In the 1980s and 90s, North Carolina A&T was one of the mainstays of black college football on the East Coast. A&T won five championships in an 18 year span and was probably the best program in the MEAC not named Florida A&M. It's been a long time, eleven years, since North Carolina A&T last won a MEAC football championship.
Meanwhile, its rival South Carolina State has flourished during the A&T championship drought, claiming at least a part of the conference title in five of the last ten seasons, including last year.
This week, the two rivals will meet on Saturday in the Atlanta Football Classic for the second-straight season. And for the second year in a row, A&T comes in looking like it just might have what it takes to finally reclaim the conference crown.
The Aggies have won four of their first five games, with the team's lone loss coming to a powerhouse Coastal Carolina squad by one point in Week Two. Last week, A&T won its MEAC opener with a 38-22 win over the Howard in which its top two offensive players, quarterback Kwashaun Quick and running back Tarik Cohen, played one half combined.
The Bulldogs are 3-2, coming off-back-to-back wins against Furman and Coastal Carolina after a 1-2 start. They also have the misfortune of having to play both A&T and nationally-ranked Bethune-Cookman, as A&T and BCU are not scheduled to play this season.
In addition to the game, the Battle of the Bands should be pumping as well. We got a first hand look at A&T's Blue and Gold Marching Machine last weekend in DC, and they already appear to be in mid-season form.
As big as that game is, a matchup in the SWAC could have potentialy larger implications. Fresh off a win against previously undefeated Texas Southern, Alabama State will travel to Mississippi to take on a talented Alcorn State squad. Both teams enter the game 4-1, with their only losses of the season coming to FBS teams.
Alcorn State's John Gibbs and Alabama State's Daniel Duhart will be two players to watch as both quarterbacks will look to lead their teams to wins in a game that will almost certainly have major SWAC Championship implications.
And don't forget to listen to the HBCU Football report on TSL Sports Talk, which airs every Thursday from 3-5pm EST.