By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
It's mid-season and the HBCU football conference races have gotten to the meat of their schedules.
Today, several big games are on tap in all four HBCU conferences such as:
Grambling at Alcorn State
In what many believe is the precursor to the SWAC Championship Game, Jay Hopson's team gets it first real test of the SWAC season as Alcorn State (4-1, 3-0 SWAC), the best team in the SWAC's Eastern Division, hosts Grambling (4-2, 4-0 SWAC), the conference's top team from the Western Division.
Alcorn State, the top team in the ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT FCS Top Ten, has defeated their three SWAC opponents by an average margin of 35 points, though two of those teams - Mississippi Valley State and Arkansas-Pine Bluff - are a combined 1-11 so far this season.
Still, the Braves feature quarterback John Gibbs Jr., who is in the SWAC top ten in both rushing and passing, and the conference's top rusher in Ragsdale Darry who averages 85 yards a game. They also have the SWAC's top defensive unit, giving up just 275 yards of offense each game - the only SWAC team to hold opponents to less than 300 yards each game.
Revenge may be a factor in Lorman today. Grambling defeated Alcorn State last season. And it's homecoming weekend.
"We have to go over there in a hostile environment and really come away with a victory," Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs told the Shreveport Times. "They're scoring a lot of points and they're stopping people from scoring. We have to play a flawless performance in order to be standing at the end."
ASU will need to keep up with the G-Men. Grambling actually leads the SWAC in scoring offense, as they've scored 44 points a game so far this season, and has the second best overall offensive team in the conference, just ahead of the Braves. Their problem - defense. The G-Men are tops in stopping the run, but have the SWAC's worst past defense.
Bethune-Cookman at North Carolina A&T
Two of the five teams that tied for the MEAC championship last year battle in a huge conference game between two teams without a MEAC loss this season.
Bethune-Cookman (5-1, 3-0 MEAC) faces their third straight team to share last season's conference championship. North Carolina A&T (4-1, 2-0 MEAC), as is their personality, has excelled on defense in 2015. They lead the MEAC in total defense, rushing defense and are second in pass defense to South Carolina State, a team BCU struggled on offense against last week.
That defense works in perfect tandem with an Aggies running game that features the MEAC's top rusher in Tarik Cohen who averages 106 yards a game and has rushed for seven TDs.
BCU head coach Terry Sims has lauded his young, bend but don't break defense and thinks they are up to the task of stopping Cohen.
"Those guys have been forced to pay attention to detail," Sims told the Daytona News Journal. "We have nine new guys playing on that side of the ball, but we have been playing together for some weeks now, and they are starting to get used to playing with each other. I think we are going to start to see some big things from that group."
It will be the first time in 42 days that North Carolina A&T has played a home games -- since their season opening win over Shaw. Broadway, who said the MEAC championship will be determined during this point in the season, is ready.
"I'm anxious to see how we match up against this team," A&T head coach Rod Broadway told the Greensboro News-Record. "Bethune has been at the top of this league for a long time. They're just as good as they've ever been athletically. They can run. They have good skill people. They're good up front. I'm anxious to play them."
Chowan at Virginia Union
While this is a huge CIAA game for both Chowan and Virginia Union, it's probably a little more urgent for Chowan (4-2, 2-1 CIAA). The Hawks lost a tough, hard-fought game against a hot CIAA North leading-Bowie State 17-14 last week, making a loss to fellow Northern Division team, Virginia Union (5-1, 3-0 CIAA) potentially a must-win if they hope to get to the CIAA championship game.
But its homecoming day at Virginia Union (5-1, 3-0 CIAA), a team that leads the conference in scoring (34.5 points a game), touchdowns (28) and total defense as they've only given up an average of 143 yards and 14 points a game.
Here's a look at the entire HBCU football schedule for this Saturday
Livingstone at Shaw
Winston-Salem State at St. Augustine's - Winston-Salem State's struggles are well documented this year. They are 2-4 overall. But they are tied Fayetteville State in the CIAA South Division as both teams are 1-0. WSSU has a conference loss, which Fayetteville State does not have, so the Rams need to win to keep a title game shot as a legitimate goal.
Lincoln (Pa) at Elizabeth City State
Bowie State at Virginia State - The CIAA Northern Division has TWO big games today. The second after Chowan-Virginia Union is this one, pitting the division leading Bowie State against a Virginia State team that needs a win to keep pace and take over first place.
Fayetteville State at Johnson C. Smith
Hampton at Morgan State
Howard at South Carolina State
North Carolina Central at Savannah State - Sounds like an easy game for North Carolina Central, a team that can't afford another conference loss if they hope to stay in the MEAC title race. But this is the definition of trap game as the Tigers have been MEAC doormats for the past few years, but they defeated Florida A&M decisively two weeks ago.
Delaware State at Florida A&M
Stillman at Tuskegee - The ADDS HBCU SPORTS REPORT Division II top team in Tuskegee comes off a decisive win last week over a good Morehouse team. But Stillman is no pushover as they feature one of the SIAC's hottest quarterbacks in Brett Standifer.
Morehouse at Albany State
Central State at Lane
Clark Atlanta at Benedict
Kentucky State at Miles
Florida Tech at Fort Valley State
Jackson State at Alabama A&M
Texas Southern at Mississippi Valley State
Prairie View at Southern
Eastern Illinois at Tennessee State - It's homecoming week at TSU (3-2, 0-2 OVC), but don't expect an easy homecoming win. The last two times EIU (2-3, 2-0 OVC) has been Tennessee State's homecoming opponent - 2013 and 2010 - they have been Big Blue losses. Eastern Illinois has defeated TSU each of the last three years.
Southwestern Assemblies of God vs. Langston
Cheyney at Lock Haven
West Virginia State at Shepherd
Missouri S&T at Lincoln (Mo)
Bacone at Texas College