Your BASN guide to HBCU football: Week One

Updated: September 2, 2016

By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus

NEW HAVEN (BASN) — While the college football season officially opened Thursday night with a handful of games around the country, many HBCU gridiron fans are looking at the Labor Day weekend as the “real” start of the season.
When North Carolina A&T defeated Alcorn State back in December to win the inaugural Celebration Bowl, it not only gave the Aggies another National Championship, it also whetted the appetite for the upcoming MEAC-SWAC Challenge.
When Bethune-Cookman and the aforementioned Braves meet in Daytona Beach Sunday afternoon in the 12th annual matchup, we could be looking at a preview of this year’s Celebration Bowl.
The game can be seen live Sunday at 1:00 pm ET on ESPN.
The two-time defending SWAC champions are now coached by former ASU standout, Fred McNair. The brother of the late NFL star Steve McNair was named the Braves’ new head coach when Jay Hopson departed for Southern Mississippi.
Picked by the league coaches to repeat at SWAC champs, McNair has 13 starters returning from last year’s title squad. This will also be ASU’s first appearance in the Challenge.
As for the Wildcats, they’ve won or shared five MEAC crowns over the last six seasons. Terry Sims’ squad have been tabbed to finish second to A&T in the race for the MEAC crown.
This will be the third trip to the Challenge for Bethune-Cookman. They defeated Prairie View (63-14) and Alabama State (38-28) in the 2011 and 2012 games respectively.
The MEAC leads the overall series 9-2 including wins in the last five contests.
Thursday night, Cheyney ended a 43-game losing streak by nipping Lincoln (Pa.) 21-20 in the “Battle Of The First”. Prior to that, who was the last team that the Wolves defeated?
For the second straight year, the Maroon Tigers will open the season against the Panthers. Despite not being tabbed to win their division, TU will surely be in the SIAC title mix this season. As for CAU, have been tabbed to finish fourth overall in the league. The game, scheduled for 7 pm ET, can be seen live on the American Sports Network.
The defending National Champions are favored to repeat as MEAC champs for the third straight season. They’ll meet the Falcons for the first time since a 33-0 victory against them in 1935. Aggie standout tailback Tarik Cohen begins the season 642 yards shy of becoming the MEAC’s all-time leading rusher. It will also mark the head coaching debut of Tim Chavous at St. Aug’s.
The defending CIAA champions look to avenge last year’s opening night loss to the Braves. Last year’s 17-7 win by UNC Pembroke was part of a 1-4 start for the Rams before they rallied and won the crown. WSSU leads the all-time series at 4-2 and Saturday marks the fifth straight year that the two schools have met in the season opener.
The 18th John Merritt Classic marks the first meeting between the Golden Lions against the Tigers since 2012 when TSU won 40-13 in Nashville. That season, the Golden Lions finished 10-2 and reached the SWAC Championship Game. It marked the last season APBU finished over .500. TSU has won six of the last eight Merritt Classics, including last year’s 24-14 triumph against Alabama State. The game can be seen on the Ohio Valley Conference Digital Network
new pvam stadiumCLASSIC SPOTLIGHT
This year’s Labor Day Classic between Prairie View and Texas Southern will have a definitive new look on Sunday. The Panthers’ new stadium will be making its grand opening on campus. The 15,000-seat Panther Stadium at Blackshear Field came at a cost of just over $60 million and eventually will seat 30,000 upon its final completion.
As for the game, despite the fact that TSU leads the overall series 21-10, the Panthers have dominated the most recent contests. Since 2004, Prairie View has gone 9-2 in the last 11 matchups. The 5 pm ET contest can be seen live on ESPNU.
Also on Sunday, Miles College and Fort Valley State will meet in the Labor Day Golden Classic in Birmingham, Ala. This game can be seen live on the Aspire Network.
Due to the likelihood of inclement weather on Saturday caused by the remnants of Hurricane Hermine, the ABNB Labor Day Classic between Norfolk State and Elizabeth City State has been postponed and will now be played this Sunday at 6 p.m. ET at Dick Price Stadium.
Also, Hampton’s scheduled home opener against Old Dominion for Saturday has been pushed to Sunday at 3:30 p.m. ET. The game, slated for Foreman Field at SB Ballard Stadium, can be seen on the Internet at CUSA.TV.
Cheyney’s last victory would come four years to the day of Thursday’s historic victory. Ironically on September 1, 2012, the Wolves would defeat the Lions of Lincoln (Pa.) 34-21. The game was the season opener for both schools.
Anthony McClean can be reached via email at

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