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In the FCS Huddle: SWAC not showing enough progress

11:46 AM, Sep 8, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Strange as it may sound, the Southwestern Athletic Conference makes the right decision when it comes to the postseason by not sending its champion to the FCS playoffs.

There's too much to gain financially by staging a conference championship and too much to lose by trying to beat other FCS opponents in what inevitably would be first-round defeats year after year.

Sadly, the SWAC stands with the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League at the bottom of FCS conference rankings.

A turnaround is long overdue for a conference boasting so many past college football greats, including Walter Payton, Buck Buchanan, Jerry Rice and Eddie Robinson - whom the four major awards in the FCS are named after.

Not only has the SWAC fallen behind the other historically black conference in the FCS - the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, as evidenced by its seventh loss in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge to start the season - but it's already a mere 1-12 in out-of-conference games this season, including a pair of losses this weekend to Division II opponents, Alabama A&M against Tuskegee and Mississippi Valley State against Delta State.

Even defending SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff, a team with 19 returning starters and the conference's preseason offensive player of the year Ben Anderson at quarterback, has been drubbed twice to open its campaign - 62-11 by Arkansas State and 58-14 by McNeese State.

Meanwhile, the rival MEAC has notched such non-conference wins as Bethune- Cookman over Tennessee State, North Carolina A&T over Appalachian State and Florida A&M over Mississippi Valley State in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge.

In recent years, the SWAC has been set back by head coaching defections, subpar facilities, NCAA academic penalties, even a 2011 brawl between UAPB and Southern that resulted in 41 players being suspended by the conference. And it's most recognizable program nationally - Grambling State - has gone from being the 2011 SWAC champion to losing 12 of its 13 games since the start of last season.

Some of the schools have made a concerted effort to change their ways and lift their programs. Plus, there are still plenty of marquee SWAC games such as Alabama A&M-Alabama State in the Magic City Classic, Grambling-Southern in the Bayou Classic and the SWAC Championship Game - which moves to Houston's modern Reliant Stadium in December - all which draw well or are backed by national TV broadcasts.

But results are telling. Step outside the conference and the SWAC struggles. It needs to find a way to close this gap because the results have become embarrassing.

TOP 25 SCOREBOARD

Third-ranked Montana State lost a heartbreaker at SMU. A roundup of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/lmmenku.

FCS-FBS SCOREBOARD

Revenge of the FBS ...

Maine's win over second-year FBS program Massachusetts, Chattanooga's rout of transitioning FBS program Georgia State and Nicholls' squeaker past Western Michigan were hardly the stuff of legends.

But their wins - http://tinyurl.com/kmmjxqb - pushed the season total of FCS wins over FBS to 11. Overall, the FCS is 11-55.

STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING

Rising: Coming off two subpar seasons, CAA Football gained a lot of respect with Maine's win over old rival Massachusetts and three near misses against FBS competition: North Carolina State 23, Richmond 21; Akron 35, James Madison 33; and Central Michigan 24, New Hampshire 21. Now only if Villanova can get its act together.

Falling: No. 21 Appalachian State should drop out of the Top 25 after losing at home to North Carolina A&T, 24-21 - the Mountaineers' second straight loss to open Scott Satterfield's coaching career. Quarterback Jamal Jackson-Londry has been way off his 2012 pace as well.

AROUND THE NATION

Big Sky: It was good to see Idaho State win its home opener as quarterback Justin Arias was whistling Dixie State, 40-14, with 439 passing yards and three total touchdowns. The Bengals, though, have gone nearly two years without a win over an FCS opponent.

Big South: Coastal Carolina All-American linebacker Quinn Backus has started the season in a big way. As the Chanticleers improved to 2-0 with a 35-28 win over Furman, he led the defense with 15 tackles, an interception and a pass breakup on the Paladins' final offensive play of the game ... VMI quarterback Eric Kordenbrock became the Keydets' all-time leader in pass completions (453) and threw for four touchdowns in a 34-27 win over Glenville State.

CAA Football: Omar Osbourne rushed for 252 yards and two touchdowns to spark Albany past Colgate, 37-34. Albany lost to Colgate by that same score in overtime two years ago ... It will interesting to see how Delaware's soft early schedule affects it later this season. A year ago, the Blue Hens started 4-0 en route to a 5-6 record.

Independents: All Abilene Christian has done is score 144 points through two wins. Quarterback John David Baker is 34-of-43 (79 percent) for 534 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.

MEAC: Howard has lost star cornerback Julien David (torn pectoral muscle) for the remainder of the season, but it managed nine sacks in a 27-16 win over Morehouse in the Nation's Football Classic ... North Carolina A&T's upset at Appalachian State - its first win over a ranked opponent since 2003 - suggests the Aggies are ready to challenge Bethune-Cookman, among others, for the conference title.

Missouri Valley: Youngstown State netted a school-record 718 yards while trouncing Morehead State, 67-13. Kurt Hess threw three touchdowns in the first quarter and Jody Webb rushed for three more ... With star tailback Shakir Bell out with a separated right shoulder, Indiana State hung tough with Purdue before falling, 20-14. Bell needs 429 rushing yards to break the school's all- time record and 840 to set the MVFC record.

Northeast: Chris Rogers had made three field goals earlier in the game, but with a win on the line, Sacred Heart freshman Alec Finney drilled a 42-yarder on the game's final play to lift surprising Sacred Heart (2-0) past Lafayette, 26-24.

Ohio Valley: Tennessee State has what should be a special defense this season. David Van Dyke scored on a 46-yard interception return and the Tigers held Florida A&M to 156 yards of offense in a 27-7 road triumph. The Tigers (1-1) have allowed only two touchdowns in two games ... Murray State scored 41 points in the first quarter alone to pound Campbellsville, 81-14. In a game called six minutes into the fourth quarter as agreed by the coaches and the players, Duane Brady rushed for four touchdowns on only 10 carries.

Patriot: With a manageable upcoming schedule - even with a trip to Temple next weekend - Fordham hasn't given up hope of competing in the FCS playoffs despite being ineligible for the Patriot title. After upsetting Villanova, Rams coach Joe Moorhead said, "Before the game, we talked about this being a defining moment for our program and to not let the moment define us."

Pioneer: Where's there a Will, there's a way. Will William produced all of the points in the second half on three field goals, lifting Dayton to a 23-20 win over Duquesne in what has been a superb series in recent seasons ... In opening a bigger Barker-Lane Stadium, Campbell rushed for 521 yards to pound Virginia-Wise, 56-21. Camels coach Mike Minter earned his first win as quarterbacks Brian Hudson (101) and Dakota Wolf (95) combined to run for 196 yards.

Southern: While Wofford's opponents will key on Donavan Johnson and the triple option offense, coach Mike Ayers has done what he wanted to do this season and pass the ball more often. The Terriers, who rotate quarterbacks James Lawson and Michael Weimer, have 33 attempts in two games after attempting only 88 passes in 12 games last season.

Southland: McNeese State is getting much of the attention, but Northwestern State also is 2-0 following a 55-14 rout of Southern. Zach Adkins had 376 total yards and three touchdown passes in the win.

SWAC: At halftime of Jackson State's pivotal, 30-23 win over Alabama State, the ASU band spelled out "Trayvon" on the field in memory of Trayvon Martin, the teenager who was fatally shot in Florida by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman last year.

Extra Point: So we needed a mention of top-ranked North Dakota State, eh? Fourth-year starting quarterback Brock Jensen is supposed to be someone who only manages the Bison offense. In a 2-0 start, he's been a playmaker and team leader worthy of Walter Payton Award consideration.

A LOOK AHEAD

The third Saturday of the season will still be dominated by out-of-conference matchups, led by Illinois State at Eastern Illinois and Central Arkansas at UT Martin.

Some other intriguing matchups: North Carolina Central at Charlotte, Colgate at New Hampshire, Samford at Florida A&M, Coastal Carolina at Eastern Kentucky, William & Mary at Lafayette, Alabama A&M at South Carolina State, Montana at North Dakota (it won't be counted as a Big Sky game), Southeastern Louisiana at South Dakota State and Tennessee State at Jackson State in Memphis.

Within conference play, there's Alabama State at defending SWAC champion Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Georgia Southern at Wofford in the Southern Conference.

Key FCS-FBS matchups are Youngstown State at Michigan State, Stony Brook at Buffalo, Fordham at Temple, Cal Poly at Colorado State, Delaware at Navy, Bethune-Cookman at FIU and Eastern Washington at Toledo (some offense, perhaps?).

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