Four HBCUs enter 2023 in Top 25


North Carolina Central and Florida A&M in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS)and Benedict and Virginia Union in NCAA Div. II football are ranked in the Top 25 of the preseason American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) polls.

The polls are voted on by all coaches from the respective divisions.

Defending MEAC and Celebration Bowl champion NC Central is ranked 19th in the inaugural FCS poll. The Eagles finished 10-2 overall a year ago and won the MEAC with a 4-1 record. They defeated SWAC champion Jackson State 41-34 in overtime to win the Celebration Bowl.

The Eagles’ losses a year ago were at Campbell (48-18) and at South Carolina State (26-24). NCCU beat New Hampshire 45- 27 last season. New Hampshire is ranked 12th in the 2023 preseason poll.

Florida A&M, who finished 9-2 last year and behind Jackson State in the SWAC East, is ranked 25th in the FCS poll. Others receiving votes included Jackson State (37), North

Carolina A&T (13) and Howard (5). Defending FCS champion South Dakota State is the preseason FCS No. 1.

In the Div. II preseason poll, SIAC champion Benedict is 17th followed by Virginia Union at 18th.

Benedict ran the table in the SIAC (10-0) and went 11-0 overall in the 2022 regular season. The Tigers were the top seeded team in Super Region II but suffered its only loss in a second round playoff game to Wingate (23-6).

Virginia Union finished 9-2 overall and second to Chowan at 4-1 in the CIAA North. The Panthers lost in a first round Div. II playoff game to Wingate (32-7).

Wingate is 21st in the 2023 preseason poll. Defending Div. II champion Ferris State is the preseason No. 1.

Others receiving votes included Bowie State (53), defending CIAA champion Fayetteville State (16), SIAC West Division champion Tuskegee (16), Fort Valley State (11),Winston-Salem State (5) and Bluefield State (1).