The Bayou Classic — as it always seems to do — will determine the SWAC Western Division champion again.
No other game, no other rivalry seemingly has featured everything on the line more often than when Southern plays Grambling State in New Orleans.
Including this season, four times in the last five years, the winner has finished in first place in the division. The last time it didn’t was when Grambling and Southern were first and third, respectively in the final standings in 2015.
Saturday at Mercedes Benz Superdome will be no different, as whoever wins this battle advances to the SWAC Championship Game versus current five-time SWAC Eastern Division champion Alcorn State in Lorman, Mississippi, on Dec. 1.
“It’s going to be fun, exciting,” Southern head coach Dawson Odums said during the Bayou Classic press conference this week. “Every time you come out of the tunnel you feel the chills. Being here is something you write about and tell your family about many years to come.”
Southern (7-3, 5-1 SWAC) can get back to the conference championship game for the first time since 2014 if it can get past a Grambling team that has won three of the last four matchups in the series.
“The Bayou Classic is something we call our own,” Odums said. “Probably five of the last six years, it’s been down to the wire to which team is going to represent the West in the SWAC Championship Game. With that being on the line, it creates a great environment, great atmosphere for New Orleans and Louisiana, and two great institutions. There’s no better game to watch in the state.”
After winning the West each of the last three seasons, Grambling (6-4, 4-2) finds itself in the unfamiliar position of looking up at Southern after starting the season 1-3 before reeling off three-straight wins to force a winner-take-all bout.
“It’s been very challenging, Grambling head coach Broderick Fobbs said in reference to trying to reshape a roster on the fly this season. “I think those challenges were the best thing to happen to me and in my coaching career.
“It’s been huge and really beneficial to the program. I’ve learned a lot through the process and found out we had a lot of holes to fill.”