HBCU fans, are you ready for a big championship weekend? We preview both the CIAA Championship game between Bowie State and Winston-Salem State and the SIAC Championship game featuring Albany State against Miles. Time for some football!
CIAA Championship: Bowie State vs. Winston-Salem State
At the start of the 2015 season, if you had said Bowie State and Winston-Salem State would play each other for the CIAA Championship, you might have gotten some raised eyebrows. This would have remained true if you had said the same thing six weeks ago, when Winston-Salem State sat at 1-4 after losing to Chowan and Bowie State lost its starting quarterback for eligibility reasons.
Over the second half of the season both WSSU and Bowie State have had to overcome adversity in their own way. For Bowie State, adversity meant handing the reigns of its offense to Trevon Bennett and Nyema Washington after Matt Goggans was discovered to be ineligible a day after being selected conference quarterback of the week for the fourth time in the first five weeks. The duo helped the Bulldogs go a perfect 5-0, winning a dramatically improved CIAA Northern Division.
The record will show that Winston-Salem State won its fifth-straight CIAA Southern Division title, but this team bears very little resemblance to the previous four. WSSU started the season 0-3 after losing just two regular season games in the previous four regular seasons. WSSU lost more than 30 players from last year's team, including both its top quarterbacks and almost all of its defensive starters. The young Rams finished the season 5-2 in the CIAA, but after years of blowing out the competition, it suddenly seemed as if they had to scrap for every yard, first down, touchdown and win like never before.
WSSU may be the blue bloods in this match-up, but Bowie State is clearly the favorite in this one.
SIAC Championship: Albany State vs. Miles
SIAC fans will get a feeling of deja vu with this match-up, as it's a rematch of the 2013 title game.
Albany State returns to the conference championship game after a near-miss against Tuskegee last season. ASU started out the season 1-3, but came around late to win its final six games. The sixth win came last week as it defeated Fort Valley State in the Fountain Classic to come away with the division crown yet again. ASU isn't a great offensive team, as it averages just under 23 points per game, but it is excellent on defense, allowing just 16.7 points per game.
As it was in 2013, Miles punched its ticket to the championship the hard way, beating nationally-ranked Tuskegee at home to win the division title. Miles got off to a 1-4 start as well, but its defense started clicking and its offense came around enough to help it go 5-0 over the second half of the season.
Albany State won the meeting between the two teams during the regular season, coming away with a 29-16 win. Both of these teams are built on defense, so expect a low-scoring, hard-hitting game that could very well come down to the wire.