Intrigue galore as races enter final stages
With the first weekend of November comes chances for several teams to clinch conference titles or take big steps towards those championships.
So far, only 9-0 North Carolina Central, who clinched the CIAA West Division title and a spot in the Nov. 11 league championship game with last week's win over Livingstone, has punched its ticket for postseason play. Two additional titles however will be decided this weekend.
Virginia Union (7-2, 5-1) @ Elizabeth City St. (8-1, 6-0)
This 2 p.m. match-up at ECSU's homecoming will decide the CIAA East Division champion and NC Central's opponent in next week's league championship game. ECSU and VUU were picked fifth and sixth respectively in their division by conference coaches in the preseason but have surprised everyone with their stellar play. The teams appear evenly matched.
VUU sports the CIAA's best rushing attack (179.2 ypg.), led by Elihu Smith's 89.3 yards per game while ECSU's stingy defense, led by LB Emmanuel Plummer, has posted four shutouts and gives up just 11.3 points per game, best in the league. VUU (28.2 ppg.) and ECSU (27.7) are 2-3 behind NCCU (31.7) in scoring.
ECSU QB Curtis Rich and VUU QB Lamar Little have been among the best at their position. Rich, with 19 TDs and only three interceptions, is second in passing averaging (187.3 ypg). Little, who leads the conference in total offense (230 ypg.), has rushed for 563 yards and 10 TDs, while tying for the league-high with 21 TD passes and 9 ints.
Albany St. (6-3, 5-1) vs. Fort Valley St. (4-5, 3-3) in Columbus, GA
All Albany State needs to do is win its traditional season-ending date with FVSU and the Golden Rams will have their fourth consecutive SIAC title. An ASU loss gives the championship to Tuskegee (5-3, 5-2), the only conference team that has beaten the Golden Rams. Tuskegee, which opened the door for ASU with a loss at Clark Atlanta last week, has already completed games that count on its SIAC schedule. Even with a win, Albany State, not ranked in the top 12 of the NCAA Div. II Southeast Region this week, will likely not make the playoffs and have to settle for representing the SIAC in the Dec. 2 Pioneer Bowl in Charlotte.
The other critical games in conference races pit Bethune-Cookman (5-3, 3-2) at Hampton in a key MEAC battle and Alabama A&M at Jackson State in a top SWAC East Division match-up.
Hampton (8-1, 5-1) again controls its own championship destiny after Delaware State (6-2, 5-1) knocked off the only MEAC team to beat the Pirates this year, South Carolina State, last week 10-9. B-CC, SCSU (4-4, 3-2) and Florida A&M (5-3, 3-2), who travels to N.C. A&T, this week are lurking just one game in the loss column behind Hampton. SCSU entertains Howard Saturday. Hampton closes out the regular season at FAMU next week.
Alabama A&M and Jackson State both enter their game Saturday with identical 4-2 records in SWAC play, tied for the E. Div. lead. They both have games left against Alcorn State (4-3, 3-2), who is not out of the divisional race, and has a key game Saturday at Mississippi Valley State (5-4, 4-3).
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