The start of the 2018 college football season will be upon us this Saturday and two HBCUs will be taking part in the opening day action.
Here are the games and our predictions:
Prairie View A&M at Rice, 7 p.m. (ESPN+)
Prarie View A&M Panthers travel to Houston, Texas to take on the Rice Owls. Both teams feature first time head coaches who recently assumed the role, Eric Dooley for Prairie View and Mike Bloomgren for Rice.
The Panthers were picked to finish fourth in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s (SWAC) Western Division and fifth overall by the coaches. Bringing seven starters back to an offense that averaged 30.0 points per game last year bodes well for Prairie View. They are only return four starters to a defense that last season gave up 25.0 points per contest, which was good for seventh in the SWAC.
They will face a Rice team who finished 1-11 , including a ten game losing streak, last season. The defense last year allowed 425.8 yards and 35.8 points per game. Mike Bloomgren has his work cut out in his first year as he attempts to rebuild a program that was 8-5 four seasons ago. The offense scored 12 points or less in seven of the first eight games and only averaged 16.2 points per contest.
Questionable offense and a suspect defense could make this a long season for the Owls.
Prediction : 28-19, Prairie View
North Carolina A&T vs Jacksonville State , 7pm (ESPN)
The North Carolina A&T Aggies head to Montgomery, Alabama to take on the JSU Gamecocks.
The Aggies head into the game coming off an undefeated season, a Mid Eastern Athletic Conference title and HBCU national title with a win in the Celebration Bowl. They bring back several key cogs including preseason Offensive Player of the Year Lamar Raynard and several HBCU Gameday FCS All-Americans. A&T was a unanimous choice to defend their MEAC title and return to the Celebration Bowl. Although Rod Broadway is no longer patrolling the sidelines the expectations are still high in Greensboro.
The Jacksonville State University Gamecocks have not lost a conference game since November 16, 2013, when they lost to an Eastern Illinois team lead by Jimmy Garoppolo. The 32 consecutive conference wins is the longest such streak in FCS. The defense was among the best in FCS, only giving up 15.6 points per contest. They did lose Darius Jackson to the NFL, but they should have hands on deck to somewhat make up for the loss. The issue for JSU may be on th offensive side of the ball, although they averaged 28.8 ppg, there were many times during the season where the offense sputtered and placed a heavier burden on the defense with their ineptitude. A three-way completion for QB amongst Bryant Horn, Clemson transfer, Zerrick Cooper, and Zion Webb, should force the cream to rise to the top and could be the key to another OVC Championship and a deep playoff run.
Prediction: 31-20, Jacksonville State