By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
The final day of the regular season has huge implications in Greensboro, North Carolina as two old rivals battle for a football championship.
Actually, one of them, North Carolina A&T (9-1, 7-0 MEAC) has already claimed at least a share of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title. A win over visiting North Carolina Central would give them the outright championship.
But North Carolina Central (7-3, 6-1 MEAC) can also claim a share of the title with a win today and serves as the MEAC's representative in the inaugural Celebration Bowl, the Dec. 19th game pitting the SWAC and MEAC conference champions.
"Not only being another rivalry game, but the situation is similar as last year with this being for a share of the conference championship," said North Carolina Central head coach Jerry Mack, according to WRAL.com. "Those two things make this all that more special for our guys."
Bethune-Cookman (8-2, 6-1 MEAC) also plays into the mix. If North Carolina Central wins and the Wildcats defeat Florida A&M (1-9. 1-6 MEAC) today, Bethune-Cookman would share in a three-way tie for the MEAC title with Central and A&T, with A&T going to the Celebration Bowl. If Florida A&M pulls off the upset over their state rival, Central and A&T share the title and North Carolina Central goes to the Celebration Bowl.
All are still eligible for an NCAA FCS Football Playoff at-large berth.
Kickoff in Greensboro is at 1 pm.
Alcorn State Plays Today for SWAC East Title and Rematch With Grambling in SWAC Championship
Alcorn State (6-3, 5-2 SWAC) looked like they were making a mad dash towards the SWAC championship game, until they stubbed their toe in losing to Grambling a few weeks ago.
They have an opportunity to avenge that loss and win the SWAC East and get a rematch with Grambling in the SWAC title game if they win today against Alabama A&M. But a loss would leave Jackson State alive in the race and set up a huge Jackson State-Alcorn State game next weekend.
But thats looking ahead.
"(The players) aren't really talking about it (winning the division), but the game is that, so at the end of the day, certainly you don't talk about any of that until that so-called championship game shows up," Alcorn State head coach Jay Hopson said to the Jackson Clarion Ledger. "Now we're at that game, so I think everybody understands the implications, and everybody understands we ahve to be ready to play our best game."
Alabama A&M (2-7, 2-5 SWAC) would love to be the spoiler. But they are ranked last in the SWAC in total defense and today face the SWAC's third best offense and top rushing offense. The Bulldogs do feature linebacker Bryan Brower, who is the SWAC's third-leading tackler with 76 so far this season while De'Angelo Ballard has thrown for 1,247 yards and seven touchdowns for a team looking towards the future.
But for Alcorn State the future is now. Unless they lose. If they lose, it sets up a huge rivalry game next week against Jackson State, provided they beat a tough Prairie View A&M team this week.
Here is the today's entire HBCU FCS football schedule:
Norfolk State at Morgan State
South Carolina State at Savannah State
Howard at Delaware State
North Carolina Central at North Carolina A&T
Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Mississippi Valley State
Miles at Alabama State
Alabama A&M at Alcorn State
Tennessee State at Tennessee Tech - Tennessee State (4-5, 1-5 Ohio Valley Conference) will try to close out a disappointing 2015 season with a chance to get to the .500 mark if they defeat OVC rival Tennessee Tech. The game can be seen nationally on MASN.