This is officially gut-check time in HBCU football as the regular season concludes in the Division II ranks, and the home stretch begins in the FCS.
The SWAC will see a number of interesting matchups that could see a shift in the standings. Meanwhile, the MEAC continues its unpredictable run with one game, in particular, that will determine who ends the weekend with the lead in the conference.
There is also a matchup in the CIAA that will settle the Northern division and championship game berth.
Here are the four games to watch on Saturday.
Howard vs. North Carolina Central (2 p.m. ESPN 3)
The Howard Bison will put its unbeaten conference record on the line when they go on the road to face the North Carolina Central Eagles.
The MEAC has been in chaos since the start of conference play. Howard is currently the unlikely leader early, thanks to a 49-21 win over Norfolk State last Saturday.
North Carolina Central, on the other hand, bounced back from a loss to South Carolina State to defeat Delaware State, 28-21, in the final minute.
A win for Howard would put the Bison in great position to win the conference, while a North Carolina Central win would force more complicated clinching scenarios in the MEAC.
Virginia Union vs. Virginia State
The Virginia Union Panthers will look to keep hopes of a CIAA championship berth alive when they face CIAA North rival Virginia State on the road.
Last Saturday, the Panthers had its unbeaten run halted when they lost 26-21 to the Chowan Hawks, putting their chances for their first conference title since 2007 in jeopardy.
There is still a path for Virginia Union with a win and a loss by Chowan. But in their way is a Virginia State team that has beaten them four of the last five times at home.
Jada Byers is looking to bounce back from his first outing season in which he did not score a touchdown. He will go up against a Trojans defense that has forced more turnovers than any team in the country.
Southern vs. Florida A&M (5 p.m. ESPN 3)
Southern looks to remain in the hunt in the SWAC West when they face off against the Florida A&M Rattlers.
Southern is coming off a shutout loss against the SWAC East-leading Jackson State.
Meanwhile, Florida A&M still technically remains alive in the race for the SWAC East division crown. Last season when these two teams faced off, FAMU secured a 29-17 victory after scoring 19 unanswered points. This is an important game, especially for Southern, which desperately needs this win to keep pace with Prairie View A&M.
Jackson State vs. Texas Southern (6 p.m. ESPN 3)
In its quest to continue its dominant play, Jackson State put an undefeated record on the line against Texas Southern.
Jackson State has been the undisputed king of the SWAC this season, with five conference wins coming by an average of 37 points per game.
They will look to keep up this production against a TSU team that is locked in a tight race in the SWAC West division. Texas Southern holds a 3-2 conference record, including wins over division foes Southern and UAPB.
A win in this game (and potentially a Prairie View loss) will put Texas Southern in first place.
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