WHO: Southern vs. Grambling
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Independence Stadium, Shreveport
LINE: Southern by 8½
TV: NBC Sports Network
RADIO: KQXL-FM, 106.5
What's at stake
Bragging rights for Grambling, because this is the Bayou Classic. It’s the Tigers’ chance to have something positive, coming out of a rough spring and going into what will likely be a fall with many more changes. Southern has flickering hopes for the SWAC West Division title, which will stay alive until there is a result from the Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Prairie View game later in the day. But Southern wants its third consecutive Bayou Classic win as badly as Grambling wants to break the streak. Forget the bands and the rest of the peripherals; this one is all about football.
Southern’s running game vs. Grambling run defense. This is a mismatch on paper, and any hope of Grambling staying in the game starts here. Southern is the top rushing team in the league with 205.8 yards per game — 38 yards per game more than the next team, Jackson State. Grambling is last in run defense, allowing 179.7 yards per game. The stats here may be deceiving because two of three Grambling losses have been by one score. But the Tigers are allowing 247 through the air and allowing opponents to convert 56.5% of their third downs. If the Tigers don’t get some stops early, the game will get ugly.
Players to watch
JAGUARS: Running back Devon Benn is finally healthy and showed it with a pair of TD runs against Jackson State and a season-best 75 yards rushing. Benn was injured earlier in the season and had his carries limited. Jerodd Sims has been the Jaguars’ workhorse but Benn is still the team’s best all-around back and captain. No one wants a big game more than Southern DT Davin Cotton, who will be playing in his hometown. Cotton has 11 tackles but his presence in the middle of the line causes headaches for opponents. He’s one of the reasons the Jaguars pass rush has been so fierce.
TIGERS: Quarterback Elijah Walker, a junior college transfer and Amite grad, has the reins now that two-year returning starter Geremy Hickbottom has entered the NCAA transfer portal. Walker has completed 21 of 38 passes for 261 yards with one TD and one interception, and he has pretty good wheels if traffic gets heavy in the pocket. Defensive back Kenan Fontenot is the leading tackler with 21 and has one interception. East Feliciana grad Treylan Dunn has finally gotten his chance. He starts at middle linebacker and has been one of the team’s best leaders and a steadying force on the field.
Facts and figures
The teams are even at 5-5 over the past 10 Bayou Classic meetings with Southern having won the past two. The teams are 23-23 since the game has been called the Bayou Classic. ... Dawson Odums is 5-3 against Grambling. Southern and Grambling have met 71 times, the first on Nov. 11, 1932. ... Southern quarterback Ladarius Skelton has been named MVP of the last two Bayou Classics. ... There are 141 days from Saturday’s game until Southern’s season opener Sept. 4 at Troy.