Welcome to Point/Counterpoint! Our FCS Debate Club publishes every Friday throughout the summer. Two of our three lead writers will take opposing viewpoints and argue about an issue of national significance in the realm of FCS Football. When it's all said and done, you can vote on who you think is right.
Question Five: Will we get a rematch in the Celebration Bowl between North Carolina A&T and Grambling State?
Brian: Yes, We Will
Either North Carolina A&T or Grambling State have won each of the first three Celebration Bowls, and I'm pretty sure that streak won't be ending in 2018. I think they're both going to make it back to the big game this December.
At first glance, some people might question the selection of Grambling, which lost two of the best players at the FCS level — Martez Carter and Devante Kincade. But if you make that assumption, you're not looking at the bigger picture. The Tigers return the best defensive player in the SWAC (De'Arius Christmas) and 10 preseason first-team All-SWAC performers and another 5 on second-team. That's 15 preseason All-SWAC selections, folks.
The cupboard is not dry in Grambling, La. While Alcorn State does look mighty good this year, it's just flat out not going to be easy to score on the Tigers in 2018. Just watch. In fact, I'd predict that this is the method in which the Tigers will win games — squeezing the life out of the opposition.
When it comes to the MEAC, that conference as a whole actually looks stronger than it did in 2017. Howard, Central and Bethune-Cookman were all good last year, while Florida A&M has a fresh feel to it. Even Norfolk State — which gave a couple of MEAC schools fits last year — looks like it might ruin somebody's day.
Well, nobody is going to ruin North Carolina A&T's day. The MEAC collective may be stronger, and things may change a bit in 2019, but the Aggies look like a monster again with QB Lamar Raynard leading the way. Their first two non-MEAC opponents — Jacksonville State and East Carolina — are going to have their hands full.
I think we're staring at another Grambling-North Carolina A&T matchup in the Celebration Bowl, folks. I know that's a boring prediction. It's a bit like when everybody predicted North Dakota State and James Madison to meet up in the FCS title game six months ago, right?
But guess what? That's exactly what happened.
If anybody train wrecks this prediction, kudos to them. I'll go ahead and say the program with the biggest chance to play spoiler is Alcorn. But I'm finding even that hard to envision. These two favorites are loaded.
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Chase Kiddy: No, We Won't
If you're giving me an option versus the field, I'm almost always going to take the field. That holds true here, where A&T and Grambling are certainly favorites to win their respective conferences, but not in such a prohibitive manner that the field should be disregarded.
I'll start with North Carolina A&T. The Aggies are understandable favorites in the MEAC, with Preseason Player of the Year Lamar Raynard leading the offense. Between the two favorites, this is probably the safer pick, but considering the turnover the team has sustained at the line of scrimmage, even NCAT isn't above reproach. Brilliant though he might be, Raynard could struggle with a younger, less experienced line in front of him.
Grambling is the more likely weak link here, as the Tigers lose their two biggest playmakers in Kincade and Carter. In an intriguing twist on last season, Alcorn State — the clear favorite to win the SWAC's eastern division — has the First-Team players at quarterback (Noah Johnson) and runningback (P.J. Simmons). Simmons is the conference's Offensive Player of the Year, just as Kincade was in 2017.
Grambling certainly has the better defense between the two, placing five players (including preseason Player of the Year De'Arius Christmas) on the conference's First Team. But offense often rules the day in the SWAC, and that could give Alcorn a slight advantage in 2018.
All of this is just factoring in foreseeable obstacles. Every year, unforeseeable obstacles nearly always pop up.
Grambling and A&T are rightful favorites, but a Celebration Bowl rematch seems statistically unlikely.
What do you think?