LUT WILLIAMS BCSP Editor
Games for the first month of the season are over and, with little exception, contenders for conference titles can be separated from pretenders already.
Chowan (4-0) of the CIAA, Alabama A&m (3-0) of the SWAC and Langston (4- 0) are the only undefeated teams left in black college football after September. Each would have to be labeled a contender just on that sample of work.
Others have played their way out of contender status though it’s still early. They could play their way back in.
Let’s see how the races are shaping up as we head into the five weekends of October.
Chowan is the only team with an unblemished record as it hosts winless Winston- Salem State Saturday in Murfreesboro (7 p.m. ET).
WSSU (0-3, 0-1 S) has almost played its way out of contention particularly after a 19-14 home loss to previously winless Elizabeth City State Saturday.
Chowan (4-0, 1-0 N) is leading the league in scoring (46.0 points per game), total offense (454.5 yards per game) and passing (299.5 ypg.). The Indians are second in rushing (155.0 ypg.).
It’s likely a long day for WSSU.
Staying in step with Chowan is two-time league champion Bowie State (3-1, 1-0 N) who is hosting winless J. C. Smith (0-3, 0-1 S) Saturday (2 p.) ET.
The other usual contender that is hanging around in the N. Div. is Virginia Union. The Panthers (2-2, 1-0 N) host S. Div. contender Shaw (2-2, 1-0 S) in Richmond (1 p.. ET). Shaw appears to be the toughest contender in the South to Fayetteville State’s dominance.
Virginia State (0-3, 0-1), the other of the quartet usually contending for N. Div. honors, is looking for its first win Saturday (5 p.m. ET) hosting winless Saint Augustine’s (0-2, 0-1 S).
Two-time defending S. Div. champion Fayetteville State (2-1, 1-0 S) is at home Saturday facing winless Lincoln Pa. (0-4, 0-1 N).
The other conference where a little degree of clarity is emerging is the SWAC.
New West Division member Alcorn State’s big 39-38 come-from-behind win last Thursday over defending division champ Arkansas-Pine Bluff has let everyone know not to count out the Braves (2-2, 1-0 W).
Alcorn State’s opening game loss to N. C. Central and some internal controversy related to hiring an athletics trainer had folks wondering if the Braves were done early. Not!
They are off this week but a key West Division battle takes place this Thursday (6:30 p.. CT on ESPNU) as UAPB plays its second straight midweek game, this time on the road at Prairie View A&M.
The Panthers (3-1, 2-0), under Eric Dooley and behind new QB Jawan Pass, have emerged as a true contender for the West title. Pass (1,099 passing yards, 60.8%, 8 TDs, 5 ints.) is only behind A&M’s Aqeel Glass in SWAC passing stats.
PV A&M defeated Grambling last week in Dallas (24-10) for the fourth straight time and will enter Thursday’s game feeling good about itself.
UAPB blew a 19-point lead in falling at home to Alcorn State. QB Skyler Perry was 24 of 39 for 316 yards and a score. Though he’s averaging 226 yards per game, he’s only thrown two TD passes. He’ll perhaps have to put up more numbers and TDs to get past the Panthers.
In the SWAC East, Jackson State (3-1, 1-0 E) is idle this week but the other contenders will do battle.
The one to watch is in Tallahassee, Florida where Florida A&M (1-2, 0-1 E) hosts Alabama State (2-1, 1-0). FAMU lost its opener to Jackson State and does not want to fall two games behind the leaders with a loss.
Alabama A&M (4-0, 2-0 E) is on the road (2 p.m. CT) at Grambling State (1-3, 0-1 W). Broderick Fobbs’ G-Men are desperate for a season-changing win. Fobbs announced this week that he was turning to freshman Noah Bodden at quarterback after trying three others.
Bethune-Cookan (0-4, 0-2 E), coming off back-to-back tough losses to both SWAC Alabama schools, meets former MEAC rival South Carolina State (0-3) in Orangeburg, S. C. (1:30 p.m.).
Albany State (3-1, 1-0) and Savannah State (3-1, 2-0) have been the most impressive teams in the SIAC East and both have good tests on the road this week vs. West Division teams.
SSU will travel to Frankfort, Ky., Saturday to face dangerous Kentucky State (2-2, 1-0 W). Albany State is in Fairfield, Al. to meet (6 p.m. CT) two-time defending conference champion miles (2-2, 1-0 W). Many think the latter could be an SIAC championship game preview.
Fort Valley State is at Benedict in an East Division tussle (3 p.m. CT).
In addition to league favorite South Carolina State (0-3) hosting former MEAC member Bethune-Cookman, Norfolk State (2- 2) is also facing a former MEAC member when it travels to meet Big South member Hampton (2-1) in the Battle of the Bay (2 p.m. ET).
Delaware State (at Wagner), morgan State (St. Francis) and Howard (Sacred Heart) also have non-conference tilts.
N. C. A&T (1-2), fresh off its first win 37-14 over N. C. Central, plays its inaugural game in the Big South conference at home vs. Robert Morris (1-1). RMU beat Howard 22-16 Saturday.