By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
When the Eagles (1-2, 0-0 MEAC) host Bethune-Cookman (3-1, 1-0 MEAC) today, two of the five Mid Eastern Athletic Conference teams who were co-MEAC champs last season will be squaring off. Which means every game between any of those teams this years is a big game.
Aside from a lopsided loss to ACC power Miami, Bethune-Cookman has looked solid. They are second in total offense, averaging nearly 400 yards a game. On a defense full of new faces, they have been good, though not spectacular.
Head coach Terry Sims told The Daytona Beach News-Journal that he's happy with both.
"People talk about the defense being young and new, but I think it's a feather in their cap for them to play the way they do," he said. "They only had three guys on the field that played last year, but I think they have done a great job executing our scheme, not being frazzled when sudden change happens, and not going in the dumps when a big play happens against them.
"We have developed a bend but not break attitude on that side of the ball this year, and I'm fine with it," Sims continued. "You're going to make mistakes. It's not common for a young defensive group to fight through things like that, but these guys fight and I'm happy with all of them."
It's been harder to see where North Carolina Central is in 2015 because in three games, they've faced FBS teams Duke and Florida International and overmatched Division II team, St. Augustine's.
But they sport one of the MEAC's top passers in Malcolm Bell, who threw for nearly 2,000 yards and 15 touchdowns last season. Defensively, the Eagles shut out St. Augustine's but gave up a record amount of yardage against Duke and 490 yards against Florida International. And the Eagles lost star defensive back Mike Jones for the season with a fractured ankle.
The Eagles also lost transfer receiver Khalil Stinson for the season after he suffered a hip fracture in the same game.
"This is very unfortunate for these two young men and their families," Mack said. "Miks is obviously a key player for us and I was looking forward to watching Khalil continue to grow as we enter conference place. We're sure they will be back in 2016 ready to go."
Since moving up to FCS, North Carolina Central has not beaten Bethune-Cookman in five meetings. But this kind of game is different, Sims said.
"They are always a tough opponent," Sims told the News-Journal. "They always play us hard, and they are going to play fast and execute in all three phases of the game."
Here is a look at the rest of today's HBCU football action:
Lane at Stillman
Kentucky State at Benedict
Kentucky Wesleyan at Central State
Alderson Broaddus at Fort Valley State
Albany State at Miles
Clark Atlanta at Morehouse - Its the battle of the Atlanta University Center as only a street separates the two schools in this rivalry.
Tuskegee at UNC Pembroke - The nation's top Division II team will face a stiff challenge at Pembroke, a team that has had its way with CIAA opponents so far this season.
North Carolina A&T at Hampton
Norfolk State at Howard - It's homecoming at Howard who is looking for their first win of the season. Norfolk State has been game during a tough schedule to begin the season and looked solid in defeating Hampton (who beat Howard) last week.
Morgan State at Delaware State
Bethune-Cookman at North Carolina Central
Furman at South Carolina State
Florida A&M at Savannah State - Both of these teams are trying to reverse their fortunes: Savannah State has lost 24 conference games in a row. Florida A&M is winless on the season.
Virginia Union at Shaw
Elizabeth City State at Livingstone
Lincoln (Pa) at Fayetteville State - Lincoln (Pa) has rode their running game to win three of their first four while Fayetteville State defeated powerful Virginia State and looked solid against tough competition in three losses.
Chowan at Winston-Salem State - Big game in Winston-Salem as Chowan has looked good so far this season and WSSU is finally starting to gel.
St. Augustine's at Virginia State
Bowie State at Johnson C. Smith
Mississippi Valley State at Jacksonville State - Mississippi Valley State may be in for a long day. They are visiting the nation's top FCS team in Jacksonville State who has already knocked off Tennessee State.
University of Faith at Prairie View A&M
Alabama A&M at Coastal Carolina - Tough game for Alabama A&M as they visit a Coastal Carolina team that's one of the FCS' best and has beaten a solid South Carolina State team already.
Grambling State at Jackson State
West Virginia State at Virginia College at Wise
Cheyney at Bloomsburg - Bloomsburg is one of the top 20 teams in Division II football while Cheyney, an NAIA team, is 0-4 this season.
McMurry at Lincoln (Mo)