Non-conference play, for the most part, is over and much to the delight of many teams – particularly those that struggled in the early part of their schedules – conference play begins in earnest this week.
At 7-8, Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) teams have the best non league record headed into the meat of their conference schedules.
In the Southwestern Athletic Conference, no team posted a winning record in out-of-conference games. Grambling State’s 1-1 finish was the best mark. The G-Men, after a win Saturday vs. Jackson State, are 2-1 overall.
In the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), 3-0 North Carolina A&T has emerged with the only winning record in non-league play. North Carolina Central and South Carolina State have 1-1 marks against outside competition.
Undefeated Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) teams Bowie State (3-0) and Virginia State (2-0) are both 1-0 in non-conference play. The rest of the league is 4-16 out of the CIAA.
Here are the key games in match ups this week.
It looks as if BCSP No. 9 Southern (1-2) will again be without starting senior quarterback Austin Howard when it travels (6 p.m.) to BCSP No. 5 Alcorn State (1-2) Saturday. Howard has missed the last two games with a injury to his knee (PCL) and is not expected to play. The Jaguars have played two freshmen at quarterback in losses to FBS foes the last two weeks.
Defending champion and BCSP No. 3 Grambling State (2-1, 1-0 SWAC) in on the road vs. winless (0-2) Mississippi Valley State. Grambling is 22nd nationally in both the FCS Coaches and STATS Top 25s.
Elsewhere, teams searching for their initial wins include BCSP No. 8 Prairie View A&M (0-2) at (7 p.m.) Alabama State (0-2) and Texas Southern (0-2) at (6 p.m.) Alabama A&M (0-2).
Also, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-2) plays (6 p.m.) at Jackson State (0-3).
The top MEAC game this week involves BCSP No. 7 South Carolina State and defending champion, BCSP No. 4 North Carolina Central who both come in with 1-1 records for their meeting Thursday (7:30 p.m. on ESPNU) in Durham, N.C.
Both teams suffered opening week losses, NCCU to Duke 60-7 and SCSU to Southern 14-8, before handily shutting out Div. II CIAA members by 41-0 scores in their second games.
The game will go a long way to determining which of the teams will be a factor in this year’s MEAC race. Both are breaking in relatively new quarterbacks in NCCU’s Micah Zanders and SCSU’s Dewann Ford.
The other big game to watch is BCSP No. 6 Bethune-Cookman at Howard in a match of teams with 1-2 records in Washington, D.C. (1 p.m).
Howard and B-CU both have big wins on their resumes. The Bison travelled to Las Vegas and knocked off FBS member UNLV 42-40 to open the season while B-CU went into Southeast Louisiana and pulled off a 28-23 win on Sept. 9. Both are coming off tough losses last week as Howard was humbled by Richmond, 68-21 while B-CU was shut out by Florida Atlantic, 45-0.
The game will match the experience of a B-CU team led by senior quarterback Larry Brihm and key veterans at other skill positions vs. the young Howard program under first-year head coach Mike London with freshman QB Caylin Newton at the controls.
In other games, the undefeated Aggies of N. C. A&T, ranked as high as 15th nationally in the FCS Coaches Poll (see STAT CORNER) and first in the BCSP ranking, invade winless (0-3) Morgan State (7 p.m.).
Norfolk State (0-3) and Delaware State (0-3, 0-1 MEAC) meet in Dover, Del. with each team looking for its first win. Florida A&M (1-2) is at (6 p.m.) Savannah State (0-2).
Hampton (2-1, 1-0 MEAC) is the only team playing out of conference hosting (2 p.m.) Monmouth (2-1).
Morehouse (2-1, 2-0 SIAC) is at (5 p.m.) Miles (1-2, 1-0), Benedict (2-1, 1-0) is at (2 p.m.) Fort Valley State (0-2, 0-1) in an East Division showdown and Clark Atlanta (2-1, 1-1) plays at (2 p.m) Lane (1-2, 0-2).
Tuskegee (2-1, 1-1) and Albany State (2-1, 1-0) have out-of-conference affairs at Findlay (1 p.m.) and West Georgia (2 p.m.) respectively.
The big CIAA game will have defending champion Winston-Salem State (2-1, 1-0 CIAA) visiting undefeated (2-0) Virginia State at 7 p.m. VSU was off last week while WSSU survived in a 21-20 win over Virginia Union.
The game pits the league’s top two rushers in WSSU’s Kerrion Moore (148.5 yards per game) and VSU’s Trenton Cannon (138.3 ypg.).
Also, undefeated BCSP No. 10 Bowie State (3-0) hosts (6 p.m.) Shaw (1-2). The Bears are coming off a non-conference win vs. Malone where QB Vidal Woodruff threw for 317 yards and three TDs. He will be going up against BSU QB Amir Hall who threw six TD passes a week ago vs. St. Augustine’s and has 888 yards and 11 TD passes thru three games.
Elsewhere, Fayetteville State (1-2) is at (1 p.m.) Virginia Union (1-2), Johnson C. Smith (0-3) is at (6 p.m.) Elizabeth City State (2-1) and St. Augustine’s visits (5 p.m.) Lincoln in a battle of 0-3 teams.
BCSP No. 2 Tennessee State (3-0) is on the road (2 p.m., OVC Digital Network) to begin Ohio Valley Conference play at UT-Martin (2-1).