In a little over 12 hours from now, N.C. A&T will attempt to do what very few programs in the modern era of HBCU football which is to win three undisputed HBCU National titles in a 4-year period.
A month ago most everyone was resigned to the fact that the Aggies would probably be headed to the FCS playoffs while Florida A&M seemed surely destined to be in Atlanta this week.
But as the football gods took notice, A&T concentrated on the task at hand by convincingly running the table over its last for games against Bethune, Norfolk, Savannah State, and arch rival NCCU.
In the meantime, FAMU completed one of the great if not the greatest late season collapse in recent memory by getting handled by first floundering Howard, then absorbing a huge non-conference butt kicking to S.C. State and finally a humiliating eighth straight loss to Bethune Cookman in the Florida Classic.
That series of events was not just about wins and losses but it showed the difference between the mindset of a true championship program and one that tries to channel it through some sort of legacy qoutient.
The truth is in modern day sports, no one really cares about what a school did 20 or 30 years ago in it’s heyday outside the alums and football buffs that were there to witness it. Ask the folks up at Nebraska if you doubt any part of that statement.
Dynasties are measured by a unique level of excellence sustained over a prolonged period of time. A&T has a chance Saturday to claim that moniker for its football program and no one will be in position to say otherwise.
The Aggies have more than established it’s mastery within the MEAC over the last half decade but to be able to do it on this level once again before a national TV audience with a win would surpass the bar of even the most cynical of critics.
The 2018 Celebration Bowl will be about sending a unmistakable message that A&T is the gold standard by which all others will be measured. Now I’m beginning to understand how Alabama fans feel.
Please bear with me over the brevity of this week’s column because I’m recovering from some very painful knee surgery from earlier in the week and my doctors have severely limited my activities over the next 3-4 weeks.
And while A&T and Alcorn like to do similar things both offensively and defensively, how they chose to arrive at their final destination is very much different.
A&T’s approach is pretty simple and but extremely labor intensive. The Aggies will try to take away from you what you like do best and force you out of your comfort zone which in turns forces you out of game rhythm and into mistakes. Imposing your will on another team ain’t easy folks.
Alcorn State is a football team with a lot of individual talent and size and that just might be their Achilles heel.
I watched Braves in their SWAC championship game against Southern and I saw a team that depends a great deal on being able to “out athlete” it’s opponent. It was less about schemes and sets and more about putting better athletes in position to use their physical skills to wear down the opponent.
This is going to be a real interesting football game and I expect most of the first half will be a feeling out process until one team makes a big blunder or someone makes an adjustment or two at halftime and seizes control midway in the third quarter.
The smart money should be on A&T as the favorite, with a wealth of players returning from last year’s Celebration Bowl winner and another 9 kids who were there in 2015 for the very first one. Unlike pervious year’s, there won’t be any questions needing to be answered going into this year’s big game with this A&T squad. I never liked pop quizzes anyway.
N.C. A&T – 31
Alcorn – 17