By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
BASN’s HBCU Football Previews: Scouting The MEAC
NORTH CAROLINA — “Are you ready for some football??!!” I know MEAC fans across America are. The 2007 season promises to be as exciting and competitive as last year with a lot of the “usual suspects” at the top and a few surprise teams sprinkle in the middle.
Let’s take a look at my 2007 MEAC Football predictions team by team:
1. Hampton Pirates
Last year’s MEAC Championship team is poised to be at the top once again this year. According to the MEAC Conference Coaches, School officials and others, Last year’s Champions will finish second this season even though The Pirates are ranked #19 in The College Sporting News 2007 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision Preseason Top 25 Poll which is the highest rank for any team in The MEAC.
2. South Carolina State
The Bulldogs edged Hampton by six points to take the preseason No. 1 nod from the league coaches. Something that is very exciting for the The Bulldogs, who are celebrating their 100th year of football this season. S.C. State won their last three games of the season including wins against Howard, Morgan State, and N.C. A&T.
They’ll boast a competitive schedule with match ups against non-conference opponents Air Force (Saturday’s season opener) and interstate rival South Carolina.
3. Delaware State
The Hornets finished last season 8-3 and second in the MEAC. They’ll round out the conference’s top trio with a third place predicted finish. Senior wide receiver Shaheer McBride was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. A first-team all-conference selection last season, McBride led the Hornets’ receiving corp. with 55 catches for 852 yards and 11 touchdowns
That’s the top three and as competitive as the MEAC usually is, the finish can be much different then the preseason prediction. Let’s take a look at the rest of the teams in the Conference, their problems from last season, some positives and their projected finish this season.
4. Florida A&M
There were several problems that kept FAMU from competing for the MEAC Title last season. The first problem was their defense. The defense allowed almost 30 points per game, over 215 yards per game including a 5.6 average per rush, gave up 45 touchdowns and nearly 350 yards passing per game. The second glaring problem the team had was their inability to close a half especially the first. The Rattlers were outscored 145-109 including 99-46 in the second quarter. Although they had explosive runs for huge yardage, The Rattlers didn’t have a running back gain over 500 yards last season.
The Rattlers lost some key offensive players especially their ALL-Conference, ALL-Purpose wide receiver Roosevelt Kiser and some offensive lineman but still have two of the exciting three offensive weapons returning in Albert Chester and Anthony Edwards. Defensively they return Vernon Wilder, the team’s leader in tackles and Jason Beach who let the team in interceptions with four.
With a tough games against Southern(MEAC/SWAC Challenge), home against Delaware State, a big game against WSSU in Indianapolis (Circle City Classic) and at South Carolina, leads me to believe a fourth place finish like last season for the Rattlers is likely. However, if Chester and Edwards can be as spectacular as they were last season offensively and the young talented defense guided by Wilder and Beach can learn from the mistakes they made last year, The Rattlers can be a force that surprises some people and finish even higher.
5. Morgan State University
The 2006 Bears got off to a slow start but played hard most of the season on both sides of the ball. A big win at Howard in overtime and a close lost at FAMU, showed the Bears came to play but struggled in crucial parts of games which led to most of their losses. Last season, the Bears led The MEAC in rush defense and was fifth in rush offense. They also finished 6th in total defense in the MEAC. Like FAMU, Morgan State struggled in the first half of most of their games. They were outscored 70-27 in the first quarter. They gave up more first downs them they gained on offense, allowed over 2000 yards passing defensively, over 300 yards passing per game and their offense converted less than 50 percent on third down.
The season will be a success or failure in the first five games of their season. The Bears open the season with three straight games at home against opponents that they can win against (Savannah State, Townson State and Winston Salem State) and then take to the road against two tough opponents in Hampton and Bethune Cookman. The Bears have lots of talent returning but lack some game breakers in key position. A fifth place finish seems to be likely.
6. Bethune Cookman College
At first glance statistically, you would think BCC would have had a better record than 5-6 last season. Offensively, they outscored their opponents 314-249, scored more touchdowns than their opponents and held their opponents to 39 percent on third down conversions. Then you have to take another look. The Wildcats fumbled the ball 31 times losing 21 while their opponents only lost 9. They also averaged 10 penalties per game and allowed over 14 yards after their QB threw an interception. In other words, they play hard, they have some talent but they beat themselves last season.
The future is bright for the Wildcats and they could be the sleeper team in the Conference. With two tough opening games against Jacksonville and South Carolina State the schedule gets a little easier with road games at Savannah State and Norfolk State. If the Wildcats can play mistake free football and continue to execute on both sides of the ball, competing for a Conference Championship is not out of the the realm of possibility.
7. Howard University
The Bison were a hard football team to figure out last season. They finished 4-4 in the MEAC and 5-6 overall but statistically they had a better season then what their record reflected. The Bison was fourth in scoring defense, third in pass defense, fifth in rush defense and second in total defense. Unfortunately their offense was inept at times last season. Outside of the team’s rush offense, the passing game and scoring was near the bottom of the league. If HU wants to move up this season and challenge for the MEAC Championship, they must improve on the offensive side of the ball.
Looking at their first four games (Home against Hampton, at FAMU, at Eastern Michigan, home against WSSU), The Bison will have a tough time getting off to a winning start this season and with remaining games at Morgan State, Delaware State and at home against South Carolina State and Bethune Cookman, I can’t see a better finish for Howard then seventh in the Conference.
8. Norfolk State University
Well, what can we say about the Spartans of last season? They were beaten in almost every statistical category offensively, were outscored 289-251 and lost six of their last seven games. There are some positives about the team including a big win at home against Winston Salem State University. The Spartans fought hard with close and tough losses at Bethune Cookman and Howard and at home against Morgan State.
The Spartans only won one game last year in the Conference but four overall, but this season looks like one conference victory and two overall is the realistic outcome for this team. Eighth place is where they finished last season and is where they will likely finish again this season.
9. NC A&T University
What can you say about Coach Lee Fobbs and his Aggies? He took over a young and inexperience team that probably won’t get better this season. The Aggies were beat soundly in most of their games and with a lack of talent and experience returning and a schedule that’s brutal, this season will be another long one for Coach Fobbs and his coaches, players and their fans. The Aggies will look to upset the Rams of Winston Salem State University and could possibly beat NC Central and Norfolk State at home but even if they do, ninth is where they will finish once again.
10. Winston Salem State University
The Rams are the Wild card in this prediction equation because they can be up and down. Last season, the WSSU defense was one of the most solid and sometimes dominating in HBCU football but their offense struggled throughout the season. The Rams let games getaway against FAMU, Delaware State, Hampton and Norfolk State that was the difference between their record being 4-7 and 8-3. Quarterback Monte Purvis was limited by design in throwing the ball down the field and that must change to keep defenses from stacking the box defensively to stop the Rams vaunted running game.
Returning starters on offense like Monte Purvis, running backs Tionti Powell and Brandon McRae and defensive players like Joseph Blanks, John Mobley, Michael Helton and Bennie Barbour, the future is bright for the Rams of Winston Salem State University and although they are still not officially a member of the MEAC, the future for a winning season is now.