While many are focused on the conference championship trilogy between Bowie State and Fayetteville State in the CIAA, many may not recognize that this year’s SIAC championship game between Miles and Albany State is also a trilogy.
Similar to the CIAA championship trilogy, Miles has taken the previous two meetings over Albany State with the first win coming on their home field and the second on Albany’s.
This year, the championship game returns to Miles’ home field where the Golden Bears finished 2-2 this season; their worst home record since 2016.
The biggest reason the Rams should be the favorite to take home the SIAC championship is they cancel out what Miles does best.
In the regular season, Miles averaged 206.7 rushing yards per game — the second-highest mark in the SIAC and 25th in all of Division II.
However, against Albany State, Miles only managed a season-low 110 rushing yards in the only game it failed to score a touchdown.
Miles was not the only victim of the Golden Rams’ defense as they only allowed 52 total points (led Division II) all season shutting out five opponents.
A big part of the success of Albany State’s defense is it did not allow a single rushing touchdown all season; the only team in all of Division II that did so.
Miles will look to make adjustments which means the Golden Rams could lean more on its offense.
If the Albany State offense is able to control time of possession while remaining sharp on defense like it usually does, this could be a recipe for another dominant victory — this time for the SIAC title.
How Miles will win a third straight SIAC title
Albany State already has one up on Miles, but if history is any indication, Miles has the Rams right where it wants them.
In 2018, Albany State defeated Miles in the regular season only to lose by a wide margin in the SIAC championship game.
The biggest thing defensively for Miles will be making Albany State a passing team which was what the team was best at during the regular season.
Miles allowed just seven passing touchdowns all season allowing just 129.6 yards per game each (leading the SIAC).
In contrast, Albany State allowed 154.7 passing yards per game and 11 touchdowns on the season.
If the Golden Bears are able to stabilize Albany State’s run game, that could open up opportunities for their secondary to create stops through the air making the job a bit easier for the offense.
Players to Watch
Claude Newell III, QB
Miles is a team that leans on the run game on offense. However, Golden Bears are playing an Albany State team that is the best run defense in the country. This puts the onus on quarterback Claude Newell III to lead the Miles offense. In their regular-season matchup against ASU, Newell only attempted 17 passes, completing nine for 83 yards
N’Ktavious Floyd, LB
If the Golden Bears are going to make Albany State a passing team, their defensive front will have to stop them on the ground first. That game plan will begin and end with linebacker N’Ktavious Floyd, who is arguably the most versatile defender on the team. Floyd did not make his presence felt the last time these teams played only recording three tackles in the game. He will need to make more of an impact, similar to his performance against Benedict if Miles wants any chance of winning.
Running Back Duo
While Albany State’s defense is arguably the best in all of Division II football, Miles has seen them and will look to make adjustments based on their regular-season matchup. The Golden Rams will need their offense to contribute to provide resistance against Miles. A big part of that will be their run game which has not been a strong suit of the Miles defense. Running backs Kam Ward and Marcuis Fulks played well the last time they faced the Golden Bears combining for 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns. They need to have a similar performance for Albany State to walk away victorious.
Malachi Brown, DB
If Miles is planning on leaning more on their passing attack then their secondary is going to have to be on high alert led by defensive back Malachi Brown. Brown led the team with three interceptions, one of which came in their win against Miles. He along with fellow defensive back Coemba Jones patrolling the secondary will be a key to the Golden Rams winning a second straight game over the Golden Bears.