With less than a month from kicking off the 2021 fall college football season, it’s time to start getting excited about star-studded matchups and historic rivalries once again. Here’s a look at the best SWAC games throughout the year to whet your appetite for what figures to be the most competitive season in conference history.
Aug. 28: Alcorn State vs North Carolina Central
Alcorn State hasn’t played a live football game since a Celebration Bowl loss to North Carolina A&T in 2019. The favorites to win the SWAC West will have an immediate test against a North Carolina Central team that, according to head coach Trei Oliver, has the potential to develop into the best collection of offensive talent the program has seen in more than a decade. This should be an intriguing showdown to get the 2021 fall campaign underway.
Sept. 4: Alabama A&M vs South Carolina State
The defending SWAC and Black College Football national champions open its season versus the favorite to win the new-look MEAC. These two teams squared off in the spring, with Alabama A&M notching an impressive 31-7 win over South Carolina State on a dreary day in March.
Sept. 5: Florida A&M vs Jackson State
This is arguably the most anticipated game of the year, with Florida A&M and Jackson State meeting in the revived Orange Blossom Classic. Observers will finally get to witness how a revamped Tigers squad led by true freshman quarterback Shedeur Sanders and a Top-60 recruiting class fares against a Willie Simmons outfit that crowned itself national championship two years ago. This matchup between historic HBCU bluebloods also carries immediate SWAC East implications with it.
Grambling State vs Tennessee State
Grambling State is coming off its worst season since 2014 and looking to forgot what was a miserable spring season. Tennessee State has renewed optimism with the hire of college and NFL great Eddie George as head coach. The intrigue here is examining how George — with the help of ex-NFL and FBS assistants — navigates his first foray on the sidelines in the Black College Hall of Fame Game.
Sept. 11: Jackson State vs Tennessee State
The so-called celebrity head coaches will meet for the first time in this longtime rivalry and the apparent contrasting styles and personalities make the game a must-watch.
Sept. 23: Alcorn State vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Arkansas-Pine Bluff isn’t going to sneak up on anyone this fall after surprisingly winning the SWAC West. Alcorn State heads into this one eying its first conference win since the conference championship game against Southern. We will see how much the Golden Lions have grown under second-year head coach Doc Gamble and whether the Braves still remain the elite program in the SWAC.
Oct. 9: Jackson State vs Alabama A&M
The last time these two teams were on the same field the Bulldogs — led by all-world quarterback Aqeel Glass — racked up 52 points in a shootout win over the Tigers in Jackson. Nothing signifies that this early October entanglement will be any different.
Oct. 30: Grambling State vs Florida A&M
For Grambling State, a date with Florida A&M concludes an October stretch that featured games earlier in the month versus Alabama A&M, Texas Southern, and Alcorn State. The Rattlers play host to the Tigers for what will be a rowdy and festive homecoming in Tallahassee.
Alcorn State vs Southern
These two teams previously met with the SWAC championship on the line. Nearly two years later, the programs might be in a familiar position battling for the SWAC West championship this time.
Nov. 6: Florida A&M versus Southern
Two of the largest and most vocal fanbases in all of HBCUdom will get together for what figures to be an important game in SWAC play. Fraternizing aside, a late-season stumble by either could knock one completely out of the conference title chase.
Nov. 13: Jackson State vs Southern
In April, the Jaguars handed Deion Sanders and Jackson State its worst defeat of the season in a 34-14 outcome in Jackson. It was the signature win of the spring for Southern during its impressive one-loss run. Jason Rollins is now at the helm on The Bluff and hopes to maintain the momentum from the Dawson Odums era with what would be a milestone victory in his first year as head coach.
Nov. 20: Bethune Cookman vs Florida A&M
The Florida Classic is no longer a MEAC exclusive event these days. This new SWAC-based classic will have a lot at stake for several reasons by this point in the season. Bragging rights, of course. SWAC East significance. And Florida A&M trying to break a nine-game losing streak to the Wildcats.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff vs Alabama A&M
The rematch of the SWAC Championship Game will take place in Huntsville, and maybe this one comes down to the final play, too with Aqeel Glass and Skyler Perry going back-and-forth.
Alcorn State vs Jackson State
If there was ever a measuring stick game, this one certainly fits the billing for both teams. The Braves have gotten the better of it in recent years, but this one should be a toss-up, with Jackson State loading up its roster with both talent and depth while Alcorn State is still just as formidable. This is also more must-see because it could be a possible preview of the SWAC championship.
Nov. 25: Alabama State vs Tuskegee
The Hornets were one win away from playing in the SWAC title game if not for a crushing loss to in-state foe Alabama A&M in the spring. Its holiday tilt with Tuskegee will be the first matchup between the two teams since 2012 — a 25-17 win by the Golden Tigers in Montgomery. Can Alabama State win a crucial late-season contest it’s expected to take?
Nov. 27: Grambling vs Southern
The spring version of the Bayou Classic wasn’t close. Grambling’s roster was battered by COVID and its team spirit shot after heading into the annual matchup engulfed in dysfunction. Southern won the game handily then, and return a roster that’s just as good, if not better, than in April. As of now, the Jaguars appear to be the better team. It might be tough for the Tigers to avoid a fourth consecutive loss in this series.