There will be a new king in the SIAC after Saturday.
For the first time since 2017, a school not named Albany State or Miles will be hoisting the championship trophy.
The 2022 battle for conference supremacy will feature Benedict College and Tuskegee.
Tuskegee (8-2, 7-0) has gone about its business of running through the SIAC West under the radar. Head coach Reginald Ruffin made his return to Tuskegee in 2021 after nine years at Miles College where he won four SIAC Championships and made two NCAA playoff appearances.
Ruffin has instilled a level of confidence in his players and that bore itself out in a homecoming win last Saturday against Miles at refurbished Abbott Stadium.
In a tight game, Ruffin made the call to go for the win rather than potentially force another overtime period. It was a call that proved to be the right one as Donte Edwards punched it in to give the Golden Tigers the win.
“I wasn’t going into overtime,” said Ruffin after the game. “You know, that’s something we practice every day. Our offensive coordinator, our offensive group, they work on this.”
Benedict has undergone a similar transformation
On the other side, Chennis Perry took over a Benedict team that was 1-9 the season prior to his arrival. By his second season, he transformed the program into the class of the SIAC East. Benedict, a school that has never won more than eight games in a season since reinstituting their football program in 1995, went 7-0 in league play and a 10-0 overall record, the first undefeated season in school history.
Why Tuskegee can win
The Golden Tigers’ margin for error against Benedict is razor-thin. Tuskegee faces an opponent that is, statistically speaking, superior to them in on both sides of the ball. The Golden Tigers will have to run the football effectively, not only to maintain a balanced attack but also to keep the SIAC-leading Benedict offense, which averages 31.3 points per game, off the field.
Running backs Taurean Taylor and Donte Edwards have combined for 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. TU will not only need big games from one or both of their backs but also quarterback Bryson Williams, too.
Why Benedict can win
Benedict has an offense that has scored at least 35 points in 60% of their games this season. Quarterback Eric Phoenix and the Tigers offense could present issues for TU. Running back Deondra Duehart leads the SIAC with a staggering 9.1 yards per carry as part of a backfield that averages 172.9 yards per game. With Tuskegee featuring the third-worst run defense in the conference — surrendering 183.4 yards per contest — could be a very productive day.
Tuskegee will likely have an uphill battle to keep up with the high-powered Benedict offense. While Tuskegee will be well-coached and play hard, ultimately the talent disparity on both sides of the ball will overwhelm the Golden Tigers.
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