Texas Southern vs. Mississippi Valley State
Texas Southern is in last place in the SWAC West and fading fast in the division race. Mississippi Valley State is also in last place in the SWAC East “boasting” a winless record. However, the Delta Devils have taken Grambling State and Jackson State to the limit, and losing their last two contests by a total of seven points. The Pick: Mississippi Valley State 21 Texas Southern 20.
Grambling State. vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Grambling will have the advantage of playing against a short-handed Arkansas-Pine Bluff team that have players serving suspensions as a result of an Oct.17 post-game brawl versus Southern. The Tigers are only one game back in the loss column in the SWAC West. A win and some help could help vault Grambling into a first-place tie. The Pick: Grambling State 27 Arkansas-Pine Bluff 23
Alabama A&M vs. Alabama State
Who would have thought this game would have championship implications on the line after the first two weeks of the season? Well, that is the case in the Magic City Classic Saturday. The Hornets have been the class of the SWAC all season, and are squaring off against a Bulldogs team that has won its last four. It doesn’t help that linebacker Leland Baker will be suspended for first half of the contest for what the conference called a flagrant foul vs. Prairie View Oct.15. The Pick: Alabama State 31 Alabama A&M 24
Jackson State vs. Prairie View A&M
If the Tigers want to prove their case for a Black National Championship, defeating the first-place Panthers would be a good start. Prairie View had won three straight before being humbled by Alabama State last week. It will be another tough test for a group looking to win a wide open SWAC West. The Pick: Jackson State 30 Prairie View A&M 19
Alcorn State vs. Southern
The only thing that could possibly overshadow the fallout from the league office staggering the suspensions of several Jaguar players is Alcorn State’s announcement that quarterback Brandon Bridge is no long being part of the Braves roster. The Pick: Southern 19 Alcorn State 16
With just five weeks remaining until the end of the regular season it seems like the right time to recognize those who have performed well through the first half of the 2011 campaign. So, I present the mid-season SWAC awards…sort of (I know we’re past the mid-point of the season).
Newcomer of the Year – Greg Jenkins, Alabama State
The Troy University transfer has been steady as she goes this season leading the Hornets atop the SWAC Eastern Division standings.
Top Running Back – Dawrence Roberts, Grambling State
I’m well aware that Martin Gilbert of Texas Southern leads the SWAC in rushing yards (606) and touchdowns (11). However, Roberts, who started the season on the bench, is averaging 107.2 on the ground per game and 6.4 yards per attempt. If Roberts continues his bruising ways, he is on pace to finish the season with well over 1,000 yards rushing.
Top Wide Receiver – Nick Andrews, Alabama State
The senior wide receiver has caught nine or more passes four games this season, and is responsible for 54 of the team’s 194 total points.
Top Quarterback – Casey Therriault, Jackson State
Who else could it be really? The second year starter has thrown for 2,026 yards, 14 touchdowns and features a 127.5 quarterback rating while leading the SWAC’s best offense picking right where he left off from a season ago.
Defensive Player of the Year – Adrian Hamilton, Prairie View A&M
All Hamilton has done is record ten sacks over a three-week period earlier this season which has landed him as a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, which honors the top defense player in the FCS. His 14 total sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss leads the conference.
Offensive Player of the Year – Nick Andrews, Alabama State
It is hard to argue his production after seven games. The senior wide receiver leads the conference in receptions (54), yards (769) and yards per game (109.9) for the first-place Hornets.
MVP – Nick Andrews, Alabama State
“He’s a heck of a football player,” Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones recently said. “He’s quick, has good speed and good hands. Everybody that has played Alabama State has said watch out for Nick Andrews and they watched him get in the end zone over and over and over again.”
Coach of the Year – Reggie Barlow, Alabama State
The defending East champions were picked to finish third behind Jackson State and Alcorn State according to know-it-all football prognosticators (pointing at myself as well). That was before the Hornets decided to dismantle Jackson State on the road (21-14) and Alcorn State (31-23) earlier this season. Now Alabama State finds themselves with a 6-1 record (6-0 in SWAC play) and ranked No.1 in various HBCU football polls.