Grambling State Tigers defensive lineman Lorin Blain Winston (99) gets a finger on Southern University Jaguars wide receiver Willie Quinn (25) during the first quarter Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016, of the 43rd annual Bayou Classic at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

As city officials, school administrators and coaches gazed out at a crowd from an elevated platform atop the Mercedes-Benz Superdome turf to officially ring in Bayou Classic week, much of the conversation centered on how similar this season is to last.

Again, the Bayou Classic will decide the winner of the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s West division. Southern (six games) and Grambling (nine games) both roll into their annual rivalry game riding big win streaks.

But not everything’s so similar. Both Southern coach Dawson Odums and Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs independently brought up the same topic when zooming in on Saturday’s matchup: Southern does not have the same playmakers this year, and though it may seem counter-intuitive, that could work in Southern’s favor.

“I really like our offense this year versus the offense we had a year ago,” Odums said. “I think we leaned on Lenard Tillery and Willie Quinn (last year) to make a lot of plays for us.

“But I think (this year) we’re able to spread the ball around, which makes us that much more explosive as an offense because you really don’t know where the ball is going.”

The Jaguars did lean on Tillery and Quinn last season, and for good reason: The 2016 seniors set school records in rushing and receiving, respectively.

Tillery and Quinn did plenty of damage to Grambling in last year’s game: Tillery had 269 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns, and Quinn added a receiving score as well.

But Southern’s dependence on them also made its offense easier to prepare for.

“It’s a little different situation this year, because it’s playmaking by committee moreso than two or three guys who are making all the plays, which makes them a lot more dangerous because you don’t know exactly who is going to be the guy,” Fobbs said.

Johnson accepts invite to Senior Bowl

Southern senior cornerback Danny Johnson accepted an invitation to play in the Reese's Senior Bowl, which is widely considered the top prospect showcase game.

Johnson is the Football Championship Subdivision's active leader in career interceptions (16) and passes defended (54). He led all FCS players in interceptions last season with seven and has picked off three passes this season.

The Senior Bowl is January 27, 2018, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. The event draws hundreds of professional football scouts each year.

Coaching carousel in motion

Three SWAC programs in the past two days announced they were parting ways with their head football coaches.

Sunday, Alabama A&M officially announced the firing of coach James Spady, who went 15-30 in four seasons.

Two more dominoes fell Monday.

Mississippi Valley State announced it would not renew coach Rick Comegy’s contract after he went 6-38 in four seasons.

Monte Coleman suffered the same fate at Arkansas-Pine Bluff after following up a SWAC championship in 2012 with five consecutive losing seasons. Coleman, a Pine Bluff native, went 40-71 in 10 seasons.

Alabama State fired coach Brian Jenkins midway through the season, meaning four of the league’s 10 teams are looking for a permanent head coach.

Coleman's firing means Odums is the longest-tenured coach in the league, followed by Fobbs.

Kincade, Christmas named awards finalists

Grambling quarterback Devante Kincade and linebacker De’Arius Christmas were both named finalists for prestigious national awards Monday.

Kincade was named one of 25 finalists for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, given to the Football Championship Subdivision offensive player of the year. He has thrown for 18 touchdowns against three interceptions this season.

Christmas was named one of 25 finalists for the Buck Buchanon Award, which is given to the FCS defensive player of the year. Christmas ranks among the SWAC leaders in tackles (71) and tackles for loss (13.5) this season.

An app for that

The Bayou Classic is operating a mobile application again this season. It includes a full schedule of events with directions to each as well as an option to hail an Uber ride straight from the app.

Users can also vote for the winners of the Greek show and the Bayou Classic Most Valuable Player through the app.

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.