Three weeks. A mere 21 days away before the postseason fate for FCS HBCUs will be decided. As the third quarter of the year is coming to an end, we’re starting to get a better idea of who will and who won’t be competing for their respective conference crowns.
If it was your homecoming last week, chances are it was ruined. Just like the lofty expectations of a few teams.
This week, Homecoming Season for as Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T, and Tennessee State while the championship hopes for a few teams continue to improve.
Bethune-Cookman and Prairie View A&M will be on byes this weekend, which gives me 11 games on this week’s slate to preview.
8-1. That was my record with my picks last weekend. Depending on how well you know me, that incorrect pick was disappointing for several reasons, but I am 56-29 overall this year.
Wanna see who I picked this week? Well, let’s go.
Hampton (3-4, 1-2 Big South) vs. Robert Morris (2-4, 1-2 Big South)
Saturday, October 30, Noon (ESPN3)
The Pirates avoided their first four-game losing streak with their victory over North Carolina A&T last weekend and look to return to .500 when they travel to Pittsburgh.
Both teams rank at the bottom of the conference defensively, allowing over 30 PPG a piece. This could be a shoot-out IF the Colonials can find a way to put up more than their weekly average of 19 points.
All eyes should be on Hampton QB Jett Duffy to have a big game. Last week. the senior from Mansfield, TX racked up over 300 total yards of offense and two touchdowns for the third time this season.
Pirates 31, Colonials 17
Monmouth (4-3, 3-0) vs. North Carolina A&T (3-4, 2-2)
Saturday, October 30, 1:00 PM (ESPN+)
It’s easy to say that preseason expectations for the Aggies have yet to be and probably won’t be achieved. Currently on a two-game losing streak, A&T has looked bad in areas that were supposed to have been their strengths, running the ball and defense.
North Carolina A&T has suffered a lot of injuries and inconsistent play in recent weeks. These setbacks have led to the Aggies getting outscored 44-9 during this stretch, while their usually stout rushing attack which averaged 191 YPG in their first five contests has compiled a total of 122 yards over the last two weeks.
“If I was able to put a finger on it, we’d be running the ball better than what we’re doing,” said Coach Washington when asked about his team’s current struggles.
Well, the Aggies better figure out how to resolve these issues quickly. According to Coach Washington, “a very good football team” is coming to town and A&T just might get embarrassed on their homecoming.
Hawks 27, Aggies 17
South Carolina State (3-4, 2-0 MEAC) vs. North Carolina Central (3-4, 1-0 MEAC)
Saturday, October 30, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Somebody’s “0” (in conference play) gotta go this weekend in Durham.
The Bulldogs have won back-to-back games for the first time this season, but it hasn’t been pretty. Yes, SCSU has held their last two opponents to a total of 21 points, but their run game has been anemic. Averaging a paltry 2.3 yards per carry over their last two wins, SCSU head coach Buddy Pough understands that his team must figure out how to run the ball better.
“[That] Trei Oliver-style defense [which will] match up against our poor little guys that can’t seem to move the ball very much [has had] great success over the years against us,” says Pough.
It won’t get any easier this week for the Bulldogs when they face the MEAC’s Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week inside O’Kelly-Riddick.
Eagles 17, Bulldogs 14.
Morgan State (0-7, 0-3) vs. Norfolk State (5-2, 1-0)
Saturday, October 30, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Norfolk QB Juwan Carter has looked phenomenal during the Spartans’ first five-game win streak since 2011. The dual-threat QB has 17 total touchdowns against non-FCS opponents this year, which includes completing 89.7% of his passes for 332 yards and one touchdown against Howard last Saturday.
One of the more preeminent scoring offenses in the nation – 14th-best, to be exact — just might have its way against the worst scoring defense in the MEAC. If the Bears can, somehow, figure out a way to stop Carter, the Spartans have tallied 1,229 yards on the ground during their current win streak.
Pick your poison because NSU head coach Dawson Odums knows that his team will “play well at home.”
Spartans 38, Bears 6
Howard (2-5, 1-1) vs. Delaware State (3-4, 0-1)
Saturday, October 30, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Both teams are coming off tough homecoming losses but look to stay in the hunt for the MEAC crown, with a win and some help, when Howard travels to Dover this weekend.
These programs will look to clean up the respective mistakes they made last week but when you look at their offensive stats, you’ll see what I’ve called “A Tale of Two Halves”.
Except for their overtime win over Wagner, where they scored 26 points after halftime, DSU struggles to score points the second half averaging just under 8 PPG. Conversely, the Bison tend to start games slowly offensively while finishing games strong.
Ever since their Week 2 loss to Maryland, Howard has scored 89 total points in the second half of games against their last five opponents as opposed to 39 in the first.
Bison 28, Hornets 20
Murray State (3-4, 0-2 OVC) vs. Tennessee State (4-3, 2-1 OVC)
Saturday, October 30, 6:00 PM (ESPN+)
TSU head coach Eddie George has heard “ever since” a lot this season when people talk about his program. If they continue to play this way, they’ll hear it a few more times.
The Tigers have won three-in-a-row, the first streak of its kind for TSU since 2017. Even though their game against Austin Peay didn’t count in their conference standings, this is their first three-game win streak against conference opponents since 2013 (the last time the Tigers made the FCS Playoffs). Last week’s win over Eastern Illinois was the Tigers’ first shutout against an FCS opponent since 2016. The only thing stopping them from celebrating a four-game win streak at Homecoming this weekend is a Murray State team that has yet to win a conference game.
Will the OVC’s worst rush defense be able to contain the TSU ground game, led by RB Devon Starling and QB Geremy Hickbottom? Last week, the two combined for 160 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
Tigers 24, Racers 20
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-6, 0-4 SWAC) vs. Texas Southern (1-5, 1-3 SWAC)
Saturday, October 30, 3:00 PM (ESPN+/AT&T Sportsnet)
“Just two teams trying to find another win,” was UAPB head coach Doc Gamble’s description of this week’s contest between two teams that have a combined record of 2-11.
Even though the Golden Lions just played in the SWAC Title Game in the spring, this is what was expected of UAPB and TSU this preseason with both teams picked to finish in the bottom of the West Division.
Unfortunately, UAPB’s been dealing with injuries while attempting to return to form from just a few months ago. Texas Southern has had a hard time finishing games even though, offensively, they have been able to move the ball. TSU has totaled 1,874 yards of offense in their last four games against “countable opponents” while QB Andrew Body has led this young Tigers offense, averaging 349.5 total yards during that stretch.
This game has the key elements of seeing a lot of yards piled up by both offenses. UAPB and TSU both allow 429 YPG against SWAC opponents.
Tigers 27, Golden Lions 21
Alabama State (3-3, 2-2) vs. Alabama A&M (3-3, 1-3)
Saturday, October 30, 3:30 PM (ESPN3)
You know the clichés as it pertains to rivalries.
“It’s going to be a sixty-minute game!” Unless it goes into overtime, all football games are sixty minutes…but we get your point.
“Throw the records out the door!” Well, the way things look right now, both head coaches just might want to throw their respective records away from this season and start all over. Since they can’t, the next best thing is to get a “dub” over their biggest rival at The Magic City Classic.
“Whoever gets the ball last will win the game!” AAMU’s Connell Maynor may have a point with that one. Late game mishaps have led to two of their last three conference games, an Aqeel Glass INT with 2:20 remaining in their loss to Grambling and the AAMU defense allowing an eighty-yard game-losing TD run against FAMU.
If it is left to the Bulldog defense, which has allowed over 39 PPG this season, they might be in trouble. But ASU has scored 14 points or less four times in six games this year. Will they be able to keep pace will AAMU’s offense if they happen to return to form?
Bulldogs 24, Hornets 21
Grambling State (3-4, 2-2) vs. Florida A&M (5-2, 3-1)
Saturday, October 30, 4:00 PM (ESPN+)
These two Blue Bloods of HBCU Football will face off at Florida A&M’s Homecoming. Their first meeting in 21 years, this is only the sixteenth time these storied programs have faced one another, but the first time ever as members of the SWAC.
Still in contention for the conference crown, both teams badly need a win and some help.
Facing Rattler DE Isaiah Land (11.5 sacks) and the nation’s ninth-ranked defense will be a tough task. Grambling has struggled to move the ball, averaging a conference-low 263.3 YPG against SWAC opponents this season while only scoring eight touchdowns in those four contests.
“[GSU QB Noah Bodden] is going to play against a Top Ten defense. They are good at what they do. They get after the quarterback,” says Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs.
But the thing that could decide this game is if the Tigers can slow down FAMU RB Bishop Bonnett. The redshirt senior out of Jacksonville has tallied 445 yds and two touchdowns on 48 carries over the last three games.
Rattlers 30, Tigers 17
#16 Jackson State (6-1, 4-0) vs. Mississippi Valley State (2-5, 1-3)
Saturday, October 30, 4:00 PM (MVSU Athletics YouTube)
Deion Sanders. Gary Harrell. Ed Gennero. Hayden Fox. Danny O’Shea. Doesn’t really matter who coaches the Tigers at this point, they’ll find ways to roll over their opponents every week. My fictional coach selections might be a little hyperbolic, but last week’s win was the first for the JSU Running Backs Coach as a head coach since 2016.
JSU QB Shedeur Sanders continues to develop. Against Bethune Cookman, the true freshman from Canton, Tx had his best outing of the year, passing for 309 yards while being responsible for all the tigers’ offensive TDs (5).
Traditional doormat MVSU’s point differential over the past four games is -8, but can Delta Devil QB Jalani Eason and RB Caleb Johnson find ways to keep their matchup against this Top Five defense close?
Tigers 38, Delta Devils 12
Alcorn State (5-2, 4-0) vs. Southern (3-4, 2-2)
Saturday, October 30, 7:00 PM (ESPN+)
The sixth of eight road games for Alcorn this season, Coach Fred McNair’s boys are 4-1 so far when they are the “visitors”.
The Braves will bring their Triplets to Baton Rouge – QB Felix Harper, RB Niko Duffey, and WR LeCharles Pringle. Southern head coach Jason Collins knows that he must try and stop all three, but he (along with McNair) may want to shift their focus defensively to stopping the ground game. Southern and Alcorn are ranked 1-2 in rushing offense respectively against SWAC opponents. “[Southern’s] been able to run the ball for a long time. It’s not only this year, they’ve been doing that in years past,” says McNair. The question is, will the Jags offense be able to extend drives against the Braves?
In their last two games, Southern has converted 3rd Downs 24% of the time (7-of-29). It might not get any easier against Alcorn, who has allowed opponents to convert 3rd Downs at 27.5%.
Braves 30, Jaguars 24