Jackson State vs. Tennessee State
Both squads come into the Southern Heritage Classic after a pair of blowout wins during the opening week of the season.
Although it was not pretty at times, Jackson State dispatched Concordia (Ala) 42-2, while Tennessee State easily dispatched the haphazard Southern Jaguars 33-7.
There have been reports that Jackson State might be shifting its offensive line personnel after a lackluster performance last Saturday by quarterback Casey Therriault. Therriault only was able to throw for a meager 218 yards, while the running game just squeezed out 59 total yards.
Battle in the trenches
Offensive line problems have to be a concern for JSU as TSU harassed both Southern quarterbacks (Dray Joseph and J.P. Douglas) all night last Saturday forcing three turnovers and five sacks. If JSU is unable to control the line of scrimmage, the SWAC’s leading passer will have a difficult time generating any consistent offense against TSU.
TSU racked up 342 yards against Southern on 48 attempts. Expect that trend to continue this week against Jackson State. In last year’s game, TSU ran the ball 47 times for 224 yards versus the JSU front seven for 5.1 yards per attempt.
So they meet again
TSU leads the series 24-19-2 and has won seven of the last eight meetings. However, JSU topped TSU in the battle of the Tigers 33-26 last year.
The Pick: Jackson State has a much better offensive attack than Southern, and should give the Tennessee State blitz-happy defense all it can handle. But we also have to keep in mind that JSU struggled on occasion to block a DII defensive front for four quarters. The line match up, along with the running game battle, will determine who wins. Jackson State 24, Tennessee State 23
Alcorn State vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Alcorn State lost by a touchdown to Grambling State. Arkansas-Pine Bluff lost to NAIA Langston 19-12.
This game has mismatch written all over it. No way is Brandon Bridge going to be shackled by the UAPB defense. He is too good and UAPB is too inconsistent.
The only saving grace for the Golden Lions might be the offense’s ability to play the ball control game. That might be UAPB’s best defensive strategy. They were unable to score a single point in three quarters against Langston. Repeating that trick versus a much better Alcorn team will put them in a hole that they won’t recover from.
The Pick: This will be no contest if the Golden Lions are unable to sustain drives and make third-down conversions, where they were 5-of-15. Alcorn State 31, Arkansas Pine-Bluff 17
Grambling State vs. Louisiana-Monroe
D.J. Williams was impressive in his collegiate debut at quarterback recording a 16-for-24, 161-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 21-14 win. The freshman will need to be much better against Louisiana-Monroe this week that is looking to bounce back after being blitzed by Florida State 34-0 on the road.
I don’t know much about the Warhawks. But according to ESPN,
ULM boasts 18 incumbents on offense and defense combined — and 20 total returning starters if you count the two specialists. The Warhawks also bring back most of the second-string players from a team that came within a win of bowl eligibility and took Sun Belt Conference champion FIU to double overtime.
With that said, Grambling should be able to hold its own even though the Tigers have not won very many games against FBS opponents. The Grambling defense had a stellar performance against Alcorn holding Brandon Bridge to a lone touchdown pass and 175 yards in the air.
The Pick: A Doug Williams coached team will give its best effort. And we should anticipate ULM doing the same, not wanting to drop a game to an FCS opponent. The key will be how the younger Williams handles one of his first big tests on the road where quarterbacks usually struggle. Louisiana Monroe 20, Grambling 17
Mississippi Valley State vs. Murray State
Let’s get straight to the point here.
The Pick: I had Mississippi Valley State winning one game this season. Losing 41-9 at home to Alabama State gives me no confidence at all the Delta Devils will top the Racers. Murray State 35, Mississippi Valley State 7
Alabama State vs. Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan is no Mississippi Valley State. The Hornets were dominate in every facet of the game in a big-time road win versus the Delta Devils last Saturday. But that was against a subpar opponent.
Eastern Michigan loves to schedule HBCU teams. They play Michigan next week, and apparently placing Howard (who they beat 41-9) and now Alabama State on the ledger, signals their desire to be 2-0 prior to being killed by the Wolverines.
What to watch for
The Eagles gained 326 yards on the ground, with Javonti Greene and Dominique Sherrer each rushing for 120 yards and a touchdown. The Hornets ability to stop those two thoroughbreds will say a lot if ASU comes away with a mild upset win.
“Everything starts with the running game for Eastern Michigan. That’s their strength,” Reggie Barlow said. “For us to have an opportunity to win we’re going to have to stop the running game.”
The Pick: Eastern Michigan was 2-10 last season in the MAC. Their only wins were against Ball State and Buffalo. I think Alabama State, who was 7-5 last season, is on par with those teams. But not enough to oust the Eagles, though. Eastern Michigan 28, Alabama State 14.
Alabama A&M vs. Southern
Good thing Southern doesn’t have to play Tennessee State this week or it might be an 0-2 start for the Jaguars.
After playing the Bulldogs, Southern might be 0-2 nonetheless. I hope that makes sense.
The problem for SU was that they couldn’t function as an offense or defense against the Tigers. TSU’s defense was able to hold the Jaguars’ “attack” to 7 drives of three plays or less. On the flip side, SU’s defense gave up 342 rushing yards in the 33-7 loss.
Although Alabama A&M blew a 17-0 lead in the Chicago Football Classic to Hampton, they were able to run the rock pretty successfully for much of that game. Led by Kaderius Lacey’s 116 yard, one touchdown performance, the Bulldogs tallied 162 yards on the ground and held the ball for 31:20.
A team that runs the ball well versus a team that can’t stop a nose bleed. Not a good combination.
The Pick: Deaunte Mason performed well before being sacked four times during the team’s late-game collapse throwing for 224 yards and rushing for a touchdown. Mason and Lacey should have a field day against the beleaguered Southern defense (if only the AAMU defense can hold a lead that would be great). Alabama A&M 27, Southern 13
Prairie View A&M vs. Texas Southern
How do you bounce back after losing 63-14 on national television? Does squaring off against defending conference champion Texas Southern help matters if you are a Prairie View?
Texas Southern underwent a lot of changes in the offseason. Defensive coordinator Kevin Ramsey replaced the disgraced Johnnie Cole and the coaching staff itself was overhauled. What hasn’t changed is TSU returning many of the contributors to a defense that was the best in the SWAC in nearly every category.
The team also boasts four First Team All-SWAC selections and three players on the second team. This highly touted group is led by running back Marcus Wright and Martin Gilbert who combined to rush for more than 1,500 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Prairie View has a talented bunch. I don’t believe the 63-14 score was indicative of how the Panthers will play in 2011. Throw all the numbers and tape from that game out of the window.
The Pick: We’ve seen Prairie View play. Texas Southern is an unknown. But that unknown is better than the known commodity. Texas Southern 23, Prairie View 20