We are now just 28 days away from the end of the regular season. A five-game sprint to see who will become their respective league’s champion and if there will be an HBCU to earn an at-large bid in this year’s FCS playoffs.
This week, Homecoming Season continues as Delaware State, Howard, Morgan State, and Southern will get an opportunity to celebrate as we go one week deeper into intraleague play.
I was under the weather last week but was able to go 8-2 with my picks (48-28 overall).
Arkansas-Pine Bluff will be facing #17-ranked Arkansas, while Alabama A&M, Alabama State, and Grambling State will be on byes this weekend which leaves me with nine games on this week’s slate.
Wanna see who I picked this week? Well, let’s go.
North Carolina A&T (3-3, 2-1 Big South) vs. Hampton (2-4, 0-2)
Saturday, October 23, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Former MEAC foes will be meeting for the first time as Big South rivals when the Aggies travel to Hampton this Saturday.
Still in the hunt for the Big South title, both programs are looking to rebound after their respective losses last week, scoring a combined five points between the two of them.
Recent history favors the Aggies in this matchup, winning three straight between 2014-2016. During that span, A&T has outscored Hampton 107-54, but that’s in the past.
This weekend, the key matchup in this game will be the conference’s second-best run offense versus the league’s second-best run defense. Look for the Pirates ground game, led by RB Elijah Burris, to take advantage of a defense that allowed 222 yards rushing last week. A&T head coach Sam Washington has referred to Hampton as a “big, powerful, and explosive team.”
Aggies 24, Pirates 13
Norfolk State (4-2, 0-0 MEAC) vs. Howard (2-4, 1-0 MEAC)
Saturday, October 23, 1:00 PM (ESPN3/10:30 PM ESPNU)
Howard is facing the possibility of winning three-in-a-row for the first time since 2014 when they face the Spartans this weekend at the HBCU spectacle that is Howard’s Homecoming.
Bison head coach Larry Scott understands if they are to achieve this feat, they must slow down Norfolk’s field general.
“We know how good [Juwan Carter] is,” Scott said of the redshirt senior from Richmond who currently leads the MEAC in total offense. Last week, Carter accounted for 274 total yards and 3 touchdowns in Norfolk’s homecoming win.
In actuality, the entire Spartan offense is pretty good. Statistically, NSU is the best unit in the MEAC in both total (434 YPG) and scoring (34.3 PPG) offense. That could be problematic for a defense that allows over 30 points and 400 yards per game to their opponents.
Spartans 38, Bison 21
North Carolina Central (2-4, 0-0) vs. Morgan State (0-6, 0-2)
Saturday, October 23, 1:00 PM (ESPN+)
After being on the road four times over the past five weeks, the Bears are returning to Baltimore to face NCCU for their Homecoming.
For the first time since 1998, Morgan State has started the season 0-6 while the Eagles will come into this matchup riding a three-game losing streak of their own. The good news is someone must win, but the question is how many points will be scored?
With a combined 154 points scored this season between both programs (just three more than Delaware State), these are two of the worst scoring offenses in the nation.
If NCCU wants to avoid going on a four-game losing streak for the first time since 2011, they “gotta score more points,” says head coach Trei Oliver.
Even though Oliver believes that the Bears defense — which allows 35.3 PPG — is “sound,” he understands their offense turns the ball over a lot. Currently, with a turnover margin of -1.33 per game, MSU is ranked 115th in the nation in that statistical category.
Coach Wheatley’s team could very well be the first Bears team to start a season 0-7 since 1991.
Eagles 20, Bears 10
South Carolina State (2-4, 1-0) vs. Delaware State (3-3, 0-0)
Saturday, October 23, 2:00 PM (ESPN3)
With their best start to a season since 2012 (3-3), the Hornets will welcome SCSU to Dover for their first intraleague matchup which, coincidentally, is Delaware State’s homecoming.
The conference’s best pass defense will look to slow down SCSU QB Cory Fields, Jr, who tallied 284 total yards of offense while scoring three touchdowns last week. On defense, the Bulldogs will have to find ways to slow down the league’s best rusher, DSU RB Sy’Veon Wilkerson (529 YDS, 7 TDs).
“[Saturday’s game will come] down to coaching and who makes the fewest mistakes,” says Hornet head coach Rod Milstead.
Surprisingly enough, DSU leads the MEAC in team interception (9), turnover margin (+6), sacks (18), and time of possession (34:18 AVG/G) while SCSU has been penalized 72.5 YPG this season. If the Hornets can continue to close games out — averaging 17 points in the second half over their last two games – DSU might get their first win over Coach Pough since 2017.
Bulldogs 31, Hornets 28
Tennessee State (3-3, 1-1 OVC) vs. Eastern Illinois (1-6, 1-2 OVC)
Saturday, October 23, 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
After defeating Tennessee Tech in overtime last week, the Tigers have won back-to-back games for the first time since 2018.
This week, TSU will take a five-hour bus ride to Charleston, IL to face Eastern Illinois at their homecoming.
Yes, EIU only has one win this season, but Tiger head coach Eddie George lets us know that “[he doesn’t] look at their record, [he] look[s] at their energy.” That Panther enthusiasm can be seen on the defensive side of the ball.
The OVC’s best pass defense, led by DLs Tim Varga (4.0 sacks) and Jordan Miles (3.5 sacks), will focus on pressuring Tiger QB Geremy Hickbottom.
Tigers 21, Panthers 17
Bethune-Cookman (0-7, 0-4) vs. #20 Jackson State (5-1, 3-0)
Saturday, October 23, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
1996. That’s the last time the Wildcats have lost seven straight games. The last year BCU has started a season 0-7? 1993. And things won’t get any easier for Coach Sims’ squad as they travel to Jackson to face the 20th-ranked team in the nation.
Surprised by his team’s sluggish start to the season, Coach Sims believes that BCU is beating themselves. “One game, it may be penalties. The next game, we’re not making plays at one position or another that we need to.”
The Wildcats haven’t necessarily had bad outings this season. In their matchups against FCS opponents, BCU has lost by an average of seven points over six games. Welp, the Wildcats will have to find ways to score against the FCS’s fourth-best scoring defense (12.2 PPG).
Now, this game isn’t as spicy as JSU vs. AAMU but the last time these two teams faced each other in 2019 in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, BCU won 36-15, and JSU mascot Wavee Dave infamously got into an altercation with a Wildcat defender. I think Dave wants retribution, but he’ll have to try and get it without their head coach.
Coach Sanders announced that he will not be with the team due to his recent foot surgery. Former Howard head coach and current JSU RBs coach Gary Harrell will act as head coach in Sanders’ absence.
Tigers 28, Wildcats 10
Florida A&M (4-2, 2-1 SWAC) vs. Mississippi Valley State (2-4, 1-2)
Saturday, October 23, 4:00 PM (Rattler Sports Network)
For the past three weeks, I’ve picked against the Rattlers. Conversely, FAMU has won all three of those matchups, and Rattler Nation has done its best to let me know about it.
This week, the Rattlers look to strike again and stay in the hunt for the SWAC East Division title race as they travel to Itta Bena to face MVSU.
With only one year of high school football experience under his belt, Rattler QB Resean McKay has continued to improve week after week, compiling 251 pass yards and three touchdowns in FAMU’s come from behind win over Alabama A&M last week.
MVSU had their two-game win streak snapped this past Saturday when they lost to Alcorn State, 24-12. Even though this is only the second time this season the Delta Devils have been held under 20 points by an FCS opponent, MVSU is ranked as the ninth-worst scoring offense in the nation (14.5 PPG).
Rattlers 31, Delta Devils 21
Prairie View A&M (5-1, 4-0) vs. Southern (3-3, 2-1)
Saturday, October 23, 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
It is homecoming in Baton Rouge and Southern will welcome a team they haven’t lost to since 2015 along with defeating them six out of their last seven matchups.
Going into what PVAMU head coach Eric Dooley has dubbed “a tough environment,” the Panthers will look to stay unbeaten in conference play, but a Jags victory could make next week’s game against Alcorn State very interesting.
“Well balanced” are the words Southern head coach Jason Rollins used to describe the SWAC’s best offense, which put up 35 points and amassed over 400 yards in their win over BCU last week. QB Jawon Pass compiled 304 total yards and three touchdowns, but that Panther defense gave up 498 yards to the Wildcats, 242 of which were on the ground. PVAMU cannot allow a similar outing by the SWAC’s best run offense.
SU racked up 332 rushing yards and three touchdowns against UAPB, led by RB Kobe Dillon with 268 yards off 14 carries and all three of the Jags rushing scores. Dillon’s record-setting performance led to him being named the Stats Perform FCS National Freshman Player of the Week and the SWAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Panthers 38, Southern 31
Alcorn State (4-2, 3-0) vs. Texas Southern (1-4, 1-2)
Saturday, October 23, 8:00 PM (AT&T Sportsnet)
Remember that MEAC/SWAC Challenge loss back in August? Neither does Alcorn.
The Braves are starting to look like the perennial favorites they were expected to be coming into the season, winning four straight games against FCS opponents.
TSU head coach Clarence McKinney anticipates that Saturday “won’t be easy,” when the Tigers will host an opponent they haven’t beaten since 2011.
Everyone loves to discuss Alcorn’s offense — led by OB Felix Harper, RB Niko Duffy, and WR Lecharles Pringle – and with good reason. Expect the Braves to explode offensively against the worst defense in the league.
Braves 38, Tigers 17