People who follow the MEAC will undoubtedly be experiencing a case of de ja vu this weekend. For the second year in a row, multiple teams head into the final week of the regular season with a shot at claiming a portion of the MEAC title. The difference this year is that only one team can go to Atlanta to face the SWAC representative in the inaugural Celebration Bowl next month.
Here are the contenders and what they need to have happen in order for them to get the conference’s bid to the Celebration Bowl.
North Carolina Central (7-3, 6-1)
Based off what it needs to have happen to get into the postseason, NCCU has the longest odds. NCCU not only has to take care of business against rival North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, it also has to have FAMU (1-9) beat Bethune-Cookman (8-2) in the Florida Classic. NCCU has rebounded nicely from a 1-3 start, winning six games in a row since falling to BCU at home. They enter Saturday’s game against A&T as the underdogs, but that worked out pretty well for them last season. The motto for this season for NCCU has been “Leave No Doubt.” They have a chance to do that with a win over A&T on Saturday.
Bethune-Cookman (8-2, 6-1)
Like NCCU, BCU needs some help to get into the Celebration Bowl. First they must take care of the task at hand and beat Florida A&M. On paper, that shouldn’t be too hard of a task; but this is a rivalry game and anything can happen. BCU needed a fourth-quarter comeback and a two-point conversion to beat FAMU last year.
Yet even if they beat FAMU and NCCU wins, BCU still may not make it to the Celebration Bowl. If there is a three-team tie for the MEAC championship, the Sagarin Rankings will be used to determine the championship, and A&T is currently 137 while BCU is 175. BCU’s best hope is to win its game and hope that a 9-2 record with with a loss to Miami is good enough to sneak into the FCS playoffs with an at-large bid.
North Carolina A&T (9-1, 7-0)
For the second year in a row, the pressure is on NC A&T to make it easy on everyone. A&T comes into this game having won eight games in a row, with its lone blemish of the season a loss to North Carolina. Led by All-American running back Tarik Cohen (1,136 yards and 12 touchdowns), A&T was picked to win the conference, and so far they’ve looked the part of champion. But this team knows what its like to see a good season go down the drain at the end of the year at the hands of its rivals from Durham.
Can A&T finish the job and punch its ticket to the Celebration Bowl? Only time will tell.