Photo: Alcorn State Athletics

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a two-part series that grades all SWAC football teams based on how they’ve fared the first half of the season. Click here to read part two.

It’s Week 7, which means we’ve reached the half-way mark in Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) football play. By now, fans should have some idea of how their teams could potentially end the season. For some, this might be a great read. For others, not so much. 

Below are my midseason grades for the SWAC’s East Division teams. 

Alcorn State
Record: (5-2, 3-0 SWAC)
Grade: A

Photo: Alcorn State Athletics

The Braves are at the head of the class through Week 7. We’re talking about a team with an offense that’s currently ranked third in the conference in scoring, with a second-string quarterback and a defense that holds the No. 1 spot.

The Braves arguably could be sitting at 6-1, but key injuries in Week 3 against McNeese, including starting quarterback Noah Johnson ruled out in the second quarter, were pretty startling. Alcorn went scoreless in the first three quarters but nearly rallied back with two touchdowns late in the fourth with Felix Harper taking the snaps. 

Although Johnson, who was named the 2018 SWAC Championship Offensive MVP, has not seen action since Week 3 due to injury, Harper has the team averaging a whopping 33.7 points per game.

The defense appears to be even more explosive while sitting pretty with 10 interceptions (most in SWAC) thus far.

The keys to the Braves staying at the top of the class are simple: feed the ball to wide receivers LeCharles Pringle and Niko Duffey, who both are tied for second place in the conference with the most touchdowns at seven apiece. 

Making the quarterback adjustment proves why the Braves are the defending SWAC Champions.

Jackson State
Record: (1-5, 0-1 SWAC)
Grade: F

Photo: JSU Communications

It’s not looking too good for the Jackson State Tigers. They are at a disadvantage in the statistical rankings having played five non-conference scheduled games and two SWAC opponents in which only one game counted toward the conference standings. (A 31-16 loss to Alabama State).  

The JSU offense is sitting at No.8 in the conference while averaging 23.3 points per game. Quarterback Derrick Ponder has the lowest completion rate in the conference at 52.8 percent (85-of-161), but JSU’s pass rush game limits opposing quarterbacks to just 162 yards per game. Kudos to the pass rushers.

Of those non-conference games, the Tigers’ 35-22 upset loss to Division ll Kentucky State was the most pitiful so far of the season and the icing on the cake for this grade.

Alabama A&M
Record: (4-3, 1-1 SWAC)
Grade: C-

Photo: AAMU Athletics

One of the top offenses in the SWAC is scoring as many points as it’s giving up on defense. That’s bad when you find yourself in overtime against a winless Texas Southern team (0-6, 0-2 SWAC), giving up 464 total offensive yards.

Despite earning some wins, the Bulldogs have failed a few prominent tests. One of them includes not putting up a better fight against the No. 2 defense in the SWAC, Grambling State. In AAMU’s 23-10 loss last week against GSU, the Tigers forced four turnovers, two of which occurred late in the fourth quarter.

But here’s some good news: The Bulldogs have a dependable quarterback. Junior Aqeel Glass still had 225 passing yards in the match-up against Grambling, and he has the ability to carry the team to conference wins. He leads the SWAC with 164-of-259 (63.3 percent) completed passes, 19 touchdowns, and six interceptions.

Alabama State
Record: (3-3, 2-1 SWAC)
Grade: C-

Photo: Mandela Jones/HBCU Sports

Yes, the Hornets are currently second in the SWAC East, but they’re sitting second to last in the SWAC in scoring, averaging just 20 points per game. With two of ASU’s most formidable contests being against Kennesaw State and Alcorn State, the Hornets could only put up one touchdown in each game, losing to those teams 42-7 and 35-7 respectfully. The Hornets haven’t beaten anyone noteworthy.

Mississippi Valley State
Record: (1-5, 0-2 SWAC)
Grade: F

Photo: MVSU Athletics

The best highlights all season for the Delta Devils were the five fumble recoveries and senior linebacker Tracy Thomkins’s 12 tackles against Alcorn State in Week 5. Those efforts, however, still resulted in losing to the Braves, 45-19. 

In last Saturday’s contest against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, the MVSU defense allowed 489 yards of offense in a 38-6 loss against the Golden Lions. 

The Delta Devils need help everywhere, and they need it badly. In five of six games this season, MVSU has only scored no more than 20 points. They scored 31 points in their lone (31-23) win against NCCAA member Virginia University of Lynchburg. Not impressive.



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