By Donal Ware
College Sports Journal
PHILADELPHIA, PA. — Time certainly flies.
It seems like yesterday we were previewing the HBCU football season and now the season is coming down the home stretch.
A few matchups last week helped us get closer to determining… and well, still kept things up in the air as to who would play for or win conference championships.
In the CIAA, the championship game was determined last Saturday when the Winston-Salem State Rams defeated Shaw 62-31 in Durham, NC and Elizabeth City State defeated Virginia Union 27-21.
With the Vikings needing help from Chowan, they got it as the Hawks defeated Virginia State 33-21.
The Rams and Vikings will play in a rematch of last year’s championship game on Saturday Nov. 10 in Durham, N.C.
The picture in the MEAC got a little clearer as Bethune-Cookman defeated North Carolina Central 42-17 to take sole possession of first place.
Win out and the Wildcats will win their second MEAC championship in three years.
Unfortunately for Delaware State, which has only one loss in the conference, the Hornets and the Wildcats don’t meet this year.
The Hornets would have to win out beginning this Saturday at NCCU and hope that the Wildcats lose at least one of their remaining three games to have any shot at the title.
The SWAC picture, especially in the Eastern Division, got a little cloudier as Alabama State pulled off a mild upset defeating Alabama A&M 31-13 in the Magic City Classic.
After starting the season 6-0, the Bulldogs have lost their last two games.
ASU and AAMU have a 5-2 record in the conference with ASU holding the tiebreaker. AAMU still has 4-2 Jackson State remaining, while ASU defeated JSU 37-34 two weeks ago.
Then there are the big time matches in the SIAC this Saturday…
Boxtorow/BCSP HBCU Football Power Rankings for Week of 10/29/12
Rank School Average CPU PCP Boxtorow
North Carolina Central
Boxtorow National Co-Game of the Week
Tuskegee (7-1, 6-0) vs. Miles (8-1, 6-0)
The matchup for the SIAC championship game on Saturday, November 10 in Atlanta will come down to a pair of intradivision games this week.
Tuskegee and defending SIAC champion Miles have had very similar seasons. Both have one loss. Both lost games by one point to powerful teams to open the season — Tuskegee 7-6 to Alabama A&M and Miles 31-30 to North Alabama.
Both teams have very good defenses one and two in the conference.
Both have very good running games, again one and two in the conference.
Where Miles has the clear advantage is at quarterback.
Preseason first-team, all-conference performer David Thomas has truly lived up to the billing.
He leads the SIAC in total offense (237 yards per game) and pass efficiency (159.2).
He has completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,819 yards with 13 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Not only will Tuskegee have to contend with his throwing ability, but also his ability to run the football, averaging 4.4 yards per carry, having rushed for 314 yards and seven touchdowns.
What has enabled Thomas to be successful is the running game.
Miles is second in the conference in rushing (224.9) and is led by Floyd Graves who averages 6.7 yards per carry and has scored nine touchdowns.
If he and Thomas weren’t enough, add Devonta Johnson-Parker to the mix who has also rushed for nine touchdowns and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Thomas’ receiving core consists of leading receiver Antonio Pitts (35-431-6), Jerromy Mardis (16-272-1), deep threat D.J. Fife (14-408-3), and LaDarius Thompson (13-174).
Defensively, the Golden Bears are tough against the run giving up on 99 yards rushing per game.
The Golden Bears are however susceptible to the pass, giving up 180 yards per game which is seventh in the conference.
Unfortunately for Tuskegee, passing is not its strong suit.
The great thing offensively for the Golden Tigers is that they run the ball as well as Miles, leading the conference with 226 yards per game.
It all begins with University of Missouri transfer Derrick Washington, who is averaging 7.2 yards per carry with 967 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns.
Michael Thornton is also a threat to run well behind a solid offensive line, and has rushed for 313 yards on 7.5 yards per carry and seven touchdowns.
As mentioned the Golden Tigers have struggled at the quarterback position and have not had a consistency at the position since Jakary Atkinson during the 2009 season.
Rashard Burkette and Justin Nared have both played in all eight games this year and Nared has been the most productive, completing 53 percent of his passes for 721 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Golden Tigers throw the ball when the have to and this could present a problem if they are not able to establish the running game against Miles or if they accumulate offensive penalties.
They convert 36 percent of third down conversions.
Defensively, the Golden Tigers have the most stout defense in the SIAC, also ranking third in the nation.
Not only do the total yard numbers speak to how good they are, but they lead the SIAC in forced turnovers with 27.
TU will need to put some pressure on Thomas and haven’t done a great job of pressuring quarterbacks with only 16 sacks, but defensive backs William Buford and Adam Lucas have four interceptions a piece.
Boxtorow National Co-Game of the Week
Fort Valley State (7-2, 5-1) vs. Albany State (6-3, 5-1)
For the second-straight year the Albany State Golden Rams will need a win in the annual Fountain City Classic in Columbus, GA to secure a berth in the SIAC championship game.
Last year, the Golden Rams had to win — and did so — preventing Morehouse from winning the Eastern Division.
This year the winner of this game moves on to the championship game.
Like the Tuskegee/Miles matchup, there are some similarities between these two teams.
Each has one loss in the SIAC, both blowouts — Albany State to Miles 41-6 and Fort Valley State to Tuskegee 49-18.
After a 1-3 start and when it looked like this may be a rebuilding year, the Golden Rams have bounced back nicely to win five-straight.
In all fairness the competition hasn’t been the stiffest, but the five-straight wins has put them in a position to go back to the championship game.
Defense has always been the staple of a Mike White coached Albany State program and the success of the Golden Rams begins with the “Dirty Blue” defense ranked third in the SIAC (283.2 yards per game).
Safety Larry Whitfield leads the team in tackles (69) and has registered 13 tackles for loss. Also in the secondary Dexter Moody is a ball hawk and has a league leading seven interceptions.
The Golden Rams have 19 sacks on the season and they hope they can pressure Wildcats singal-caller Antonio Henton — the former Ohio State and Georgia Southern quarterback — into making mistakes.
Another plus for the Dirty Blue; if they can force the Wildcats into third down situations, it bolds well as opponents are converting only 39 percent of third downs.
Offensively the Golden Rams aren’t going to overwhelm you, but they are proficient.
Running back Nathan Hoyt has rushed for 889 yards and eight touchdowns this year, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Quarterback David Kooi’s numbers again won’t overwhelm you — completing 51 percent of his passes for 1,276 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions — and during this winning streak he is completing 55 percent of his passes for 655 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
But in the last three games he has not thrown a touchdown.
He will also have to do a better job of feeling the pressure and avoiding sacks as FVSU has registered 27 sacks this year which leads the SIAC.
The Wildcats are putting up some solid offensive numbers this season.
The play of Henton at quarterback has been sporadic. He’s completing 50.5 percent of his passes, has thrown 15 touchdowns, but has also thrown 15 interceptions.
Twice this year he has thrown four interceptions in a game and threw three interceptions in the victory over Kentucky State.
But in his last three games he has thrown six touchdowns and no interceptions and it will be critical for him to protect the football against Albany State.
His favorite target is the SIAC’s premier receivers Christopher Slaughter, who can stretch the field and is averaging 20.5 yards per reception and has scored eight touchdowns.
Eric McCree has also played well, catching 33 passes for 460 yards and four touchdowns.
What has also aided the offense is the running game and the three headed monster of Seth Hill, Germaine Taite, and Travis Richmond who collectively has rushed for 1,044 yards, average 5.1 yards per carry and has scored seven touchdowns.
The Wildcats have given up a lot of yards on defense, but have forced a league leading 29 turnovers, 18 of those interceptions. Thomas Wolfe, Tracey White, and Dejua Williams have combined for 11.
As was mentioned the Wildcats can put pressure on Kooi as evidenced by their 27 sacks.
Fort Valley State only converts 29 percent of its third downs, yet leads the league in penalties average penalty yards per game (106.6).
In excess of 20,000 fans are expected in Columbus.
Editor's Note: Donal Ware is one of the leading voices in Historically Black College and University football. His Boxtorow.com website, popular articles for such publications as Jet magazine and regular radio shows for such networks as Sirius/XM have given him a high profile in the college and professional sports world. You can read more of his material at Boxtorow.com