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Southern University Jaguars quarterback Ladarius Skelton (8) rushes against the Texas Southern Tigers defense in the second half during a college football game on March 20, 2021 at BBVA Stadium in Houston, TX. Photo by Thomas Shea/Stringer

With the Bayou Classic being played in an unfamiliar time and an unfamiliar place, don’t expect a different vibe from the competing coaches.

Both Southern’s Dawson Odums and Grambling’s Broderick Fobbs are preaching the same old Bayou Classic when the teams hook up in the 47th Classic at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Shreveport’s Independence Stadium. The game will be televised on the NBC Sports Network.

Pandemic cancellations have kept Grambling on the sideline since a 48-21 loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff on March 20. The Tigers will have a much shorter trip than usual for the Classic, normally held in the Mercedes Benz-Superdome in November.

Fobbs said there isn’t necessarily a boost to playing close to home.

“Any time you get a chance to play the Bayou Classic, it has a lift of its own,” Fobbs said. “When you know the history and the stories behind all the games, and the people that have played in those games, regardless of where it’s played it’s huge for you.

"Other than being able to get home quicker, there isn’t really anything else. The game speaks for itself. The excitement to play or work in it is always positive.”

Southern coach Dawson Odums said playing in north Louisiana is nothing new and the game is the same. Its outcome is crucial for Southern staying in the hunt for the Southwestern Athletic Conference's West Division title.

“It’s still football. Unless we get there and the field is different, I think it’s still going to be 100 yards long," Odums said. “When I first got to Southern we played Prairie View in Shreveport. We have to adjust to it and be ready to compete at a high level. I think both teams are going to be ready to do that.”

Rivalry week II

Another SWAC rivalry Saturday, the Magic City Classic between Alabama State (2-2, 2-1) and Alabama A&M (2-0, 1-0) will have huge implications for the East Division title. Both teams have beaten Jackson State and with Mississippi Valley at 0-3 and Alcorn State having opted out, the East title will end up somewhere in that state.

A&M coach Connell Maynor and State coach Donald Hill-Eley engaged in some friendly smack talk during the coaches' news conference Monday.

“I can talk junk all this week, although he may have a few more jokes than me,” Maynor said of Hill-Eley. “For three hours we’ll be enemies but after that we’ll be friends again. It’s going to come down to who makes the last play.

Hill-Eley, whose team beat MVSU 42-17, asked Maynor, “Are you going to let me play with 12? There’s nothing to be said this week but ‘What time is practice?’”

Both teams had strong quarterback performances. Alabama A&M’s Aqueel Glass completed 27 of 40 passes for 440 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions in the Bulldogs’ 52-45 victory against Jackson State. Glass completed passes to seven different receivers and five different players caught TDs.

Alabama State’s Ryan Nettles was 20 for 34 for 305 yards and three touchdowns and one interception.

Lions sniffing title

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-0, 3-0) can clinch the West title with a victory against Prairie View (2-0, 2-0). It would be the Lions’ first division crown since 2012 when Pine Bluff won the overall SWAC title with a 24-21 victory against Jackson State.

The drought for Prairie View is even longer. It last won the division in 2009 and beat Alabama A&M in the title game 30-24.

“The more I watch them, the better they get,” Pine Bluff coach Doc Gamble said of Prairie View. “At pone point I thought I was watching the Houston Texans.”

Pine Bluff quarterback Skyler Perry has completed 63 of 109 passes for 804 yards and eight touchdowns.

“He can beat you with his legs or his arm,” Prairie View coach Eric Dooley said. “He protects the ball and manages the game. That comes from being well coached.”

Have-not bowl

With division titles at stake in other SWAC games this weekend, two of the league’s current have-nots hook up trying to end some futility when Mississippi Valley State visits Texas Southern looking for their first victories this season.

MVSU (0-3) has lost six consecutive games dating back to 2019, its last win coming at home against the Tigers 35-14. TSU (0-2) is on a 16-game losing streak going back to a 2018 victory against MVSU, 42-14, in Houston.

Rankings

Southern came in at No. 3 in the BOXTOROW HBCU media and coaches polls released Monday. Southern got one vote for No. 1 in the coaches poll. Alabama A&M and Arkansas-Pine Bluff held onto the top two spots in each poll and Prairie View A&M was No. 4 in both.