|(fron Alcorn State website)|
Sunday afternoon, the reigning Southwestern Athletic Conference champs head to Florida to take on Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference power Bethune-Cookman in this year's MEAC/SWAC Challenge. (The game kicks-off at 1 p.m. EST on ESPN).
McNair was the offensive coordinator for Jay Hopson, who left the program to take over at Southern Mississippi. So he's hardly new to his team, and the prolific offense that he has led for the past few seasons. His quarterback, Lenorris Footman, back to lead an offense that put up nearly 40 points a game. Footman threw for 1,106 yards and 14 TDs and ran for 1,023 and 11 more touchdowns. But his receiving corps isn't very experienced, nor is the offensive line.
His team will be visiting a BCU squad that has been picked to finish second in the MEAC, even despite their losing the conference's leading passer, Quentin Williams to graduation.
Larry Brihm is expected to take over an offense that led the MEAC in passing yards, total offense, scoring, first downs, etc. The Wildcats also have to replace Anthony Jordan at running back. Senior Michael Jones will step in there. The receiving corps around his is strong and will be a strength.
Defense will be the key in this game. Will Alcorn State, with a solid defensive front and experience at linebacker and secondary, be able to slow down BCU? Or will Bethune Cookman, also with a defensive line that's just as stingy and a secondary that is solid, be able to slow down Alcorn State's prolific offense?
Here is a look at EVERY HBCU football game this weekend:
MEACHoward at Maryland - These two D.C. area schools will hook up in what looks to be a big mismatch. Howard was 1-10 last season with an anemic offense that only averaged 15 points a game and gave up 37 points a game. ACC power Maryland is looking to start out strong for new head coach DJ Durkin and a new run-heavy offense.
Holy Cross at Morgan State - Fred Farrier takes over the Morgan State football program that lost head coach Lee Hull, who took a job with the NFL's Indianapolis Colts. The Bears return nine starters on offense, but none of them at quarterback. Two freshman and a graduate transfer are battling for the job to lead the offense. Another big question mark for the Bears is at running back. Orlando Johnson returns after rushing for nearly 600 yards and six TDs last season, but so does former star Herb Walker Jr. who rushed for nearly 1,400 yards in 2015 but was academically ineligible last season. Holy Cross, which barely won the only other meeting between the two schools two years ago, brings to town an offense that averaged 404 yards and 31 points a game.
St. Augustine at North Carolina A&T - St. Augustine's has a tough go of it to start their 2016 season. They face a loaded North Carolina A&T squad that has been picked to win the MEAC title and has one of the most dynamic players in college football in running back Tarik Cohen. The Aggies are also ranked in the FCS Top 25 poll as they return much of a stud defense also. Tim Chavous, now the full time St. Aug football coach after leading the team during the last nine games (they went 1-8). They struggled on offense last season, which doesn't bode well against the Aggies, the second-ranked defensive team in FCS football last year.
Savannah State at Georgia Southern - Savannah State hopes to spread the ball around on offense this year to lift up a paltry offense. Who's going to lead the offense? Good question. Five guys are fighting for the slot. Leon Prunty and Blake Dever lead the competition and should both play against Georgia Southern. GSU is an FBS team just off a season in which they won their first bowl game. They run and run and run and run, which will make for a long day for a Savannah State defense that gave up at least 42 points seven times last year.
Old Dominion at Hampton - Connell Maynor's team was 6-5 last season, doubling the win total from 2014. But he lost his two quarterbacks from last season. Jaylen Williamson, who didnt play a down in 2015, is back. He threw for 407 yards against ODU in 2014. The Pirates also lost their two top rushers, but return talented Eric Carter Jr., who missed most of 2015 due to a knee injury. ODU, an 8-year-old FBS program, suffered their first losing season (5-7) last year, but return Conference USA's top rusher in Ray Lawry and top tackler in TJ Ricks.
North Carolina Central at Duke - This hasn't been a very successful series for North Carolina Central, one of the top returning teams in the MEAC. Duke pasted NCCU 55-0 last season and has outscored the Eagles 203-31 in their four meetings. Quarterback Malcolm Bell led NCCU with nearly 1,600 yards and eight TDs passing, along with 509 yards and and five touchdowns rushing while Dorrel McClain rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and eight TDs. They will need both. Duke lost their starting quarterback Thomas Sirk to injury last week so freshman Daniel Jones will be starting. They don't seem worried. His nickname is "The Future."
Elizabeth City State at Norfolk State (Sunday) - It will be 11 years to the day since Norfolk State has lost to a Division II team. Veteran NSU quarterback Greg Hankerson Jr. will go a long way in deciding if that will happen this year. Hankerson threw for 2,052 yards last season in guiding the Spartan offense. ECSU will be led by quarterback Daquan Neal, who threw for 1,754 yards and 14 touchdowns last season and was the team's third leading rusher. First year ECSU head coach Ernest Wilson's team will need to click on all cylinders if they want to make Sept. 3 a bad date for Norfolk State.
Florida A&M at Miami - Any team that goes into Coral Gables to face the ACC power Hurricanes there should be cause for concern. Miami's new coach, Mark Richt, is out to show that offense is returning to his program so they are looking to put points on the board. FAMU was 1-9 and finished with five big losses last season, which isn't Rattler-like. While a win against Miami isn't likely, head coach Alex Wood is hoping to show off a more physical team.
South Carolina State at Central Florida - FBS Central Florida will not be taking South Carolina State lightly. The Bulldogs led the nation in sacks with 46 and only allowed 15 per game last year during a 7-4 season. Caleb York also threw for 1,723 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman last year. Scott Frost will be in his first game as Central Florida's head coach and for a team that was winless in 2015, they drew a tough draw in their first game.
Limestone at Shaw - If Shaw is to rise above last season's 1-9 record, then they have the right opponent to start the season in Limestone, a team that was only 2-8 themselves. Adrian Jones will try to right the Shaw ship as their new head coach. He does have 10 starters returning from last season. Limestone is looking to replace their leading rusher from last season and decide on a quarterback. One, Bo Whitney, is also listed as a defensive end, and the other, Matthew Harkness, is the leading returning rusher.
Seton Hill at Bowie State - The question of who was going to play quarterback for Bowie State has been answered - no one who logged significant time last season. Redshirt freshman Amir Hall will lead the Bulldog offense after throwing five passes last season. But other than that, the Bulldogs are loaded, returning 20 starters from last season's Division II playoff team. Seton Hill is picked to finish near the bottom of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. But they return quarterback Christian Strong, who threw for nearly 2,300 yards in split duty last season.
Johnson C. Smith at Wingate - If Wingate's Kyle Johnson, who threw for 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns last season, seems hesitant about throwing near Johnson C. Smith's Carlo Thomas he has a reason. Thomas led the NCAA with 12 interceptions last season. If he decides not to throw, he can hand it to their leading rusher last season, Lawarence Pittman who had 1,227 and 11 TDs. Johnson C. Smith also returns their top quarterback and top rusher.
Virginia State at Lenoir-Rhyne - Reggie Barlow's first year as Virginia State's coach sees his team in a position where they are either going to make a push back towards the top or continuing a slow fall. The Trojans were 6-4 last season and return the senior offensive nucleus of quarterback Tarian Ayers and running back Karon Bellamy, along with junior 1,200-yard rusher Trenton Cannon. Lenoir-Rhyne mirrors VSU as they were 5-5 in 2015 and their run-heavy offense lost to graduation their two top rushers, though quarterback Evin Sims, mostly a runner, returns.
Livingstone at Benedict - In this CIAA/SIAC battle, two teams that have gone in two directions are matching up. Benedict had a disastrous 2015 season in which they finished 0-10 and were the SIAC's worst team in total offense and total defense. Livingstone is deciding on a new quarterback in a battle between redshirt freshmen Dallas Bruton and Thaddeus Bell. But the Blue Bears have second leading rusher Jarius Richardson returning as well as defensive stalwart Armond Cox and last year's leading tackler DeMarcus Nolan.
UNC Pembroke at Winston Salem State - Seventeen starters return to a Winston Salem State team that has been picked to win the CIAA this season. The Rams lost their top rusher, but return the second and third leading rushers in Xavier Quick and Kerrion Moore. Quarterback Rod Tinsley also returns after a 1,300-yard, ten touchdown season. The Rams lost some defensive firepower from last season, but do have Jatavius Jackson and Xavier Gregory. Pembroke, who beat WSSU last season, returns quarterback Patrick O'Brien. He threw for nearly 2,400 and 18 touchdowns, while Rontonnio Stanley rushed for 666 yards and eight touchdowns. Defensively, they return leading tackler Elijah Williams and Garrett Barnett, both part of a defense that limited WSSU to seven points last season.
Chowan at Fayetteville State - Richard Hayes Jr. opens his tenure as Fayetteville State's head coach with questions about a team that was in the middle of the CIAA pack last season. The Broncos lost their quarterback and top rusher from last season. But they do return their top three tacklers on defense. Chowan will give that defense a challenge as Tyree Lee, who rushed for 1,123 yards and 12 touchdowns along with 354 receiving yards and another four TDs. Randall Dixon returns at quarterback after throwing for 1,313 yards and 12 TDs.
Alabama State at Texas-San Antonio - Alabama State heads to FBS Texas-San Antonio looking to build off a solid end to the 2015 season when they won six of their last eight games. But they will do so with a new quarterback in Quinterris Toppings, the only ASU QB with game experience. But the running game is solid as their top four rushers from last year return. Also Kourtney Berry returns to anchor a good ASU defense. Texas-San Antonio was 3-9 in 2015 and still trying to decide who will be their quarterback this season. But they are solid at running back and wide receiver, and along the defensive front.
Southern at Louisiana-Monroe - Southern is hoping their offensive trio of star runner Lenard Tillery, quarterback Austin Howard and receiver Willie Quinn can work some of their magic that help them score nearly 35 points a game last year, rush for 188 yards a game and put up 422 yards a game. They may have to. ULM returns quarterback Garrett Smith, who threw for 2,033 yards and 17 touchdowns last season and a rushing trio of Ben Luckett, Kaylon Watson and Smith who combined to rush for more than 1,000 yards in 2015. Defense is where the FBS ULM suffered last season, giving up 36 points a game.
Alabama A&M at Middle Tennessee - Alabama A&M will need De'Angelo Ballard to be the best De'Angelo Ballard he can be against MTSU. Ballard led the Bulldogs in passing with 1,516 yards and nine TDs and was second in rushing 340 yards and another four TDs. Alabama A&M's issue is on defense where they gave up 35 points and more than 480 yards of offense per game. They return eight starters from that squad. They'll be challenged by the FBS Middle Tennessee quarterback Brent Stockstill who threw for more than 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Tennessee State - It's the John Merritt Classic in Nashville and Tennessee State is looking for a fast start in turning around from some not-so-great seasons. The Tigers return six starters on offense and eight on defense from a 4-6 team that won three of their first four, but floundered to a 1-5 finish against Ohio Valley Conference foes. Arkansas-Pine Bluff is looking to rebound from a one-win season (that was an overtime victory over Division II Morehouse) by addressing an anemic offense and a soft defense.
Prairie View A&M at Texas Southern - Texas Southern will have their hands full in this season opener. They face a Prairie View team predicted to finish atop the SWAC's West Division and was the highest scoring team in FCS football last year with 44.9 points a game. They return quarterback Trey Green (2,614 yards, 21 touchdowns passing, and 248 yards and seven TD's rushing). Texas Southern was good against the pass last season, but gave up nearly 34 points a game. Linebacker Jamal Lucas, who led TSU in tackles last season, leads their five defensive returning starters.
Kentucky State at Charleston Southern - Probably the biggest pickup for the Kentucky State football program would be their head coach - collegiate coaching veteran John L. Smith, who has led big time programs such as Michigan State, Louisville and Arkansas. He is revamping a program that was 3-7 last season and will have a totally new offense and defense in a rebuilding year. Charleston Southern has already got a game under their belts, a 24-17 loss to FCS power North Dakota State. They are led by Mike Holloway, who rushed for 126 yards and two touchdowns last week.
Texas College at Lane - Texas College of the NAIA will try to start 2016 on a bright note with a positive showing at Lane. The Steers were 2-8 last year and bring a young team to Jackson. They do return junior running back Corey Sherman, who rushed for 309 yards last season and caught 20 passes in 2015. Lane signed 31 new players for 2016, coupled with the return of dual-threat quarterback Marcus Reynolds. Reynolds threw for 937 yards and seven touchdowns and rushed for 830 yards six touchdowns. The Dragons also return leading tackler Javonte Kelly.
Albany State at Valdosta State - This game is not only one to start off the Albany State regular season. It's one to get them ready for the postseason. ASU scheduled this game with the NCAA Division II playoffs - and early preparation for some of the nation's top D-2 teams - in sight. While Valdosta State is a perennial powerhouse, Albany State is loaded. Jarvis Small returns at running back while Caleb Edmonds is comfortable at quarterback. Defensive lineman Grover Stewart leads a defense that also features linebackers Zavondric Shingleton and Zane Fields.
Morehouse at Edward Waters - It's a battle of two schools celebrating their 150th anniversary this year or next. Just a few points here and there and Morehouse would have been a 7-3 squad last season. But they finished 4-6 and are looking to finish games. The Maroon Tigers sport the SIAC's top defense and return two quarterbacks who can both lead a balanced offense. The NAIA Edward Waters is looking for revenge after Morehouse blitzed them last year 51-7. Their success centers around the return of quarterback Tyler Mahla, who went down to injury in the Morehouse game last year and missing the rest of the season. Mahla was a preseason Gulf Coast Athletic Conference pick in 2015,
Central State at Dayton - Central State, 5-5 a year ago, hopes a feisty, opportunistic defense that ranked among the SIAC's best in sacks, turnovers and interceptions can give Dayton some headaches. Tough to do against a Dayton squad that was 10-2 last season, was the Pioneer Football League co-champs and made the FCS playoffs in 2015.
Tuskegee at Clark Atlanta - SIAC coaches picked Clark Atlanta to finish deep in the conference race this year, but the Panthers do sport some firepower in running back/kick returner Jaha McCray. However, Tuskegee is still Tuskegee, the team who blanked CAU last season 26-0 and made a deep run in the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2015. Nine Tigers were named preseason All-SIAC including the preseason Defensive Player of the Year, Julian Morgan. Tuskegee is ranked 17th nationally among all Division II football teams.
Langston at Lincoln (Mo) - Quinton Morgan took over as Langston's head coach with five games left in last season. They went 5-0 and averaged 43 points a game and finished 7-3. They return quarterback Mark Wright Jr., who led the Central States Football League in total offense with 233 yards a game. Lincoln's only win last year was over Langston. Blue Tigers return running back Miles Drummond, who led Lincoln in rushing 356 yards rushing and four TDs last season. Lincoln lost their four top tacklers from last season. Safety Marvin Holley, who had 63 tackles and two interceptions, is back.
Fairmont State at West Virginia State - West Virginia State opened with Fairmont last season and jumped out to a big lead before coasting to a win. Mountain East Conference coaches believe Fairmont State will have a much better conference season than WVSU, mainly because Fairmont returns their potent quarterback-receiver duo in Cooper Hibbs and Fabian Guerra. They also return nine starters on defense. WVSU returns quarterback Matt Kinnick, who led the MEC in passing with 280 yards a game last season.