Celebration bowl
Photo: Mandela Jones/HBCU Sports

It’s time to talk Celebration Bowl.

The annual game that pits the MEAC and SWAC conference champions against each other went on a hiatus in 2020 due to COVID-19. With this year’s event scheduled to go on without delay, there is one guarantee:

North Carolina A&T, which won the bowl game four times, will not be in a part of it after moving to the Big South. That leaves the door open for a new champion. And boy, is the field wide open this fall.

Let’s break down who could end up in Atlanta come December.

Jackson State vs. Norfolk State

If Jackson State wins out and Norfolk State completes the rest of the regular season unblemished, this Celebration Bowl would feature teams that hadn’t suffered a loss since September.

Prairie View vs. Norfolk State

Prairie View hasn’t won a SWAC championship since 2009, but the Panthers are off to its best start within the conference in six years and are among the favorites to represent the SWAC West.

Alcorn State vs. Norfolk State

The Braves last won a Black National Championship in 2014. The perennial winners of the SWAC — despite playing in a new division — are still among the teams to beat, though a date with Prairie View on Nov. 13 could decide matters.

South Carolina State vs. Jackson State

The Bulldogs got off to a 0-3 start before reeling off three wins in its last four. South Carolina State — picked as the favorite to win the MEAC, sits in first place. Not to look too far ahead, but the season finale at Norfolk State could determine who earns the bowl bid.

Prairie View vs. South Carolina State

A defensive-minded outfit in South Carolina State versus the high-scoring Panthers would make for an intriguing matchup in Atlanta.

Alcorn State vs. South Carolina State

The Braves and Bulldogs have yet to meet in a game that’s mattered so much. The Celebration Bowl would definitely mean a lot.

Florida A&M vs. Norfolk State

The Rattlers need a little help to win the SWAC East and advance to the conference championship game. If everything were to break in its favor, there’s a short trip north to Georgia against a school it holds a 4-1 record against since 2010.

Florida A&M vs. South Carolina State

The Rattlers beat the Bulldogs 30-7 in Tallahassee earlier this season. A rematch between two old MEAC foes in what could be Buddy Pough’s last game seems right.

Davius Richard, NCCU, MEAC/SWAC Challenge 2021
North Carolina Central’s Davius Richard scores on a 6-yard touchdown run against Alcorn State in the 2021 MEAC/SWAC Challenge. Photo: Mandela Jones/HBCU Sports

North Carolina Central vs. Alcorn State

North Carolina Central shocked most HBCU football observers with a convincing win over Alcorn State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge to open the 2021 fall season. Since then, the Braves have won five out of its last six while the Eagles are in third place in the MEAC.

North Carolina Central vs. Florida A&M

The Eagles are the only MEAC team other than North Carolina A&T to represent the conference in the Celebration Bowl. It would be awfully ironic if NCCU were to match up against a former MEAC squad with a national championship on the line.

North Carolina Central vs. Jackson State

Deion Sanders was giddy thinking about the prospect of reaching the Celebration Bowl in a city where his pro football and pro baseball career blossomed. It’s unlikely North Carolina Central would share the enthusiasm going against a formidable opponent.


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