Tennessee State football
Photo: Tennessee State Athletics

Each year, there are teams that either defy preseason expectations by either falling short of or exceeding them. Some such as Jackson State, South Carolina State and Bowie State won conference championships or postseason games. Others didn’t fare so well.

Here are the teams whose stock rose and dropped in the 2021 HBCU football season.

Stock up: Prairie View A&M 

Prior to the start of the season, many thought the SWAC West would come down to Alcorn State and Southern.

What most may not have counted on was Prairie View A&M coming out of nowhere and stealing the division.

Prairie View had a solid spring season, playing three games finishing with a 2-1 record. The Panthers were always competitive, finishing with a winning record in conference in each of the previous six seasons.

This year they were able to get over the hump getting off to a hot start going 7-1 through eight games, their best start in a decade.

Although they ended up losing their last two conference games, the Panthers were still able to clinch a spot in the SWAC championship game for the first time since 2009.

Stock down: Southern 

Although Southern fell just short of their fifth SWAC championship game appearance since 2013 in the spring, many looked to them as a team to potentially take the crown in the fall.

The Jaguars were playing its first season without Dawson Odums who had been with the team for the past eight years before taking the Norfolk State job.

Hopes for being a contender did not come into fruition as for the first time since 2012 the Jaguars finished the season with a losing record, going 4-7 overall and 3-5 in conference, including a loss in the Bayou Classic to rival Grambling State.

Stock up: Florida A&M 

In Florida A&M’s first season in the SWAC, they played very well, nearly clinching a spot in the conference championship game.

After starting the season 1-2, the Rattlers reeled off eight-straight wins to end the season 9-3 and 7-1 in conference.

They finished the season a perfect 4-0 at home to extend their win streak to 10 games in Tallahassee dating back to 2018.

Their defense was among the top in all of the FCS, allowing just 15.1 points per game all year.

Much of the success from the Rattlers’ defense came down to junior linebacker Isaiah Land.

Land was named SWAC Defensive Player of the Year after a dominant season in which he put up 43.0 tackles, 25.5 tackles for loss, 19.0 sacks, three pass breakups and three forced fumbles.

Also read: Top high school running back plans to visit Florida A&M

Stock down: North Carolina A&T

North Carolina A&T’s first season in the Big South after what was a dominant final decade in the MEAC was disappointing.

NCAT finished with a 5-6 overall record and a 3-4 conference record, giving the program its first losing season since 2011.

In years past, North Carolina A&T was always known for being an excellent run team on but this was not the case in 2021.

They averaged just 129.5 rushing yards per game during the year nearly half their total from the 2019 season.

It was not the ideal start to a new era for the Aggies but this in no way means that they are doomed for failure.

Stock up: Tennessee State

In the first season with former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George at the helm, Tennessee State had a much better season than anyone could have expected.

In 2021, the Tigers began the process of turning the program around, finishing with a 5-6 record and 3-3 mark in the OVC.

After starting the season 1-3, the TSU won four straight conference games with three coming against OVC opponents for the first time since 2013.

The future in TSU is bright with a young offense led by sophomore running back Devon Starling. The Memphis transfer was named OVC co-Freshman of the Year after tallying 1,112 yards of total offense.

The Tigers have a very young offense that has the potential to make noise as early as next season. This is certainly a team that fans should keep their eyes on.

Stock down: Norfolk State

Norfolk State was expected to be a top contender in a new-look six-team conference.

This was the first season for Spartans head coach Dawson Odums, who was hired in April.

The Spartans season was one of highs and lows that began with back-to-back losses against FBS programs.

They got their first win against a below-average Elizabeth City State team, but gave up 26 points in the process.

After that, NSU reeled off five-straight wins, including victories against Hampton in the Battle of the Bay as well as their first two conference games against Morgan State and Howard.

The Spartans found themselves atop the MEAC standings by early November before a late season slide, losing consecutive games to North Carolina Central, Delaware State and South Carolina State.

Stock up: Chowan 

Looking for a team whose stock rose in the major Division II ranks was quite difficult seeing as there was no one that truly played above expectations.

The only team to do so was the CIAAs only non-HBCU Chowan. The Hawks had their best overall season since joining the conference in 2009.

They finished the season 7-3 — their best record since 1993. Chowan was on an offensive tear scoring averaging 51.4 points per game by an average margin of 31.4 points.

The offense was led by Bryce Witt who threw 20 touchdowns and tallied eight rushing touchdowns during Chowan’s winning streak.

The difference between this year and last year’s past for the Hawks was improvement defensively. They allowed 22.6 points per game which was a massive improvement over the 40.6 points the unit surrendered in 2019.

Freshman defensive lineman Isaac Anderson was named the CIAA Defensive Rookie of the Year after finishing fourth in the conference with 20.0 tackles for loss and tied for fifth with 9.0 sacks.

Stock down: Shaw

To be fair, Shaw’s season has less to do with their final record and more to do with the context surrounding it dating back to 2018.

The Bears went 6-4 overall and 5-2 in conference.

Although that record may not be impressive, they showed great promise due in part to their defense which was led by linebacker Devon Hunt who was named the CIAA Defensive Player of the Year.

The Bears have a great chance of getting back to the CIAA championship with Hunt back healthy and a much-improved offense featuring sophomore running back Sidney Gibbs and freshman quarterback Christian Peters.

Stock up: Bluefield State

Bluefield State had not played a single football game in the past 41 years prior to this season.

The Big Blue started 4-1 highlighted by an impressive 35-27 win over Elizabeth City State after trailing 21-0 in the first half.

While Big Blue went on to lose their final two games of the regular season, it was a great sample size for a team that has a bright future once they get more reps together as a team.


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