Jackson State and Prairie View have gone a combined 20 seasons since winning a division championship.
That could all change with wins by the Tigers and Panthers on Saturday.
For Jackson State, it would be its first SWAC East title since 2013. Prairie View seeks its second SWAC West crown since 2009.
But the road to a possible meeting in the SWAC Championship Game will need to carefully navigate opponents that are anything but pushovers.
Also read: SWAC Football Midseason Report Cards: Jackson State, Prairie View might be on a collision course
Prairie View (7-1, 6-0 SWAC) travels to preseason West division favorite Alcorn State in what is a must-win for the Braves, which trails the Panthers by two full games in the loss column.
“We approach every game like it’s critical,” said Prairie View head coach Eric Dooley. “It’s the next game and we’re talking about a worthy opponent that plays exciting and great football that understands what it takes.”
Alcorn State (5-4, 4-2 SWAC) has a history of playing in and winning big games, particularly at home, where the Braves have won their last eight.
“This coaching staff and players have been here before,” said coach Fred McNair, whose team has won four divisions during his tenure since 2016. “Regardless of the magnitude of the game, every coach and player knows what’s at stake to keep ourselves in the hunt for a championship.”
Prairie View, which hasn’t won the West in 12 seasons, understands what the accomplishment would mean for the program.
“Hats off to the assistant coaches and hats off to the players for how they’ve prepared themselves to put themselves in a position such as this right here,” said Dooley about winning the division. “It’s not over with yet. I still think it’s a long season and we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
On the other half of the bracket, Jackson State is looking to accomplish a couple of things during its matchup against longtime bitter rival Southern.
The first would obviously to be clinch the East. More importantly, avenge a 34-14 loss to the Jaguars suffered this spring.
JSU (8-1, 6-0 SWAC) is 9-2 since that April defeat when Southern handed Deion Sanders his worst setback of the season.
“Southern put a pretty good whooping on us,” said Gary Harrell, who has filled in for a recovering Sanders the last three weeks, all wins by the Tigers. “Our guys remember that game. We’ve built this team for that type of moment. We kind of remember that game in the back of our minds. We look forward to the competition level, the expectations.”
Jackson State is also motivated to cash in on Sanders’ unwavering and prophetic belief in a program that had underachieved over the last eight seasons before his arrival.
“Coach Prime came in and saw some things a lot of folks didn’t think was possible,” Harrell said. “We want to back him up.
“Everything we’ve talked about is to be ready for this moment. Folks don’t realize it’s been just over a year and it feels like two or three. We were able to get some things in place and get in position. We want to finish the process.”
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