When: Saturday, Aug. 30

What to watch for

Jackson State is coming off back-to-back trips to the SWAC championship game with a new starting quarterback (LaMontiez Ivy), new head coach (Harold Jackson) and a first-year offensive coordinator (Timmy Chang).

Florida A&M is attempting to bounce back from a disappointing 3-9 season under Earl Holmes Iin 2013. The Rattlers boast a defense that was ranked No. 12 in the FCS last season.  FAMU is expected to start three freshman on offensive Saturday in wide receiver Brandon Norwood, running back Gerald Hearns and right tackle Patrick Dalton.

Prediction: Jackson State 27, Florida A&M 10


When: Sunday, Aug. 31

What to watch for
Texas Southern head coach Darrell Asberry said at SWAC Media Day that this was the best he felt about his team coming into a season since taking over as head coach now that NCAA sanctions have passed. Texas Southern, 2-9 in 2013, returns 17 starters from a year ago led by dual-threat quarterback Homer Causey, who accounted for more than 2,000 yards in total offense and 11 touchdowns.

Prairie View is riding into the 2014 season with expectations  as one of the favorites to win the SWAC Western Division championship.  That confidence is boosted by a prolific offense led by quarterback Jerry Lockelove and a defense that should improve with the addition of longtime offensive coordinator Cliff Yoshida.

Prairie View 31, Texas Southern 17


When: Sunday, Aug. 31

What to watch for
The MEAC holds a 7-2 advantage over the SWAC in the nine games played between the two conferences since 2004.

North Carolina A&T comes into the 2014 game off a respectable 7-4 2013 season, while Alabama A&M rolls into the opener under first-year head coach James Spady, who will unveil his Pistol offense to a defensive-minded team that had a hard time generating points last season.

North Carolina A&T, who averaged 27.5 points per game last season, are fueled by running back Tarik Cohen and wide receiver Desmond Lawrence.  The Aggies are just as good on the other side of ball as well, as they only allowed 16.5 points per game a season ago led by a front seven that returns D’vonte Grant, Daniel Pinnix and Marcus Albert.

Prediction: North Carolina A&T 20 Alabama A&M 13


When: Saturday, Aug. 30

What to watch for
Southern quarterback Deonte Shorts will make his college football debut as a freshman on the road against an FBS opponent coming off a bowl victory. Head coach Dawson Odums is expected to play Shorts and backup Austin Howard against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Louisiana-Lafayette won the New Orleans Bowl last season. They bring back a team that features Davey O’Brien hopeful Terrance Brodway at quarterback who will test a Southern defense that is much improved from the championship group. They might not be enough to topple ULL.

Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 31, Southern 13


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