One of the participants in the SWAC Championship Game could be decided when Alabama State and Alcorn State battle in Lorman tonight.
That is how big the Week 6 nationally televised game is.
I don’t downplay it,” Alabama State coach Reggie Barlow said Monday about his team’s first road test of the regular season. “I’ll let them (the players) know what it is. The only thing that’s the same about this game (as any other) is you still have to block and tackle and somebody’s got to make plays, but by no means is this just another game. It’s a huge game, a huge step in the right direction for us.”
Alabama State enters the matchup winners of four straight, including being a perfect 3-0 in conference play.
The Hornets are led by a stingy defense that ranks No.1 in points, rushing yards allowed and No. 4 in passing yards allowed through five games.
The offense is anchored by bell cow running back Malcolm Cyrus, who currently leads the SWAC in rushing, and was recently added to the Walter Payton Award watch list.
Alcorn State was among the early favorites to contend for the SWAC East crown after increase win totals in each of the last three years.
The Braves have averaged 50 points per game in their four wins this season.
Their most surprising victory came last week when Alcorn State throttled defending conference champion Southern 56-16 to establish themselves as one of the elite teams in the 10-team league.
“They’ve (Alcorn State) dominated every team they’ve played so far,” Barlow said about Alcorn State, whose lone defeat was a 26-20 loss at FBS Southern Mississippi. “They’re playing lights out. It’s going to be a huge challenge for us.”
Alcorn leads the SWAC in 17 different categories that include scoring offense (47.0 ppg), scoring defense (13.6 ppg), total offense (514.2 ypg), total defense (262.8 ypg) and rushing offense (318.0 ypg).
Defensively, the Braves are ranked first in the FCS in sacks with 20 on the season.
While Alcorn State head coach Jay Hopson understands Thursday night’s game has division and conference championship implications at stake, he tried to downplay the level of hysteria that is sure to be present prior to kickoff.
“They’re all big (games),” Hopson said. “We have a lot of rivalry games on our schedule every year. As a team, we have to play this like any other game.”