAC, will meet for the first and only time in their collegiate careers?!? And there’s beef between the two head coaches!??! You don’t have to say anything more to me to watch this one!
Two keys for both teams. JSU, which is currently averaging 19 PPG, will need QB Shedeur Sanders and that Tiger offense to perform better against that porous Bulldog defense that allows 35 PPG. Coming off a five-turnover outing, QB Aqeel Glass will have to do a better job taking care of the ball and he’ll have to be protected against the best pass rush in the SWAC.
Get your five-stars and foot scooters ready!
Bulldogs 24, Tigers 21
Mississippi Valley State (1-3, 0-1) at Bethune-Cookman (0-5, 0-2)
Saturday, October 9, 5:00 PM (CatEye Network)
Starting 0-5 for the first time since 2016, things have been rough for Bethune Cookman, but it’s time to celebrate. It’s Homecoming in Daytona! Bring on MVSU!
Yes, the Delta Devils are often perceived as “cupcakes” by opponents, and that presumption hasn’t been ignored by MVSU head coach Vincent Dancy.
“We’re the guys that everyone checks as a win in preseason, and we know this,” says Dancy, but this won’t be an easy win for Bethune.
These are two of the worst defenses in the SWAC, allowing 456 yards and 40 points per game between the two of them. Hey Wildcats, you want your first win of the year? Avoid another slow start. Three times this season, Coach Sims’ offense has scoring seven points or less in the first half. Look for BCU RB Que’Shaun Byrd to score early and often against an MVSU defense that yields 23 PPG over the first two quarters.
Wildcats 24, Delta Devils 20
Southern (2-2, 1-0 SWAC) at Texas Southern (0-3, 0-1 SWAC)
Saturday, October 9, 5:00 PM
Southern head coach Jason Rollins was very complimentary of Texas Southern this week, saying that they’re “very explosive” and “sound on defense.” Sadly, the stats say otherwise.
Yes, the Tigers earned their first win of 2021 last week (against a non-countable opponent, as deemed by the NCAA), but that “sound” defense Coach Rollins is referring to is currently averaging a nation’s worst 606.7 YPG and next-to-last 51.3PPG.
“At our core, we’re a run-first team,” says Rollins. Welp, that means the nation’s worst rush defense will see a lot of that Jaguar ground game, led by RBs Devon Benn and Kobe Dillion.
Jaguars 35, Tigers 7