There is no shortage of important matchups that will have huge implications in a number of conference championship races this weekend.
Here are the five games to watch in Week 7 of the HBCU football season.
Virginia Union vs. Bowie State
The CIAA North could potentially be decided this Saturday when the reigning champion Bowie State Bulldogs face off against the undefeated Virginia Union Panthers.
Virginia Union is the last remaining undefeated team in the CIAA, currently sitting at 6-0 overall with a 4-0 record in CIAA play. Meanwhile, Bowie State is coming off a dominant 41-14 win against Virginia, improving their record to 4-2 and 3-1 against the CIAA, respectively.
With a win, Virginia Union will be one step closer to clinching a spot in their first CIAA championship game since 2007. Bowie State, on the other hand, wants to avoid being eliminated from their bird for a fourth straight conference championship appearance.
The key to this matchup will be Virginia Union establishing the run game led by their star running back Jada Byers. In addition, they will also look to force takeaways against a Bowie State team that has been turnover prone in previous games.
Bowie State, on the other hand, will be looking for quarterback Dion Golatt to continue his streak of great performances against a Virginia Union defense that has allowed the second-most passing touchdowns of all CIAA teams.
Benedict vs. Albany State
From a critical matchup in the CIAA North division to a critical matchup in the SIAC East division, reigning champion Albany State Golden Rams will look to keep their hopes for a repeat alive when they face the undefeated Benedict Tigers.
With both teams unbeaten in SIAC play, Benedict and Albany State will look to take a lead in the division in their bid for a conference championship berth.
This game will be a defensive chess match with Benedict ranking second in the country allowing 8.3 points per game and Albany State ranking fifth, allowing 11.2 points.
Benedict defensive end Loobert Denelus will be a player to watch, coming off 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in his last outing against Miles. For Albany State, defensive back Jaree Turner will be the player to keep your eye on following a game against Edward Waters in which he had three tackles and an interception.
Lane vs. Miles
The Lane Dragons will look to keep their hopes in the SIAC West alive when they travel to Birmingham, Alabama, to face the defending division champion Miles
Lane has been the very definition of a rollercoaster. The team achieved the highest of highs in a win against Tennessee State but followed that up with a loss to Kentucky State.
Meanwhile, Miles has struggled all season and is in danger of its three-season SIAC championship game appearance streak coming to an end. They currently sit at 1-5 overall, including a 1-2 record against the SIAC.
The key for Lane will be establishing running back Ike Brown on offense. Brown was a huge reason the Dragons pulled off the upset win over Tennessee State, rushing for 63 yards while catching four passes for 74 yards and two total touchdowns.
On the opposite side, Miles will be looking for production from their running back Zarious Keyes. Keyes has struggled in the team’s last two games against Benedict and Albany State, respectively, only managing a combined 76 rushing yards on 29 attempts.
Alcorn State vs. Southern
We now head to the SWAC, where we have an important matchup in the SWAC West division when the Alcorn State Braves face off against the Southern Jaguars.
With Southern’s decisive win against Prairie View A&M last weekend, Alcorn State is now the last remaining unbeaten team in SWAC play in the division.
Southern will look to stay in the race for a division title alive with a win, while Alcorn will be looking to take a commanding lead in the West.
This matchup will come down to a battle between the Jaguars’ defense and the Braves’ running back Jarveon Howard. Howard is arguably the frontrunner for the SWAC Newcomer of the Year, averaging a SWAC-leading 129.2 rushing yards per game.
However, Southern has been among the best at defending the run, ranking second in the SWAC, allowing 118.2 yards per game and just six touchdowns. The Jaguars will also look for quarterback Besean McCray to have a big game following his four-touchdown performance (two passing and two rushing) against Prairie View A&M.
Florida A&M vs. Grambling State
The Florida A&M Rattlers will be looking for their fifth win in a row when they go on the road to face the Grambling State Tigers.
This is a gut-check game for a Grambling State team that came into this season with much hype led by new head coach Hue Jackson and a host of Division I transfers. The Tigers currently sit at 0-3 against the SWAC, making them one of three teams winless in conference play.
Grambling State is in desperate need of a quality performance against a true contender and Florida A&M is one of GSU’s many chances to make that happen.
Florida A&M will be looking to get out to a hot start led by their lethal passing attack featuring quarterback Jeremy Moussa and top receiver Xavier Smith. Smith has accounted for seven of the team’s ten receiving touchdowns this season.
The Tigers’ fate will rest on running back Maurice Washington having a big outing.