After last weekend’s results, you can add North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State to the list of teams advancing to postseason play.
NORTH CAROLINA A&T
The undefeated BCSP No. 1 Aggies defeated Savannah State 36-17 Saturday to move to 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference. The win not only earned head coach Rod Broadway and A&T no less than a share of the MEAC regular season title but also clinched a berth in Celebration Bowl III against the SWAC champion on Dec. 16 in Atlanta.
A&T’s win coupled with North Carolina Central’s last-second 13-10 loss to Bethune-Cookman and Howard’s 28-24 win over Norfolk State means only BCSP No. 5 Howard has a shot at tying the Aggies for the MEAC crown.
For that to happen, Howard (7-3, 6-1 MEAC) would have to win Saturday (1 p.m.) in its regular season finale at Hampton (5-5, 4-3) while A&T loses its season-ending rivalry game (1 p.m.) vs. NCCU (7-3, 5-2). A win by the Aggies gives them the outright MEAC crown.
This will be the fourth straight season A&T enters the season-ending game with NC Central with a chance to take the outright title. The Aggie have come up short three straight times.
In 2014, first-year NCCU head coach Jerry Mack led the Eagles to a 21-14 upset win in Durham over the Aggies that combined with several other results from that day to create a five-way tie for the MEAC title between A&T, NCCU, Bethune-Cookman, South Carolina State and Morgan State.
In 2015, the first year of the Celebration Bowl, Mack’s troops downed A&T 21-16 on the road in Greensboro resulting in a three-way tie for first place between A&T, NCCU and B-CU.
Despite the loss, A&T got the inaugural berth in the Celebration Bowl based on conference tie breaking procedures. A&T went on to win that first Celebration Bowl 41-34 over SWAC champion Alcorn State.
Last season, both teams came into the showdown in Durham undefeated (7-0) in conference play. NCCU downed the Aggies 42-21 to claim its first outright MEAC title and Celebration Bowl berth. The Eagles fell to SWAC champion Grambling State 10-9 in Celebration Bowl II.
So despite the fact that NCCU has no shot at a title this season, the Aggie-Eagle match up is still fraught with suspense.
Win and head coach Rod Broadway and the Aggies not only win their first outright title in his seven years leading the program but they get the proverbial monkey off their backs by beating their arch-rivals for the first time in four years. Lose, and well, it won’t be pretty.
Even a loss by A&T and win by Howard would not knock the Aggies out of the coveted bowl game in Atlanta. The Aggies (over Charlotte) and Bison (over UNLV) both have wins over FBS opponents but A&T has an outof-conference FCS win (over Gardner-Webb) while Howard does not have a non-conference FCS victory.
The MEAC tie-breaking procedure gives 4 points for an FBS win and 2 points for an out-ofconference FCS win. That formula gives A&T a 6-4 advantage over Howard. Howard and A&T did not meet in head-to-head competition this season, the first determinant in breaking a tie. There’s also plenty at stake in the Howard vs. Hampton match up.
Howard, picked in the preseason to finish eighth, can tie for the conference crown or finish alone in second place with a win in head coach Mike London’s first season. The Bison’s turnaround makes London a legitimate coach of the year candidate and freshman quarterback Caylin Newton, who has led the resurgence, a shoo in for league freshman of the year honors and a legit player of the year candidate.
Hampton and head coach Connell Maynor are vying for their second 6-5 overall record in the past three seasons.
The Bethune-Cookman (6-4, 5-2) vs. Florida A&M (3-7, 2-5) season-ending showdown at Orlando’s Florida Classic is also set for this Saturday (2 p.m.).
The BCSP No. 6 Braves of Alcorn State (7-3, 5-1 SWAC E) put up 746 yards of total offense in shutting out Mississippi Valley State 59-0 Saturday to claim its fourth straight SWAC East Division title and SWAC Championship Game berth.
It’s the second division crown in head coach Fred McNair’s two years at the helm of the Alcorn program. Last year McNair’s troops led West champion Grambling State 17-0 in the SWAC championship before losing 27-20. Grambling went on to post a 10-9 win over MEAC champ North Carolina Central in Celebration Bowl II.
Alcorn State closes out the regular season this week (2 p.m.) at Jackson State (2-8, 2-4). Alcorn’s championship game opponent will be the winner of the Grambling State/Southern showdown on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 25) in the New Orleans SuperDome at the Bayou Classic. Grambling (9-1, 6-0 W) and Southern (7-3, 5-1) are both off this week in advance of the division-deciding game.