By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
In case a lot of people haven't noticed, there are two teams in this weekend's Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship football game. There's actually a defending champion too.
Everyone is talking about 9-1 Grambling, a team that just completed their second-straight nine-win season and whose only loss was a close one to FBS Arizona in the first game of the season. They have the SWAC's Coach of the Year in Broderick Fobbs, Offensive Player of the Year in quarterback Devante Kincaid, and Defensive Player of the Year in Donovan McCray.
Yet even in this story, it's taken three paragraphs to get to their opponent, Alcorn State.
The Braves are the SWAC East champs for the third year in a row and are the two-time defending SWAC football champs.
But the reason the talk about Alcorn State is muted is this is a different team than those dominating squads of the past few years.
They averaged 31 points a game, good for fourth in the SWAC, and were third in total offense, so they did put points on the board. But defense has been an issue this season. They've given up nearly 30 points a game, which says a lot about their 5-5 record this season.
They gave up 45 points to the SWAC's worst offensive team, one-win Arkansas-Pine Bluff -- a team that averaged 13.6 points a game -- in a surprising loss.
But three of their losses came against FBS Arkansas, a very good Southern team, a seven-win Prairie View squad -- and Grambling.
That game on Sept. 24 was a rematch of last year's SWAC title game in which Alcorn State won. But the rematch wasn't even close with Grambling winning 48-13.
Expect a different looking Alcorn State team this time, said ASU head coach Fred McNair.
"The biggest thing for us is we can't afford to beat Alcorn, if you know what I mean," McNair Alcorn told The Clarion-Ledger. "We did that the last time we played them. We made some critical mistakes that crucified us. We just have to not make those mistakes and go play Alcorn-style football."
The Braves clamped down on defense, particularly in their last two games as they gave up just seven points in a 61-7 rout of Mississippi Valley State and a 35-16 win over Jackson State to end the regular season.
"It's big winning two games going into the SWAC Championship game and having momentum," McNair said after the Jackson State win. "Our guys have been playing lights out and this coaching staff has done a great job with these young men. The coaches have really been getting on them to get them to play the way we are now."