By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
In the CIAA, as unlikely as it may have seemed most of this season, but Winston-Salem State could return to the conference championship game with a win over Fayetteville State Saturday.
A young Rams team has struggled this season, losing four of their first give games and carrying a 4-5 overall record heading into the weekend. But the Rams lost to UNC Pembroke, Valdosta State, Tuskegee and Chowan, with the first three having strong changes to go to the NCAA Division II playoffs.
But since then, they have defeated CIAA South Division rivals Johnson C. Smith, St. Augustine's and Livingstone before last Saturday's overtime homecoming loss to Shaw.
"It's a one-game season, and there's nothing else to focus on but this one game," WSSU head coach Kienus Boulware told the Winston-Salem Journal.
Bowie State can win the Northern Division outright with a win over Elizabeth City State. But if Bowie State loses and Virginia Union beats Virginia State today, then Union is headed to the title game.
Things are a little simpler in the SIAC as two games determine which teams will play in the conference title game on Nov. 14 in Montgomery, Alabama.
The Western Division representative will be determined in Tuskegee's homecoming game when they host a hot Miles team Saturday. Both teams are 4-0 in SIAC play. Tuskegee defeated Miles last year to advance to the title game.
"It's been 365 days since that we've been waiting for it, so now we get the opportunity," Miles head coach Reginald Ruffin said on the school's athletics web site.
"It's big. Every time I talk about it, I catch chills," Tuskegee star linebacker Jewell Ratliff told the Montgomery Advertiser. "It's a big one."
Miles started off the season with three straight losses to three of the nation's best Division II football programs in North Alabama, West Georgia and West Alabama. But since then, the Golden Bears have won five of their last six games, including the last four.
Tuskegee, the nation's top Division II HBCU football team in the ADD'S HBCU SPORTS REPORT football poll, has only lost this season to UNC-Pembroke, the 10th ranked team in the latest NCAA Division II Super Region III rankings. But at 8-1 and sporting the SIAC's top offense and defense, Tuskegee is the third ranked team and is poised for another Division II playoff appearance, as well as representing the SIAC West in the conference title game with a win Saturday.
The winner faces the winner of the 26th Annual Fountain City Classic between Albany State and Fort Valley State. Both teams are 5-3 overall and 3-0 in SIAC play.
Albany State started the season by losing three of their first four, though those losses came against three of the nation's top D-2 football programs in Valdosta State, Tuskegee and Delta State. Since the 1-3 start, the Golden Rams have won four straight using a balanced offense and a stingy defense ranked second overall to Tuskegee in the SIAC.
Fort Valley State's three losses came in blowout losses to Delta State and Florida Tech and a heartbreaking 7-point defeat to Alderson Broaddus. But their SIAC wins have all been convincing, including last week's 35-3 rout of Morehouse.
Here is the entire HBCU football schedule for Saturday
Stillman at Kentucky State
Concordia (Ala) at Central State
Southeastern at Benedict
Lane at Morehouse
Clark Atlanta at Samford
Stony Brook at Howard
Florida A&M at Hampton
North Carolina A&T at South Carolina State - South Carolina State is trying to claim a share of the MEAC lead with a huge game today. A&T has only lost one conference game while A&T is still undefeated in conference play. A loss will make last year's multi-team MEAC tie another possibility. NCAT's Tark Cohen only needs 88 yards to become the school's all-time leading rusher, but that'll be tough as the Bulldogs sport one of the MEAC's toughest defenses, particularly against the run.
Savannah State at Norfolk State
Delaware State at North Carolina Central - North Carolina Central needs to win today and next week against North Carolina A&T to challenge for the MEAC title. An NCAT loss today would be a huge help for the Eagles.
Morgan State at Bethune-Cookman - Morgan State's slim conference title hopes hinge on the next two games and a little help. They've lost two MEAC games while Bethune-Cookman, sitting in second place, is 5-1. Bethune-Cookman is hoping for a South Carolina State win over NCAT today, which would put them just short of first place (A&T narrowly defeated BCU in Octoer).
Chowan at Lincoln (Pa)
Johnson C. Smith at Livingstone
St. Augustine's at Shaw
Mississippi Valley State at Alabama A&M
Prairie View A&M at Alcorn State
Texas Southern at Grambling
Southern at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Alabama State at Jackson State
Murray State at Tennessee State
Cheyney at Millersville
West Virginia State at Concord
William Jewell at Lincoln (Mo)
Lyon at Texas College
Langston at Wayland Baptist