Teams inch closer to Celebration Bowl berth
One month away, the MEAC champion could be decided this weekend
With the Dec. 21 Celebration Bowl one month away, the champions of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC), who will face off in Atlanta, are close to being decided.
North Carolina A&T (7-3 overall, 5-2 MEAC) and South Carolina State (7-3, 5-2) both have a chance to win the MEAC championship outright and clinch a trip to the Celebration Bowl. The N.C. A&T Aggies are the three-time Celebration Bowl champions.
On Saturday, North Carolina Central plays at N.C. A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina, at the Aggie-Eagle Classic and the Aggies can control their own destiny with a win over the Eagles to secure a berth to the Celebration Bowl and at least a share of the MEAC title for the third year in a row.
The last time the teams played in Greensboro two years ago, there was a scuffle at midfield during pregame warm-ups 45 minutes before kickoff. Last season, the Aggies won 45-0 in Durham, North Carolina.
“You want to say it’s just another game, but it’s obviously not,” said NCCU coach Trei Oliver. ” It’s a rivalry game, and that means a lot to both schools and both programs. The biggest thing for my guys to understand, I want us to control our emotions. If something good happens, stay calm and keep playing. If something bad happens, just stay calm and keep playing.”
S.C. State can win the MEAC title outright with a win against Norfolk State on Saturday and an N.C. A&T loss. If N.C. A&T and S.C. State both win, they will be declared MEAC co-champions with a 6-2 record, but the Aggies will earn the Celebration Bowl berth based on their 22-20 win over the Bulldogs on Nov. 2. The S.C. State-Norfolk State and N.C. A&T-N.C. Central games will be on ESPN.
In the SWAC, the winner of the conference title game Dec. 7 will represent the league in Atlanta. Alcorn State will play in the Cricket Wireless SWAC Football Championship game as the winner of the SWAC East division. Its opponent likely will be the winner of the Bayou Classic between Southern University and Grambling State on Nov. 30. Alcorn State was in last season’s Celebration Bowl, losing to N.C. A&T 24-22.
Bowie State, Miles College in NCAA playoffs
Undefeated Bowie State (11-0) and Miles College (9-2), who both successfully defended their conference titles on Nov. 16, hope they are not one-and-done this weekend and will rely on the momentum they’ve created during their regular seasons to extend their NCAA title aspirations.
“It’s a great feeling winning the conference championship this year against a tough Fayetteville State program,” said Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson. “We have put ourselves in position and earned another home game. This is great for the university and the Bowie community and we are looking forward to everyone coming to support on Saturday.”
Bowie State is led by quarterback Ja’rome Johnson and defensive back Demetri Morsell. Johnson finished the regular season with 1,507 yards passing, 21 touchdowns, and a 62.4 completion percentage, and Morsell led Division II and the CIAA with nine interceptions with three returned for touchdowns.
Miles’ Golden Bears (9-2) took their second consecutive league title with a 21-6 win over Albany State. Miles is the No. 7 seed and will play at No. 2 seed Lenoir-Rhyne in Hickory, North Carolina. It’ll be the Golden Bears’ first NCAA playoff appearance since 2012. Miles set a school record for single-season victories and having won three straight.
“This is a big deal for our school, our program, everyone who works hard so we can be successful,” said Miles head coach Reginald Ruffin. “Our guys deserve this opportunity to compete for a national championship. So we’re going stay focused, prepare, and get locked in to face a good Lenoir-Rhyne team.”