The SWAC championship game is set.
Jackson State completed an unbeaten conference season with a 24-10 victory against state rival Alcorn State, whose loss allowed the Prairie View to clinch the West title. The teams will play at 3 p.m. Dec. 4 in Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Miss. The game will air on ESPN2.
The victory for JSU completes a big turnaround for the school since hiring NFL Hall of Fame player Deion Sanders as head coach. Outside of all the attention and funding he attracted, Sanders brought in several new faces through recruiting and the transfer portal, going from 3-3 in the spring to 10-1 overall and 8-0 in conference play.
It's Jackson State’s first championship game appearance since losing to Southern 34-27 in 2013. The Tigers will be looking for their first league title since beating Grambling 42-31 in 2007.
“We have whole different culture around here, and you’ve got to see it to understand it,” Sanders said during the coaches Zoom teleconference Monday. “You’ve got to be involved in it to understand it. You can’t even come on our practice field unless you have black socks.
“We changed the thought process and culture. We have an expectation to win.”
Sanders, who was announced as a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award for the top coach in the nation, is anticipating a huge crowd he hopes will exceed 50,000. The Tigers will have a week off before the game.
Not so for Prairie View, which lost its second consecutive game to Texas A&M 52-3, and will play at Mississippi Valley on Saturday. The Panthers will return home and drive back to Jackson a week later.
Prairie View hasn’t been to the title game since beating Alabama A&M, 30-24, for the championship in 2009.
Coach Eric Dooley, a former Southern assistant, tailored his comments toward the game with Mississippi Valley to avoid looking past MVSU, although he did congratulate Sanders for winning the East title.
“Congratulations to coach Sanders for getting his team prepared to play in the SWAC championship,” Dooley said. “Our team will be ready for that challenge.
“We don’t look ahead. We just play football. We want to be involved with what we need to do right now. What’s important now — win. … We have a game that’s going to be a challenge for our seniors. We have to be up to the challenge. The most important thing is Mississippi Valley.”
Jackson State and Prairie View may have won their respective division titles to advance to the league championship game, but Florida A&M is also going to the postseason.
The Rattlers became the first SWAC team to make the FCS playoffs in 24 years when they made the cut Sunday. FAMU will play a first-round game against Southeastern Louisiana at 6 p.m. Saturday. The winner plays No. 3 seed James Madison at 1 p.m. Dec. 4 in Harrisonburg, Va.
"This is indescribable. This is such a humbling experience," FAMU coach Willie Simmons said. "I am proud of these young men and what they have accomplished.
"Now that we're in, we have to go to work to make sure we leave no doubt."
It’s the eighth time FAMU has made the playoffs and the first since 2001. The Rattlers finished 9-2 overall and 7-1 in their first season in the SWAC. Their only conference loss came on opening day against Jackson State, 7-6.
Players of the week
Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass, Florida A&M defensive back BJ Bohler, Alabama State wide receiver Brandon McDuffie and Jackson State quarterback Shedeur Sanders won Player of the Week honors.
Glass won the offensive honor after tying his career-high with six touchdown passes in a 52-24 victory against Arkansas-Pine Bluff. He completed 26 of 33 passes for 450 yards without an interception. Bohler won the defensive honor. He had four tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery which he returned 56 yards for a touchdown against Bethune-Cookman.
McDuffie blocked a punt that led to the touchdown in the Hornets’ 24-21 victory over Texas Southern. Sanders won the newcomer honor with 297 yards passing and three TDs against Alcorn State.
Jackson State and Florida A&M remained 1-2 in this weeks BOXTOROW HBCU top 10 coaches and media polls released on Monday. Bowie State was No. 3 in the media poll and Prairie View was No. 4. The Panthers were No. 3 in the coaches’ poll. Southern is still receiving votes in the media poll.
Jackson State 24, Alcorn State 10; Texas A&M 52, Prairie View 3; Alabama A&M 52, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 24; Alabama State 24, Texas Southern 21; Florida A&M 46, Bethune-Cookman 21.
Tuskegee at Alabama State (Thursday); Mississippi Valley State at Prairie View; Southern vs. Grambling.