The stakes will be high when Grambling and Southern meet in the Dome.
During the long, storied history of the Bayou Classic, there have been times when it has been for nothing more than bragging rights in Louisiana.
The past two years, though, the game has had championship and bowl game implications. Once again this season, the stakes will be high when Grambling and Southern meet in the Mercedes-Benz Dome.
The winner of Saturday’s game will represent the SWAC West in the championship game at Alcorn State next Saturday.
That was expected as the year kicked off, but through the first month of the season it looked like that might not be the case. Both programs suffered major personnel changes from the previous seasons, including the losses of talented starting quarterbacks.
Southern had to replace Austin Howard, a four-year starter who kept the team in title contention his entire career. There was also a huge hole to be filled for Grambling, as DeVante Kincaide put together two of the best quarterbacking years in Tigers history, having suffered just three losses.
Both teams started off slow and entered October below .500.
On September 29th, Grambling lost to Prairie View A&M and Southern was beaten by Alcorn State at homecoming. It looked as if their joint six-year reign atop the division would be coming to an end.
But both teams have gotten on track, and now the winner gets a second shot at Alcorn State and one step closer to a possible Celebration Bowl. Southern and Grambling know that they can’t look that far ahead or their season will end in New Orleans.
Bowie State kept its season alive last week by beating West Georgia at home in the opening round of the D-II playoffs. This week, it heads down to Georgia to take on Valdosta State, a perennial power. Valdosta beat Winston-Salem State in the 2012 NCAA National Championship Game, and has generally been a thorn in the side of HBCU opponents over the years.
BSU is a battle-tested team, having been in the playoffs three of the past four years. Saturday’s win was the first in school history, though.
The Bulldogs are hoping to make more history with a big win on the road to add to its CIAA championship. Beating VSU won’t be easy, but with Amir Hall firing on all cylinders and a defense that has stepped up when necessary, it has a great shot of getting it done.