All four HBCU conferences completed their preseason football events in July where prognostications for the 2017 top players and teams were unveiled.
We are finishing the BCSP conference previews this week with the CIAA and the MEAC. You’ll find some picks here you didn’t find at or in the preseason media events!
Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA)
The most intriguing thing about the CIAA is the race for supremacy in the Northern Division.
Virginia Union, Virginia State, Chowan and Bowie State staged a spirited battle in the North last year with Bowie State emerging with the title for the second straight year.
The Northern Division champ has however had a tough time getting by the South Division champ, namely Winston-Salem State, who has won the last five South titles.
The Rams have won four of the last five championship games played including the last two over Bowie State. The title game was cancelled in 2013.
Fayetteville State, under second-year head coach Richard Hayes, a former WSSU assistant, is gaining ground on the Rams in the South but don’t expect the Broncos to overtake them this year.
The North should be a two-team race between Bowie State and Virginia State. We’re predicting that the Trojans, who finished 9-2 a year ago in head coach Reggie Barlow’s first season and lost 38-37 to BSU, to supplant the Bulldogs atop the Northern Division and then unseat WSSU as CIAA kingpin.
Mid Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC)
North Carolina Central and North Carolina A&T have been the two most dominant programs in the MEAC over the past three seasons with the season-ending battle between the rivals all but dictating the final outcome of the conference race.
Both were part of five teams that shared the 2014 title (with Morgan State, South Carolina State and Bethune-Cookman). They were two of the three (with B-CU) that shared the 2015 title.
Last year in their final regular season game, won for the third straight year by NCCU, the Eagles claimed their first outright title. In each of the last three seasons, a win by A&T in the final game would have given the Aggies the outright title.
NCCU, followed by NC A&T, are again picked by league coaches and sports information directors to be the top two teams in 2017.
Based on Bethune-Cookman returning the most skilled and experienced skill position players, I was prepared to pick the Wildcats as the surprise winner of this year’s title. And then I looked at the Wildcats’ schedule!
Opening with four straight road games at Miami, Southest Louisiana, Florida Atlantic and Howard and then playing both NC A&T (10/21) and NCCU (11/11) on the road makes picking the Wildcats a difficult choice.
The Wildcats are good, but not that good. We’ll see.
But I’m still picking against the MEAC coaches and SIDs. After three years of bitter failure, I believe this is the year Rod Broadway and the Aggies of NC A&T, playing at home, take down the Eagles of NC Central and win the title.