SWAC Championship Game: Alcorn State-Grambling State
The Matchup – Alcorn State (5-5) vs. Grambling State (9-1)
Kickoff – 4 p.m. ET at NRG Stadium (72,220) in Houston
Coverage – ESPNU
Series – Grambling State leads 43-20-1
Players to Watch – Grambling State: QB DeVante Kincade (187 of 287, 2,633 yards, 28 TDs, 3 INTs), RB/RS Martez Carter (149.2 all-purpose ypg, 12 TDs), WR Chad Williams (80 receptions, 1,191 yards, 10 TDs); Alcorn State: QB Noah Johnson (172.9 total yards per game, 11 passing TDs, 10 rushing TDs), RB De'Lance Turner (116 carries, 618 yards, 4 TDs), LB Darien Anderson (80 TT, 17 TFL, 10 sacks)
The Skinny – Alcorn State has won the last two SWAC championship games, including 49-21 over Grambling State last year, but Grambling has the most appearances (this is the ninth) and titles (six) in the championship game, which began in 1999. In last year's final, Alcorn QB Lenorris Footman accounted for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing). He's had an injury-plagued season and the redshirt freshman Johnson has made the last two starts, accounting for eight touchdowns in a Nov. 12 win over Mississippi Valley State. The Braves have been prone to fumbles and are minus-seven in turnover margin. Their defensive leader is Anderson, but the unit isn't nearly as strong as the last two championship seasons. Alcorn rallied from a 3-5 start to reach .500 and secure its third straight East Division title. The Braves lost at Grambling 43-18 on Sept. 24. In that matchup, Tigers QB Kincade was 30 of 42 for 400 yards and five touchdowns. He's been spectacular in his first season since a transfer from Mississippi, but he's working with terrific skills position players in WR Williams and RBs Carter and Jestin Kelly (741 yards, 8 TDs). The Tigers have allowed 24 sacks, so Alcorn pass rushers will go after Kincade. The defense features five All-SWAC first-team selections, including S Guy Stallworth and LB Arkez Cooper, who both have a team-high 58 tackles, and DT Donovan McCray, the conference's defensive player of the year. The Tigers, whose only loss was to Arizona, rank first in the SWAC in scoring offense (44 ppg), scoring defense (16.4 ppg), total offense (507.6 ypg) and total defense (323.6 ypg). Coach Broderick Fobbs' team has lost to only one SWAC opponent in the last two seasons – Alcorn.
Up Next – The winner will play MEAC champion North Carolina Central (9-2) in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Dec. 17 in Atlanta.
Prediction – Alcorn State won with defense in last year's championship game, but Grambling State's offensive firepower is too diverse for the Braves this year. Grambling State, 37-21.