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Road to the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl

Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: N.C. A&T vs. Alcorn State by the numbers

It’s a matchup of top FCS teams on offense and defense

North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State are both conference champions preparing to face each other in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Saturday at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

The N.C. A&T Aggies return after an unbeaten season in 2017, with upset wins over FBS opponent East Carolina and Jacksonville State this season en route to winning the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC). N.C. A&T (6-1 MEAC, 9-2 overall) was the game’s inaugural winner in 2015, when it defeated Alcorn State 41-34. The Braves (6-1 SWAC, 9-3 overall), winners of the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), return behind a high-powered offense led by quarterback Noah Johnson, the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year.

The Aggies won in 2015 on a 73-yard touchdown run by Tarik Cohen with 4:17 left in the game, securing the first of N.C. A&T’s two Celebration Bowl titles.

Here is how the teams compare by the numbers. ESPN Stats & Information provided data to give fans on both sides plenty to brag about before the game, which will be on ABC at noon Saturday.

Most appearances in Celebration Bowl since 2015
Team No. of Appearances
North Carolina A&T 3*
Grambling State 2
Alcorn State 2*

*Playing in 2018

This game will feature one of the best offenses in the FCS against one of the best defenses in the FCS. North Carolina A&T ranks among the top five in the FCS in points allowed, total defense and rushing defense. Alcorn State leads the SWAC in points per game, yards per game and rushing yards per game.

Team Comparison – This Season
Team PPG YPG Rush YPG
N.C. A&T Defense 13.5 254.3 72.6
Alcorn State Offense** 33.7 474.4 281.5

**Best in Conference

  • Both Alcorn State and N.C. A&T are controlling games, averaging more than 30 minutes of possession per game. They each have a positive turnover margin and have had decent success converting on third down.
Team Time of Possession Third Down Conversion Turnover Margin
N.C. A&T 31:36 36.2% +6
Alcorn State 33:05 37.5% +5
  • N.C. A&T allowed its opponents to convert 25.6 percent of their third down attempts, the lowest conversion percentage among FCS teams.
  • Alcorn State has recorded 51 sacks this season, the most in the FCS. N.C. A&T has allowed 12 sacks, the fewest in the MEAC.

John X. Miller is senior editor for news and commentary for The Undefeated. He's a father, jazz aficionado and diehard UNC basketball fan.