The big game on the HBCU menu this week is in the SWAC where top West Division contenders Grambling State and Prairie View A&M tangle in the historic State Fair Classic at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas (3 p.m.). Grambling (2-1, 2-0 SWAC W) and Prairie View (3-1, 2-0 W) enter the game with unblemished conference marks. Grambling is ranked second in this week’s BCSP Top Ten while Prairie View is fourth. The two teams have matched up every year since 1985 except one (1991) in the usually well attended Classic with Grambling dominating the series. The G-Men hold a 25-5 mark including winning 20 straight times, usually by lopsided scores, between 1987 and 2008.
But Prairie View broke the streak with a 35-32 win in 2009 and the Panthers have won three of the last five games. The last two however, have gone to Grambling including last year’s 70-54 shootout where the teams combined for 1,136 total offensive yards. That’s a far cry from the original classic, staged at the Cotton Bowl in 1925 that pitted Langston College against Wiley College. That game ended in a 0-0 tie. Prairie View entered the classic in 1929 and primarily played Wiley up until Bishop College came aboard in 1967. Bishop and Prairie View faced off until Grambling got involved in 1985.
“It’s always been special because it’s something that’s been here for a number of years,’ said Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs at Monday’s SWAC Teleconference. “It’s a historic event. It’s huge. This is where coach (Eddie) Robinson broke the (all-time wins) record.” Grambling State running back/kick returner Martez Carter had perhaps the best game in his impressive career last year scoring four touchdowns, bringing back 88- and 100-yard kickoffs to the house, catching a 39-yard scoring pass and scoring on a 10-yard run.
GSU wide receiver Chad Williams also scored on 83- and 36-yard scoring passes. GSU quarterback Jonathan Williams had six scoring passes in the game. Carter and Williams are back as weapons for the G-Men this season with new quarterback Devante Kincade now at the controls. Williams leads the SWAC with 33 receptions and 471 receiving yards in three games. Kincade has picked up where Williams, the 2015 SWAC offensive player of the year, left off.
The Ole Miss transfer completed 30 of 42 passes for 400 yards and five touchdowns last week in a 43-18 win over SWAC defending champion Alcorn State. Kincade is currently the SWAC’s total offense leader at 298.0 yards per game, is tops in pass efficiency (171.3) and second in passing yards per game (273.3 ypg.). He has thrown eight touchdown passes without an interception and is completing a league best 68.8% of his passes. Prairie View senior quarterback Trey Green led the top scoring offense last year in both the SWAC and FCS at 44.9 points per game. Green threw for 2,614 yards with 21 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
It’s been quite different this season after losing several of his key weapons to graduation. Thru four games, Green is hitting on only 48.2% of his passes with six touchdowns and as many interceptions. The Panthers are still third among the SWAC’s scoring leaders at 31.5 points per game. Grambling is second at 33.0 ppg. Another top game is in the MEAC and has 2015 co-champs Bethune-Cookman (0-3, 0-1 MEAC) and North Carolina Central (2-2, 1-0) facing off in Daytona Beach, Florida (4 p.m.). NCCU is fourth in the BCSP Top Ten.
Last year, NCCU missed a chip shot field goal in the final seconds that allowed B-CU to escape Durham (N. C.) with a 28-26 win. The loss came back to haunt the Eagles as it ended up costing them the outright MEAC title and a berth in the first annual Celebration Bowl. B-CU, fighting a number of injuries, will come in smarting off a stunning 16-10 overtime loss to Savannah State, a team that had won just two conference games since joining the MEAC in 2011. The loss dropped the Wildcats out of the Top Ten. NCCU opened conference play last week with a hard-fought 34-31 win at Norfolk State.
Another MEAC game to keep your eye on is the Hampton (2-2, 1-0 MEAC) vs. North Carolina A&T (2-1, 0-0) match up Thursday night (7:30 p.m. on ESPNU) in Greensboro (N. C.). Current BCSP No. 1 A&T pulled out a close 45-31 road win last season in Hampton. In other top games, undefeated and BCSP No. 7 Tuskegee (4-0) hosts fellow unbeaten UNC-Pembroke (4-0). UNC-P has beaten three CIAA schools (WSSU, FSU and Shaw) so far this season. Top SIAC contenders Albany State and Miles meet in Albany, Ga. (7 p.m.).