By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
One side of the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game may have already been decided as Alcorn State will be playing in Houston on Dec. 6. But Grambling and Southern are battling down to the wire to see who will be in the Braves opponent.
Today, Grambling hosts Alabama State, a team that has been up and down all season at 5-5 and 4-4 in conference play, while Southern hosts Mississippi Valley State. A Grambling win and a Southern loss gives the Tigers the SWAC West title and the slot in the SWAC Championship Game.
That's exactly why Southern is focused so much on the 2-8 Delta Devils and not a potentially huge nationally televised, annual match-up with Grambling in the annual Bayou Classic on Nov. 29.
"We tell our guys not to get caught up in social media. Look at what's in
front of you. Let's take care of business," said Southern head coach Dawson Odums, according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. "One thing we know is that if
we keep winning, everything else will take care of itself. Mississippi
Valley is a good team. Their record may not indicate it. But if you
watch them on film they're getting better.''
Mississippi Valley State has the least productive offense in the SWAC and has lost three in a row. But they played decently well in losses to Arkansas-Pine Bluff (24-14) two weeks ago and Grambling (38-23) last week.
Southern has won five in a row, but has given up at least 20 points in each of those games -- four of them fairly close games.
Meanwhile, Grambling will try to stop the nation's sixth-leading rusher in Malcolm Cyrus, who has 1,320 yards and eight touchdowns rushing this season. Cyrus is has been added to the Walter Payton Award watch list, which monitors the contenders for the award for the nation's top running back. Grambling will also have to watch for ASU quarterback Daniel Duhart who has thrown for more than 1,700 yards and seven touchdowns in 2014.
Grambling sports the SWAC's third-best rushing defense, but gives up 29 points a game. Alabama State broke a four-game losing streak with a 26-10 win over Jackson State last week.
Kickoff for the Grambling-Alabama State game is 2 p.m. while Southern-MVSU begins at 6 p.m. eastern.
Here is the rest of the HBCU football action for today:
Prairie View A&M at Alabama A&M (Prairie View is looking to end the season at the .500 level, along with a potentially 5-4 winning SWAC record, today. The Panthers have won four of their last five, led by quarterback Jerry Lovelocke (2,106 yards and 14 touchdowns) and running back Johnta Hebert (935 yards and ten TDs). Defense is the Panther problem as they give up 35 points a game and are next to last in the SWAC in total defense. Alabama A&M is looking to get to the .500 mark in the conference play. They are fair on offense as quarterback Jaymason Lee averages 200 yards passing a game and has thrown 15 touchdowns. The Bulldogs do play good defense as they rank fourth in the SWAC)
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Alcorn State
Jackson State at Texas Southern (These are two teams on bad streaks. Jackson State has lost five straight games and is now 3-7 this season while Texas Southern, which started out 4-0 and won five of their first six, have lost four in a row. At 5-5, they are hoping to squeeze out a winning season today)
South Carolina State at Morgan State (South Carolina State have have gotten some breathing room in the MEAC race as Bethune-Cookman lost Thursday, leaving the Bulldogs and North Carolina A&T in first place. But Morgan State has been deep in the mix for the top spot, only one game out, but looking up after losing 45-0 to North Carolina A&T last week. South Carolina State needs to win today and next week and hope for a North Carolina A&T loss if they want to claim the title)
Howard at Central Connecticut
North Carolina A&T at Savannah State (North Carolina A&T, the top team in the ADDS HBCU SPORTS REPORT FCS Top Ten poll, can win the MEAC title if they win today against winless Savannah State and next week at North Carolina Central. Savannah State is looking to pull off a big upset, which would be a big lift to an otherwise dismal season)
North Carolina Central at Norfolk State (Norfolk State is still smarting from last week's close loss to Bethune-Cookman, but the Spartans are looking to win their home finale and try to win a couple of games to get to a .500 record overall this season and still finish in a second place tie in the MEAC. North Carolina Central also has a 4-2 conference record and is looking for their sixth win of the season)
Florida A&M at Delaware State (These are two two-win teams with disappointing seasons who are hoping to end 2014 with a couple of wins. FAMU has lost three in a row, but looked good in losses until they ran into South Carolina State last week. Delaware State shocked Norfolk State four weeks ago and only lost by a touchdown to Howard last week)
Bacone at Langston (Langston is the 17th ranked team in the NAIA and 4-0 in the Central States Football League. They are 6-3 and have won five straight. They play a Bacone team that has lost their last four and are 3-7 overall)
Lincoln (Mo) at Missouri S&T (The Blue Tigers close out their season in the snow today, looking for a win to help sooth the pains of a 2-8 record. Missouri S&T is 3-7 and 2-5 in conference play, a game ahead of Lincoln which has lost three straight games. Missouri S&T has lost four in the row)
Cheyney at Seton Hill