Duane Nash is our resident HBCU expert and operator of The Yard-HBCU Sports. You can follow Duane — like 7,000 other big-time HBCU fans have — on Twitter @TheYardHBCU. Duane will give readers weekly insight into what teams will win the big games, which individuals are in contention for big honors … and much, much more.
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Here is Duane's take for this weekend's SWAC Title Game:
SWAC TITLE GAME
Southern (8-4) at Alcorn State (8-3), Saturday at 4 p.m. EST, ESPNU: Playing in the first weekend of December is a very familiar place for both Alcorn State and Southern. Since the creation of the SWAC Championship game in 1999, the Jaguars and Braves have appeared in the contest a combined 13 times, with at least one of these programs participating in the game since 2013.
This Saturday, the Jaguars will face the Braves in what will be a rematch of the 2018 Title Game, which Alcorn came from behind in the fourth quarter to earn a 37-28 victory. Both head coaches are looking to bring a second conference title back to their respective campuses under their tenure while earning a berth to the Celebration Bowl on December 21. Dawson Odums is looking to take Southern to Atlanta for the first time in the school’s history, while Fred McNair is eyeing a rematch with Sam Washington and the MEAC Champion North Carolina A&T Aggies. Dating back to 2012, Alcorn State has dominated Southern winning nine of their last ten matchups, including their 27-13 win at home earlier this season. That lone win by the Jags came in 2016, which was Coach McNair’s first season in Baton Rouge.
Forget the notion that it’s hard to beat a team twice in one season because, well, Alcorn has done that twice dating back to 2014. Even though the Braves have a current string of success against Southern, you would still have to believe that it must be difficult to prepare for a team that you have not only just faced on the field just five weeks ago, but an opponent you will see for a fourth time in two seasons this Saturday. Preview Stop the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year. Easier said than done.
This season, redshirt junior Fred Harper, who has only thrown a combined 39 passes in his career at Alcorn before taking over the reins at quarterback this September, has been impressive. The redshirt junior from Baton Rouge has scored a combined 33 touchdowns with five interceptions in nine starts. Harper also has seven games this season with at least 250 yards passing. The Jaguars defensive unit, which includes All-SWAC performers LB Calvin Lunkins, DB Tamaurice Smith and DLs Jordan Lewis and Joe Davis, look to lead the nations 12th ranked Red Zone Defense against Alcorn RB De’Shawn Waller and Harper, who threw for 277 yards and accounted for all three Braves touchdowns in their game. Ironically enough, all three scores came in the Red Zone. 13 for 20, 114 yards and a touchdown.
That was Ladarius Skelton’s passing stat line the last time these two teams faced one another in October. Since then, the quarterback that Fred McNair has referred to as “strong” and “very physical” had his four best statistical games this season, averaging 298 total yards and accounting for 13 touchdowns for the Jaguars. During this stretch, the nation’s 13th ranked rushing offense, led by Skelton and All-SWAC performer RB Devon Benn, averaged 298 rushing yards and 40 points per game.
However, the Braves, led by All-SWAC LB Solomon Muhammad, have the best rushing defense in the SWAC as well as the 12th ranked scoring defense in the nation, allowing 19 points per game to SWAC opponents. Considered as the leader of the Braves’ defense, Muhammad, who according to McNair “hasn’t played up to his potential yet”, averaged 8.6 total tackles per game this season. The SWAC’s top-ranked defense will look to keep the Jags Offense off the field by shortening the drives of the team that ranks 11th in the nation in First Downs, 6th in the nation in 3rd Down Conversions and 8th nationally in 4th Down Conversions.
Duane's Pick: Alcorn State 35, Southern 30: This will be a close game by the two best teams in the SWAC this season. Home field advantage will benefit Alcorn this weekend. The Braves are 6-0 at “The Reservation” this season and are 6-1 in their last seven games against Southern in Lorman.
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