Hey y’all; it’s game week and the kickoff of the 2018 MEAC football season is here. (That felt so good I will say it again).
Hey y’all; it’s game week and the kickoff of the 2018 MEAC football season is here. Our beloved Wildcats travel to Nashville to take on the Tigers of Tennessee State this Saturday, September 1st at 7:00pm in the John Merritt Classic. Bethune will look to capture its first MEAC crown since 2015 and finish the season in Atlanta in the Celebration Bowl.
But it’s not just the Wildcats who will fight to position themselves at the top of the MEAC standings come season end. Aggies, Eagles, Bison and Bulldogs will all attempt to claw their way to the catbird seat and represent the conference in Atlanta in December.
Our MEACFANSZone friend, durhamgsoaggie, put together a list of things to watch for this season in the MEAC that will likely have major impacts on 2018 and beyond. Enjoy!
1. A Tale of Two Willies In Tally.
2018 will mark the first time that the two D1 universities in Florida’s capital will both have black head football coaches (and under the age of 45). In fact, the ADs, men’s basketball coaches and head football coaches of both FAMU and FSU are all black males.
Slick Willie (Taggart) and Fast Willie (Simmons) are great young football minds who have the potential to change the game at their prospective levels. In addition to winning, the question is whether they can produce a synergy within the city of Tallahassee that hasn’t been there to lift both sides to dominance? And will FAMU’s recruitment of Kayvon Thibodeaux, one of the nation’s highest rated players, have an effect on this if successful?
2. The evolution of Akevious Williams and the Circle City Debate
Most media outlets have Howard picked as the consensus #2 behind A&T because of the Caylin Newton/Mike London effect. But an argument can be made that the most talented roster in the MEAC from top-to-bottom is down in Daytona. With Larry Brihm now departed to the CFL, will Williams make the leap this year as the unquestioned leader at QB under the tutelage of Allen Suber? Or will he fall back into a timeshare with a player like Jabari Dunham? Given BCU’s home games against A&T & NCCU and a bevy of talented RBs to go with an aggressive defense… the answer to this question could have championship ramifications for the MEAC.
BCU also elected to give up its home game vs. Howard for the Circle City Classic. If BCU wins, this is a moot issue. However… if Howard wins on the neutral site, the questions will linger whether it was a wise move to give up home-field advantage for the $$$ and visibility for Circle City. This game is definitely one to watch.
3. NCCU – The QB Collectors
NCCU started 2017 with former Southern/JUCO transfer Micah Zanders at QB. Due to injury, freshman Chauncey Caldwell took over the reins for the Eagles with sophomore Naill Ramadan mixed in. In the offseason, NCCU signed Zanders’ brother Marvin, a grad transfer QB from Missouri. In addition, freshman Dominique Shoffner redshirted. Crowded QB rooms are nothing new in a D1 football program. But with a squad replacing 8 starters on defense, continuity and efficiency on offense will be key early in the season. Coach Granville Eastman is a defensive guy who will have his defense fully functional by mid-season. RBs are abundant with the return of Isaiah Totten and arrival of hometown star Jamal Elliott. But the QB room in Durham is a carousel to watch early in the season.
4. The Ticking Clock in Norfolk
3 seasons and no progress in Norfolk for Coach Latrell Scott. Solid recruiting classes, a solid returning starter at QB in Juwan Carter, a big win down in Durham vs. NCCU… but no real traction so far. Tragedy struck the Norfolk program in a major way last season. But this is a new season and the natives in the talent-rich Tidewater region are on the warpath. Can Scott’s staff produce the synergy needed to produce a winning season? Can an offensive line emerge to control the clock, keep an opportunistic defense fresh and keep the talented Carter upright to make plays? Or will Scott’s tenure end with a grave in the Tidewater wetlands? One thing is for sure… Virginia State and Reggie Barlow are coming on September 1st. Could Scott be playing against his potential replacement? Time will tell.
5. End of an era in Orangeburg and Savannah.
Rumors have been swirling that 2018 will be the last for SCSU Coach Oliver “Buddy” Pough. 2018 is also the last season for Savannah St as they move back to the SIAC in Division II. SCSU produced another high draft pick with Darius Leonard going in the 2nd round to the Colts. With SCSU losing LB Dashawn Taylor as well… will the massive OL/DLs down in Orangeburg be able to carry the load and give Buddy one last winning season out the door? And can Coach Erik Raeburn continue to build a viable program given concurrent defections due to the pending move down for progress in 2018?
6. New faces, same problems in Delaware & Baltimore
Coaches Rod Milstead and Ernest Jones bring new energy & passion to their programs. But structural and regional issues still remain the same for both programs. Can the coaches recruit successfully enough in the same competitive recruiting regions? And are the staffs they assemble capable enough in the scheme/execution department to make a significant change in the quality of football we’ve seen from both schools? A competitive DSU/MSU combo makes this entire conference take a step up. We need it.
7. Golden Non-Conference Opportunities
Multiple schools have great opportunities for OOC wins, including Morgan St, NCCU, FAMU and BCU. Norfolk St has a major home game against FCS power James Madison. But the headliners are Howard & A&T.
Howard has FBS Ohio & Kent St while ending the season hosting FCS Bryant. A&T kicks off the season with FCS power Jacksonville St, then travels to FBS East Carolina, followed by hosting FCS Gardner Webb. The A&T/Jax St. game may be the biggest MEAC FCS game since the 1999 I-AA Playoffs in terms of competitive standing on the FCS stage. Howard’s win over UNLV and near-miss at Kent in 2017 put them on the map in the Mike London era. Continuing to win more of these games is critical to gaining a broader market audience for the MEAC. But tiebreakers may also come into play for A&T and Howard, since they will not play each other in 2018. So all of these matchups are key in 2018.
Thanks durhamgsoaggie for your input.