The NCAA's dirty little secret: Not all Division I teams are created equal. The schools at the top of the food chain have cash to spend, and like to do so on easy non-conference wins. The schools at the bottom, including most MEAC and SWAC schools, need cash. They need it to build facilities, pay coaches and stay afloat in an the cash-fueled arms race that is college football these days.
With that in mind, let's look at some of this week's biggest games on the HBCU football landscape...
Bethune-Cookman at No. 8 Florida State
After slugging it out with Tennessee State, Bethune-Cookman blew out D2 Virginia Union, then ran all over Florida International to pick up its first win against an FBS opponent to start 3-0.
It will go up against another FBS program this week, but despite what the NCAA would have you believe, FIU and Florida State aren't anywhere near the same class. The eighth-ranked 'Noles are riding high behind redshirt-freshman quarterback Jameis Winston and a smothering defense. Add that all together, and it's not suprising that the Wildcats are 40-point underdogs.
Jameis: Bethune-Cookman is going come with it. They are going to be prepared and we've got to come hard against them.— FSU Football (@FSU_Football) September 18, 2013
Despite its FCS classification, don't expect Bethune-Cookman to look helpless out there. BCU played Miami tightly through three quarters during their matchup in 2012, before Miami pulled away in the fourth quarter. BCU will try to use its running game, including several dual-threat quarterbacks, to keep Winston and crew off the field as much as possible.
Florida A&M at No. 4 Ohio State
FAMU has traditionally been one of the powerhouses of HBCU Football, but it has fallen on hard times as of late. Former Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker Earl Holmes is now the head man at his alma mater, and he's trying to pick up the pieces for a team that went 4-7 in 2012.
FAMU is off to a 1-2 start, having dropped two straight after beating Mississippi Valley in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge. They enter Saturday's game in Columbus as 50-point underdogs to the third-ranked Buckeyes. The silver lining is that whatever happens on the field, FAMU will go home with a $900,000 check.
Had this game taken place 50 years ago, a FAMU-Ohio State matchup would have been something to see. In 2013, however, the absence of The Marching 100 is a bigger story than the game itself.
Alcorn State at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Like Bethune-Cookman, Arkansas-Pine Bluff came into the 2013 season hoping to repeat as champions. Since the season started, however, UAPB has been the polar opposite of BCU. The defending SWAC champs not only lost their first two games, they were outscored 120-25.
Now, fresh off a heartbreaking 40-39 loss to Alabama State, UAPB is as close as you can get to desparation mode in Week Four. They will face an improving Alcorn State team that turned a 21-7 deficit into a 35-14 win last week. If the Lions drop this one, things could get rough in the Bluff.
Towson at North Carolina Central
Looking over the long landscape of college football, you'd be hard pressed to find a team that has gone through more of a roller coaster ride than North Carolina Central over the past 30 days or so. NCCU lost its head coach less than two weeks before the start of the season, then got blanked by cross-town rival Duke in the opener. Then it sleepwalked through its matchup with D2 St. Augustines before winning in double overtime. After last week's 40-13 win over Charlotte, the Eagles seem to be on the uptick again.
They will need that momentum this week, as they host fourth-ranked Towson. Towson is the two-time defending CAA Champ, and features a powerful run game led by junior running back Terrance West (nine touchdowns in three games). NCCU has had trouble stopping the run, but it has picked off seven passes in three games (including three by freshman Michael Jones). NCCU will have to find away to come up with more turnovers this week if they are to pulll of this upset.