Championship games in the CIAA and SIAC will be on center stage this Saturday in Durham, N.C. and Montgomery, Alabama respectively. Meanwhile, the MEAC race is on a steady march to what could be a rousing climax and the SWAC race enters its final turns. Here’s what’s in store.
At 2 p.m. in Durham N. C., BCSP No. 9 and CIAA North Division champ Bowie State (9-1, 7-0 CIAA N) meets South Division champ Winston- Salem State (5-5, 5-2 CIAA S) for the league title. BSU will be making its first title game appearance under seven-year head coach Damon Wilson but not before weathering a little controversy. Winston-Salem State, under second-year head coach Keinus Boulware, is back in the championship game for the fifth straight year. Bowie State may be considered the favorite based on its 7-0 conference mark and a league leading offense that is putting up 446.3 yards and 34.5 points per game. BSU has won seven straight. Freshman quarterback Nyema Washington has assumed the reins of the offense after early season standout Matthew Goggans was declared ineligible. Washington is averaging 259 passing yards in the three games he’s started with 10 TDs.
Diminutive (5-7, 175) senior running back Kendall Jefferson averages 90.9 rushing yards per game and has scored seven TDs to lead the ground attack. Junior wide receiver Nyme Manns leads the league with 946 receiving yards (94.6 ypg.) and is second with 66 catches (14.3 ypc.) and 12 TDs. WSSU, who dominated league play for the last several years, struggled this season. The Rams lost three non-conference games to start the season and then fought to a 5-2 conference mark, all in competitive, close games.
Redshirt freshman Rod Tinsley took over as the starting quarterback after an Oct. 3 loss to Chowan and has led the Rams to four wins in five games. The only blemish was a 32-25 overtime loss two weeks ago at homecoming to Shaw. Tinsley has completed 49.5% of his passes for 1,206 yards with 9 TDs and 10 interceptions. Marcel Caver (34 rec., 2 TDs) is the top receiving threat. Five-eleven, 235-pound senior running back Tyree Massey has averaged 107 rushing yards and scored six TDs over the last five games. Bowie State is currently ranked second in NCAA Div. II Super Region One and is almost assured of a place in the six-team field from the region for the 24-team national playoffs. A win would likely give the Bulldogs one of the two top seeds and a first-round bye. WSSU needs a win to be given any consideration.
The 6 p.m. SIAC title game in Montgomery, Alabama pitting East Division champ Albany State (6-3, 4-0 E) and West Division winner Miles (6-4, 5-0 W) is a rematch in more ways than one of teams with great contrasts.
Not only did the teams meet earlier this season (Oct. 3, a 29-16 ASU win), but it will be the third time in five years they’ve hooked up in the championship game. Miles won in 2011 (20-17). Albany State returned the favor in 2013, winning 17-14. Two years later, here they are again. In the previous meeting this year, Miles held a 14-0 halftime lead before Albany State used several second-half Miles miscues to outscore the Golden Bears 29-2 for the comeback victory.
Miles, with junior running back Jamarcus Nance (74.6 ypg.) and junior quarterback David Whipple (70.6 ypg.) 3rd and 4th in rushing stats, is the better running team (184.2 ypg., 1st). Albany State, with junior passing leader Caleb Edmonds (171.4 ypg.), is the better passing team but also features junior running back Jarvis Small , the league’s rushing leader (103.6 ypg.). Fittingly, Miles is the top defensive team against the pass (136.4 ypg.) while ASU leads in rushing defense (87.7 ypg.). Neither Miles nor Albany State in ranked in Div. II’s Super Region Two. The winner of Saturday’s game will be given some consideration but is a longshot to get in the 24-team playoff field.
Two of the three key players in the race for the MEAC title – first-place North Carolina A&T (8-1, 6-0 MEAC) and third-place North Carolina Central (6-3, 5-1), only a game back of the Aggies – meet opponents with a combined 1-17 record this week. A&T hosts (1 p.m.) winless Delaware State (0-9, 0-6) while NCCU travels to Washington, D.C. to take on (1 p.m.) one-win Howard (1-8, 1-5).
Though both the Aggies and Eagles will be heavily favored, they have to be careful not to let DelState or Howard be spoilers. If both A&T and NCCU win, they will have a showdown the following week (Nov. 21) in Greensboro for the MEAC title. Last year, Central downed A&T on the final day of the regular season that contributed to an unprecedented five-way tie for the league’s championship. The other team in the championship picture, second-place Bethune-Cookman (8-2, 6-1), is off this week before a season-ending showdown with arch rival Florida A&M on Nov. 21.
Headed into the final three weeks of the SWAC regular season, Alcorn State (4-2) has a game-and-a-half lead over Jackson State (3-4) and a two-game lead over Alabama A&M (2-4) in the East. In the West, Grambling (7-0) is a game up on Prairie View A&M (6-1) and two games up on Southern . Alcorn is at Texas Southern (3-5, 2-5) Saturday (1 p.m.), Alabama A&M is at Southern (4 p.m.) and Alabama State entertains Prairie View (2 p.m.). Grambling plays at Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s homecoming (2:30 p.m.). Jackson State is off.