It’s July and the FCS playoffs aren’t until November, but it’s never soon enough to predict which HBCU football teams could make a run at the postseason in 2022.
Last season, Florida A&M — in its first season in the SWAC — earned an at-large bid to the 24-team field, a first for the conference since 1997.
With the talent and depth of Black college football improving rapidly over the last several years thanks to the transfer portal and more high-end prep athletes infiltrating rosters, the chances are that another HBCU — or several programs in contention for a playoff spot — will not be an anomaly moving forward.
Also read: ‘That’s what we deserve’: The SWAC’s ambitious playoff, bowl vision is blossoming just as planned
Here are the HBCU football programs that have a shot to play deep into the fall this year.
As noted before, the Rattlers made the playoff field after an impressive run through the SWAC, with its only in-conference loss coming at the hands of eventual league champion Jackson State. FAMU and JSU square off once again to open the season in a matchup that will likely determine which team will be thinking of either the Celebration Bowl or how to plan for a first-round playoff game.
The Tigers went unbeaten in the SWAC last season en route to its first conference championship since 2007. The Deion Sanders-led squad — with a highly-touted recruiting class and exceptional group of returners — aren’t figured to lose in 2022, either. But if JSU somehow does not win the SWAC East, they would be an attractive candidate to secure an at-large bid.
North Carolina A&T
The 2021 season was not kind to the Aggies during the program’s journey in the Big South. However, Sam Washington and Co. aren’t used to losing or having consecutive down years. With Kennesaw State and Monmouth no longer in the conference, North Carolina A&T has its best shot — and only shot — to win the automatic bid before heading to the CAA.
The Braves never really found their footing one year removed from the program pulling out of the 2020 COVID-impacted season. Alcorn’s playoff fate will be tested right away in September, with games against FCS postseason regulars McNeese State and Stephen F. Austin. If the Braves can get through that gauntlet, they could find themselves in the mix down the stretch.
Under Eddie George, Tennessee State has improved its roster mightily on the recruiting trail, bookended by Austin Peay quarterback and former Ohio Valley Confere co-Freshman of the Year Draylen Ellis. But will a personnel overhaul be enough to overcome non-conference dates versus Eastern Washington, Jackson State, and a competitive OVC?
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