With seven teams still in the hunt for the Cricket Celebration Bowl, there are plenty of intriguing matchups as we enter the final full week of the 2023 HBCU FCS regular season.
While Florida A&M awaits their potential opponent for the SWAC Championship on Dec. 2, three teams from both the SWAC’s West Division (Alcorn State, Grambling State, Prairie View A&M) and the MEAC (Howard, Morgan State, North Carolina Central) still have their hopes alive.
If, somehow, Alcorn State or Prairie View A&M can’t wrap things up this weekend, we’ll have to wait until November 25th to see if the Tigers can win the Bayou Classic and back their way into their first championship game appearance since 2017.
Until then, Grambling State and Southern are on byes while postseason hopes will be on the line this weekend.
Here are my top five matchups and predictions for this week.
2023 record: 107-35
Week 10: 8-4
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Week 12 FCS HBCU Top 5 Games
All times are Eastern Standard
5. Hampton (5-5, 3-4) at Elon (5-5, 5-2), Saturday, 1:00 PM (FloSports)
Two .500 teams in the CAA that have hopes of finishing the season with a winning record don’t seem that intriguing on paper. But when you compare it to four matchups between sub-.500 programs (even though one of those games is legendary head coach Buddy Pough’s finale), what should be an easy win for Florida A&M in the Florida Classic, and Eddie George looking to lead Tennessee State to their first seven-win season against a three-win team, I decided to go with Hampton/Elon in what will be their second ever meeting. If the Pirates want to go 2-0 all-time against the Phoenix, they can’t be careless with the ball. William & Mary would score after all five Hampton turnovers in their 31-10 win over the Pirates last week.
Phoenix 27, Pirates 21
4. Delaware State (1-9, 0-4) at #17 North Carolina Central (8-2, 3-1), Saturday, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
North Carolina Central still has post-season aspirations as they look to rebound after last week’s loss. A win on Saturday will continue their season, the question is where? If Howard loses, the Eagles will return to Atlanta as MEAC Champions. A Bison victory means Central could participate in the FCS Playoffs for the first time in program history. A loss here could end the Eagles’ season. Even though NCCU has won eight of their last nine contests against Delaware State, victory isn’t inevitable. Their previous three matchups were one-possession wins, and NCCU’s starting offensive line is depleted due to injuries.
Eagles 35, Hornets 10
3. Alcorn State (6-4, 5-2) at Jackson State (7-3, 5-2), Saturday, 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
Looking to rebound after having their five-game win streak snapped by Texas Southern, the Braves will need to win and have Prairie View lose to earn their first-ever West Division title. Both teams enter this year’s Soul Bowl winning four games apiece over their last eight meetings. After allowing 44 points and 499 total yards last week, Alcorn’s defense turns its focus toward Jackson State quarterback Jacobian Morgan. The Tiger QB has compiled 781 total yards, ten touchdowns, and one interception during JSU’s last three victories.
Tigers 27, Braves 21
2. Alabama State (6-3, 5-2) at Prairie View A&M (5-5, 5-2), Saturday, 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
No one expected Prairie View to be here at the beginning of the season. The Panthers were predicted to finish fifth in the West this preseason. On Saturday, they will be one win away from advancing to the SWAC Title Game for the second time in three seasons. The good news, the Panthers have won eight straight against Alabama State. However, the nation’s second-best scoring defense has held their opponents to 11.6 points per game during their five-game win streak.
Hornets 24, Panthers 10
1. Morgan State (4-5, 3-1) at Howard (5-5, 3-1), Saturday, 1:00 PM (ESPN+)
This could very well be the first time that the fate of the MEAC Football Championship will be decided by two teams from the Mid-Atlantic. A Howard win will send the Bison to Atlanta for the first time ever. A Morgan State win coupled with an NCCU loss, and the Bears will become MEAC Champs for the first time since 2014. If Morgan is to end Howard’s five-game win streak in the series, they will have to rattle quarterback Quinton Williams. The Bison signal-caller has not turned the ball over while passing for 653 yards and scoring seven total touchdowns over his last three starts.
Bison 24, Bears 21
South Carolina State (4-6. 2-2) at Norfolk State (3-7, 1-3), Saturday, 2:00 PM (ESPN+)
Spartans 24, Bulldogs 17
Mississippi Valley State (1-9, 1-6) at Alabama A&M (4-6, 2-5), Thursday, 7:00 PM
Bulldogs 31, Delta Devils 10
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-9, 0-7) at Texas Southern (3-7, 2-5), Saturday, 3:00 (HBCU GO)
Tigers 28, Golden Lions 13
Bethune-Cookman (3-7, 2-5) vs. #11 Florida A&M (9-1, 7-0), Saturday, 3:30 PM (ESPNU)
Rattlers 35, Wildcats 17
Tennessee Tech (3-7, 1-4) at Tennessee State (6-4, 2-3) Saturday, 3:00 PM (ESPN+)
Tigers 28, Golden Eagles 10
Campbell (4-6, 3-4) at North Carolina A&T (1-9, 0-7), Saturday, 1:00 PM (FloSports)
Camels 30, Aggies 28