This week could see more shuffling of the deck in the standings as five of the six contenders vie to hold serve, or trade places in the conference race

Alvin Hollins Jr.

By ALVIN HOLLINS JR.
Rockstat7376@aol.com

OCTOBER 10 – The first weekend of October left the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference football title chase in a real tizzy, as up-and-rising programs left the established old guard strewn in their wake along the racetrack, virtually assuring the likelihood of a new face nailing the championship pennant to their wall come November.

Standings Reset; History in the Making??
Howard and Bethune-Cookman (3-0) are tied for the league lead, setting up an interesting possibility of a potential co-championship since the two co-leaders do not play in 2012.

Morgan State and North Carolina Central (2-0) are tied for third, in front of remaining contenders Florida A&M (2-1), and Delaware State (1-1).

Of the six remaining contenders, only Bethune-Cookman (2010, 2002), FAMU (2010, 2001, 2000) and Delaware State (2007) have donned championship rings in the new millennium.

Howard (1993), Morgan State (1979) and North Carolina Central (1973) have gone almost 20 years or more since their last MEAC championship, so 2012 could be a groundbreaking season for one of them.

Slip-sliding Away
South Carolina State (1-2) heads the pack of five teams out of the running, including ineligible Hampton and North Carolina A&T (0-2), followed by Norfolk State and Savannah State (0-3).

Shifting Sands in the MEAC??
Last Saturday’s results left Bethune-Cookman as the lone conference school with recent playoff history still in the hunt for the 2012 championship, and demonstrated that the old guard of the league may be relinquishing their places to newcomers and upstarts.

Their playoff partners from 2010, South Carolina State, coached by veteran Buddy Pough, have fallen out of contention at 1-2 and is set to miss the playoffs for the second straight year after making three consecutive trips between 2008 and 2010.

Last year’s champion, Norfolk State (0-3), coached by longtime coaching mentor Pete Adrian, had its’ title defense go awry with an overtime loss to Howard, then back-to-back setbacks to South Carolina State and Delaware State.

Florida A&M (2-1), led by the dean of the MEAC coaches, Joe Taylor (17 seasons at Hampton and FAMU), is actually still in the hunt for the title.  FAMU shared the 2010 title with B-CU and SCSU but the Rattlers have not won an outright crown since 2001.

Meanwhile Hampton (2006) and North Carolina A&T (2003) were declared ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions over academic performance.

Week Two MEAC Football Oktoberfest
Saturday will be the second full weekend of conference games and the current standings are bound to allemande left and allemande right like a square dance, as five of the six contenders are in action, with league co-leader Bethune-Cookman (3-0, 4-2) sitting out this number.

THIS WEEK’S GAME PREVIEWS
*Norfolk State (0-3, 2-4) at Hampton (0-2, 0-4), 1:00

@ This Chesapeake Bay rivalry won’t be diminished by the also-ran status of the contestants, who at least have bragging rights to battle over…. The slumping defending champs from Norfolk will march across the Bay with the league’s #2 overall defense, to try and counter winless Hampton’s top-ranked offense… Watch for a potential aerial display too as the two clubs rank in the top half of the league in passing (NSU #2; HIU #4).

*North Carolina Central (2-0, 3-2) at Morgan State (2-0, 3-2), 1:00
@ The upstarts from Durham check into this week’s showdown between the co-holders of third place in the MEAC, with the league’s top scoring offense (34.0), while ranking #3 in total defense and #6 in total offense… The Bears rank near the bottom (#10) in total defense, but sport top five rankings in scoring (#4) and total offense (#5)… As an added bonus, the winner could actually slide into a first place tie with idle Bethune-Cookman (3-0), should Howard slip on banana peels in Greensboro.

*Howard (3-0, 4-1) at North Carolina A&T (0-2, 2-3), 1:30
@ The North Carolina A&T Aggies will deploy their league-leading defense to try and halt the resurgent Howard Bison, who bring the #2 rushing attack and #3 scoring offense to Greensboro, as well as #5 ranked defense in the conference…. A&T ranks #2 in scoring offense and #7 in total offense, giving this edition of this long-running intraconference rivalry the look of a 15-round heavyweight fight.

*South Carolina State (1-2, 2-4) at Delaware State (1-1, 2-3), 1:30
@ Speaking of ships that pass in the night, this battle pits the all-time leader in MEAC titles, South Carolina State (13) against the host DelState Hornets, who are in position for a possible title run in the second year under Kermit Blount, a former SCSU assistant… Both clubs rank in the bottom half of the league statistically, even on defense, long an SCSU staple… The game could turn on the air game as DSU ranks third in passing offense, while the ‘Dogs are third in pass defense.

*Savannah State (0-3, 0-5) at Florida A&M (2-1, 2-4), 6:00
@ Florida A&M should come into the weekend with a sense of urgency in a must-win situation… With its’ title hopes hanging in the balance after last week’s 17-10 loss at Howard, the Rattlers welcome the Tigers of Savannah State, ranked dead last in every category, who come in yielding 57 points per game… FAMU sports the league’s top passing attack and the #4 offensive attack, yet having struggled to score, averaging just 19.8 points per game… Little chance of a FAMU letdown here it would seem.
(*)-Conference Games

MEAC FOOTBALL STANDINGS
Thru Saturday, October 6, 2012

School ……………………….. Conference / Overall
Howard University ………………… 3-0 1.000 / 4-1 .800
Bethune-Cookman ………………… 3-0 1.000 / 4-2 .667
Morgan State ………………………… 2-0 1.000 / 3-2 .600
North Carolina Central …….….. 2-0 1.000 / 3-2 .600
Florida A&M …………….……….…… 2-1 .667 / 2-4 .333
Delaware State ………………….…. 1-1 .500 / 2-3 .400
South Carolina State …….……… 1-2 .333 / 2-4 .333
North Carolina A&T ……….……… 0-2 .000 / 2-3 .400
Hampton ……………….…………….. 0-2 .000 / 0-4 .000
Norfolk State ……….……..………… 0-3 .000 / 2-4 .333
Savannah State ………..…………… 0-3 .000 / 0-5 .000

Games of October 13
*Norfolk State (0-3, 2-4) at Hampton (0-2, 0-4), 1:00
*North Carolina Central (2-0, 3-2) at Morgan State (2-0, 3-2), 1:00
*Howard (3-0, 4-1) at North Carolina A&T (0-2, 2-3), 1:30
*South Carolina State (1-2, 2-4) at Delaware State (1-1, 2-3), 1:30
*Savannah State (0-3, 0-5) at Florida A&M (2-1, 2-4), 6:00
BYE: Bethune-Cookman (3-0, 4-2)
(*)-Conference Games

Saturday’s Games (October 6)
*Howard 17, Florida A&M 10
*North Carolina Central 40, South Carolina State 10
*Delaware State 20, Norfolk State 17
*Morgan State 45, Savannah State 6
*Bethune-Cookman 28, North Carolina A&T 12
(*)-Conference Games

Game of October 18
*Hampton at North Carolina Central, 7:30 (ESPNU)
(*)-Conference Games

Games of October 20
*Morgan State at Howard, 1:00
*Howard at North Carolina A&T at Delaware State, 1:30
*Edward Waters at Savannah State, 2:00
*Norfolk State at Bethune-Cookman, 4:00
*South Carolina State at Florida A&M, 6:00 (ESPNU-10:30 Delay)
(*)-Conference Games

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