Southern’s 52-45 victory over Grambling in the Bayou Classic last Saturday did more than just put the Jaguars in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game.
It also elevated them to the No. 1 position in the Sheridan Broadcasting Network poll, which ranks the top black college football teams in the country. The winner of the SWAC title game between Southern and No. 3 Alcorn State on Saturday in Houston will almost certainly be the Black College National Champion as well. The final poll will be released Dec. 9.
“It adds a lot to know that you’ll be known as the No. 1 team in black college football,” Jaguars defensive end Arthur Miley said after practice Monday night.
Southern moved up from No. 2 after winning the SWAC West Division title. It swapped places with Bethune-Cookman, which can’t add to its résumé because its season ended when it did not get a bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs, which began last weekend. Each of the top three teams has a 9-3 record.
“If we win,” Southern coach Dawson Odums said, “then we’ll stay No. 1 and win it all. When’s the last time we were No. 1?”
The Jaguars’ last Black College National Championship came in 2003. Southern has won nine national championships, fourth-most since the award’s inception in 1920. The most recent title completed a run of four national titles in 11 seasons under then-coach Pete Richardson.
Grambling leads with 14 total titles, Tennessee State has won 12, and Florida A&M 11. Alcorn State has won four.
“It’s something good to go after,” offensive lineman Dewayne Houston said. “But for now, we’re just getting ready for the game, taking it step by step.”
Southern received 12 first-place votes and 219 points. Bethune-Cookman had 11 first-place votes and 211 points, and Alcorn State had six first-place votes and 196 points. No. 4 North Carolina A&T (176 points) received the other first-place vote.
The Jaguars are seeking their second consecutive SWAC title, so it’s unlikely anything could add to the team’s incentive Saturday. But adding the mythical national title would be lagniappe to another conference title.
Southern has beaten two of the top 10 teams — No. 7 Grambling and No. 9 Alabama State — though it lost to Alcorn State 56-16 on Sept. 27.
A victory Saturday would give seniors such as Houston and Miley another entry in the Southern record book, a year after helping the Jaguars win their first SWAC title in 10 years.
“That’ll be something to go out with to top last year’s senior class,” Miley said with a smile. “It’s kind of hard to top them, because we did win the championship last year.
“But we weren’t the No. 1 school in black college football, so we can one up them.”
Follow Les East on Twitter @EastAdvocate.