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Dickinson State 17, Montana State-Northern 7. Also, CIAA and SWAC previews

Ah, football. We missed you.

It's HBCU day at Bring on the Cats.
It's HBCU day at Bring on the Cats.
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The Lead

Congratulations, fans. You made it. There is a completed regular season college football game in the books as Dickinson State knocked off Montana State-Northern 17-7 in NAIA action at Dickinson.

The 2015 season started with a bang. On the very first play of the game, MSUN's Jake Messerly broke free on the opening kickoff return, only being dragged down at the Dickinson 14-yard line. But the Blue Hawks defense held, and Jamie Toscano was wide right from 22. The teams then traded possessions for most of the first quarter before Robert Sterling found Dalton Reed at the end of a 28-yard strike for the 2015 season's first touchdown, and Dickinson led 7-0.

With 5:14 to go in the first half, the Lights tied it up on a 9-yard run by Zach McKinley, but Dickinson answered before the half on a six-yard keeper by Sterling. The Blue Hawks added a field goal on their first drive of the second half, but that was it for the scoring.

The game featured only 411 yards of total offense, and only 11 of 36 total third-down opportunities were converted. There were only two turnovers, a pair of lost fumbles by MSUN; the real culprit was the passing game for both squads, with only 13 completions on 40 attempts combined. MSUN quarterback Jess Krahn was only 4-18 for 6 yards. Lights RB Zach McKinley had 96 yards on 22 carries, while Dickinson QB Sterling ran for 80 to lead the Blue Hawks.

And there you have it. Your first football recap of the season. All this conditioning is paying off, see?

Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION DIV CIAA OVERALL
NORTHERN DIVISION
22 Virginia State University Trojans Ettrick VA 5-0 7-0 10-3
Bowie State University Bulldogs Bowie MD 4-1 5-2 5-5
Virginia Union University Panthers Richmond VA 3-2 5-2 7-3
Elizabeth City State University Vikings Elizabeth City NC 2-3 3-4 4-6
Chowan University Hawks Murfreesboro NC 1-4 1-6 2-8
Lincoln University Lions Oxford PA 0-5 0-7 1-9
SOUTHERN DIVISION
24 Winston-Salem State University Rams Winston-Salem NC 5-0 7-0 9-2
Fayetteville State University Broncos Fayetteville NC 4-1 5-2 5-5
Saint Augustine's University Falcons Raleigh NC 2-3 3-4 3-7
Johnson C. Smith University Golden Bulls Charlotte NC 2-3 2-5 3-7
Livingstone College Blue Bears Salisbury NC 1-4 2-5 5-5
Shaw University Bears Raleigh NC 1-4 2-5 3-7

The oldest HBCU league in the nation, the CIAA has been dominated of late by Winston-Salem and Virginia State. That shows no signs of changing this fall. The usual amount of preseason chaos has ensued, and since there are no changes to the league, we'll get right to it.

Winston-Salem State

All-CIAA Selections (total, lost/returning): 11 (9/2)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 3

Key losses: QBs Phil Sims (1,560, 15/4) and Rudy Johnson (1,201, 9/5), RB Mustafa Greene (486/6), WR/KR Brenden Felder (574/9, 32.6 YPKOR/1 TD), OLs Justin Kee and Michael Sabb, DLs Duvonte Covington, Alfy Hill (13.5 TFL/7.5 sacks), and Casey Davenport (12.5 TFL), K Alejandro Suarez, KR Brendon Felder

Key returnees (Preseason All-CIAA Selections in italics): RB Tyree Massey (402/6), WRs Eric Wiliams (583/9) and Marcel Caver (578/2), OL Jac'Que Polite, DL Mike Bloomfield, LB Terry Ross (59 T, K William Johnson

This is how Winston-Salem persists. If you spread the load around enough, your players may not get all-conference recognition, but you can absorb losses at the skill positions without batting an eye. Of course, that doesn't work out so well when both of your quarterbacks graduate at the same time. There are nine quarterbacks on the roster fighting over the job, with sophomore Justin Johnson being the frontrunner thus far. Depth at running back took a small hit; Greene was a junior last year, but has left the program. But Massey is set to take over the bulk of the carries. Losing CIAA Special Teams Player of the Year Felder hurts, but the Rams will survive that, too. The defense was riddled with losses, including Covington, the CIAA Defensive Player of the Year. But this has never, ever been a problem for the Rams, and shouldn't be a concern. They should run away with the Southern Division title.

Virginia State

All-CIAA Selections: 10 (4/6)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 6

Key losses: OL Rey Rijos, LBs Brandon Robinson (86 T/13 TFL) and Andre Rawls (11.5 TFL)

Key returnees: QB Tarian Ayres (2,132, 15/5), RBs Kavon Bellamy (989/13) and Earl Hughes (491/5), WR Javon Smallwood (979/7), OLs Ronnie Ransome and Jahmil Hakey, DL Ray Prosise, LB Brandon Lynch, DBs Darion Thomas (5 INT) and Devonte Piggott

There is only one question about Virginia State this fall, and that's whether the production at linebacker can be replaced. Given this program, the answer is probably "yes", and you can expect the Trojans to fight it out with -- and probably outlast -- Virginia Union in the South.

Virginia Union

All-CIAA Selections: 5 (2/3)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 3

Key losses: RB Cassious McDowell (366/5), WR Lennworth Lennon (504/4), DB Charles Davis (83 T/6 INT)

Key returnees: QB Kenneth Graham (1,346, 10/3), RB Jerome Robinson (267/2), WRs Jussie York (683/8) and Jamaal Wright (404/1), OL Addison Hayes, LB Joseph Blanks (52 T), DBs Trevin Gordon and Rodeshawn Joseph

McDowell and Lennon were important, but replaceable. Davis is a big loss to the defense, especially considering he was responsible for exactly one out of every 9 tackles. And that's going to be the issue for the Panthers. If they can shore up that defense, they'll challenge Virginia State. If not, they'll get left in the dust.

Fayetteville State

All-CIAA Selections: 4 (1/3)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 1

Key losses: WRs Kasunn Williams (483/3) and Ricardo White (473/5), DB Michael Johnson (76 T)

Key returnees: QB Derek Bryant (1,590, 10/12), RB Andre Montgomery (760/5), WR Chris Hubert (574/5), OLs Quincy Dickens and Kristjan Brown, LBs Thomas Perry (73 T/11.5 TFL) and Moongo Bolobiongo (11.5 TFL/7 sacks)

The Broncos aren't in bad shape, and with a couple of strong linebackers stepping up to anchor a defense which was too dependent in its secondary last year they should improve. Finding some depth behind Hubert to replace Williams and White will be important. There are only 54 players listed on the roster, but only a small handful are freshmen so we'll assume incoming recruits haven't been added yet.

Bowie State

All-CIAA Selections: 6 (1/5)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 4

Key losses: RB Keith Brown (599 yards/4 TD), TE Khari Lee (443/1), LB Christopher Townsend (72 tackles/16 TFL)

Key returnees: QB Trevon Bennett (1,308 yards, 10 TD/10 INT), RB Kayvone Spriggs (261/0), WR Garry Cropper (343/3), OLs Victor Tamba Jr. and Justin Nester, DLs Anthony McDaniel (50 T/26 TFL/10.5 sacks) and Rahsaan Moore, DB Curtis Pumphrey (7 INT), P Christopher Palmer

Bowie will have to replace Townsend's presence in the middle on defense, as McDaniel is now the leading returning tackler too. But the Bulldogs are otherwise in pretty good shape as long as Spriggs can handle the increased responsibility at RB. Catching up to the Virginias may be too much to ask, but Bowie will be a solid squad.

Elizabeth City State

All-CIAA Selections: 3 (2/1)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 2

Key losses: QB Tyrell Houghton (1,342, 8/3), RB Kenny King (671/8), WR Lovie Banks-Rose (512/3), DL Kendall Sellers (16.5 TFL/7.5 sacks)

Key returnees: WR/KR Antonio Huff (310/1), TE A.J. Mundle, LB Stephen Williams (99 T/9.5 TFL), DB Malcolm Cherry

Not one player on the roster threw a pass last season; sophomores Daquan Neal and Jaquez Riles are the only quarterbacks listed on the roster. No returning player had over 135 yards on the ground. Only 46 players are currently listed on the roster, but like Fayetteville it's obvious incoming recruits haven't been added; not a single freshman is listed. Still, based on returning talent this team is sort of a mess, and at least on paper it's a mystery as to why the coaches have picked them to finish in the upper half of the conference.

Livingstone

All-CIAA Selections: 5 (2/3)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 2

Key losses: RB Justin Forte (415/1), DL Hillman Evans (12.5 TFL/5 sacks), LB Kenneth White (101 T/14 TFL)

Key returnees: QB Drew Powell (2,241, 26/14; 881/7 rushing), WR/KR Jalen Hendricks (1,070/12), DB Hildon Bush (53 T), P Leonardo Manzo (42.4 avg)

Hendricks, the reigning CIAA Offensive Player of the Year, is a certified beast. He also returned a punt for a score, averaging 24.7/PR, and had an 81-yard kickoff return which didn't quite reach the end zone. Powell loses a little help carrying the ball, but getting from last year's 270/2 to Forte's production shouldn't be an issue for senior RB Clawsondy Cayo. Four minor targets return at WR to keep Hendricks from being too obvious a target. It's the defense where Livingstone has issues this year. Bush leads all returning tacklers, which means the front seven has to improve.

Shaw

All-CIAA Selections: none

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: none

Key losses: QB Trey Folston (1,826, 9/8), WR Nick Jones (531/2)

Key returnees: RB Marqui Grizzle (750/8, 204/1 receiving), DL Dwight Campbell (12 TFL), DB Roland Green (49 T/12 TFL/6 sacks)

Junior Vince Jefferies will probably take over at quarterback after minimal action in 2014. No returning wideout had more than 150 yards last year. Green led the team in tackles, TFL, and sacks -- but his only pass-defense statistic was one broken-up pass. He's really more of a linebacker, so the usual warnings about your secondary leading the defense in those categories can probably be discarded in this instance. What we can't discard is this: the next six best tacklers on the team graduated.

Chowan

All-CIAA Selections: none

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 1

Key losses: QB Dain McFarland (1,195, 8/15), RB DaSean Martin (679/7), WR Antjuan Randall (447/0)

Key returnees: QB/WR Ryan Nolan (587, 2/4 passing; 375/4 rushing; 351/2 receiving), RB Anthony Clanton (366/3), DL Kemaree Alcorn, LB Andrew Denny (67 T)

Here we go again. Nolan was McFarland's backup last year, but he's really a wide receiver. He enters 2015 as Chowan's leading receiver, passer, and rusher, and it's really unclear exactly what role Nolan will play this fall; he's still listed as a wideout on the roster. So there's definitely some sorting to be done offensively. And defensively, too; while there were very few losses, the unit just wasn't very good in 2014.

Johnson C. Smith

All-CIAA Selections: 2 (1/1)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 1

Key losses: QB Keahn Wallace (1,348, 7/3), RB De'Erik Bradley (346/0), WRs Avius Capers (449/2) and Chris Patterson (427/2), DL Jovontay Williams (15.5 TFL/7.5 sacks)

Key returnees: WR Fredarious Scott (488/6), LB Austin Jacques (133 T/18 TFL)

Sometimes, you get bad information. That's why you have to dig deeper. For example, Johnson C. Smith's statistics report from 2014 lists every single player as a freshman, and if someone were less careful they might have assumed everyone was coming back.

/snark off

The only player on the roster who attempted a pass last year was punter Matias Lambrecht (who, incidentally, was pretty good at punting with a 41.4 avg), so quarterback is an open question for the Golden Bulls. Scott ran for 42 yards last year; he's the team's leading returning rusher. Junior Richards Brannon is the top actual RB; he ran for 21 yards last year. Jacques is an effevescent talent at linebacker, but the defense is pretty much non-existent otherwise. It'll be a painful autumn in Charlotte, and one is forced to wonder whether UNC-Charlotte's addition of football as a varsity sport has permanently wounded the Bulls.

Saint Augustine's

All-CIAA Selections: 3 (1/2)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 1

Key losses: WR/KR Claytin Lewis (788/5 and a KORTD), LBs Carlton Butts (82 T) and Elijah Evans (73 T)

Key returnees: QB Cyril Davis (1,683, 11/5), RB Roderick Davenport (1,133/6), WR Jamal Parker (419/2), DB Denzel Watkins (48 T(

The Falcons were hot late in the year, which got the interim tag removed from head coach Michael Morand's title. And that, aside from the definite return of Roderick Davenport, is the only good news we can offer up as concrete truth.

Lewis was the CIAA Offensive Rookie of the Year, but he, along with several other players who should have been back this year, is missing from the 2015 roster and were not referred to at all in reports from yesterday's scrimmage. In fact, only 25 players are on that roster, although as with other cases incoming recruits haven't been added. This is a very confusing situation, and we're forced to remind you that we're doing this based on reports rather than the actual observation you'd get from a beat writer or close observer.

Because of that, in the end we're going to assume the CIAA coaches are aware of something going on at Saint Augustine's that we're not. If the roster is incorrect and the missing players just didn't do anything noteworthy in the scrimmage -- and that's entirely possible -- this team will be a lot better than the preseason poll indicates. But as things stands, what should have been a good football team in 2015 is going to be a bad one. If anyone knows what's going on, well... we'll be glad to update this.

Lincoln (PA)

All-CIAA Selections: 1 (0/1)

Preseason All-CIAA Selections: 1

Key losses: QB Doug Cook (1,074, 9/6), WR Akeem Jordan (502/6), LB Gavin Lampkin (10.5 TFL)

Key returnees: QB Edward McKenzie (562/5), RB Stephen Scott (956/3), WR Larquise Hobbs (351/1), DB Brion Robinson (74 T)

Scott may be a 1,000 yard back, and Robinson is a solid talent, but there's really not much else here. Lincoln is going to struggle.

Game of the Year

The CIAA Championship Game on November 14, most likely. Prior to that, the key game will be the week before when Virginia Union visits Virginia State.

Division I FCS Independents Preview

Just kidding. There aren't any anymore. With the completion of Charlotte's move to FBS, the species has been eradicated. With new rules in place regarding transition between divisions, no team can move UP to FCS as an independent. So the only way an FCS independent can turn up again now is if one of the basketball-only members of the Sun Belt or C-USA decides to start up football, and even then they'd only be in FCS for two years.

Southwestern Athletic Conference Preview

2014 Standings and Info
SCHOOL LOCATION SWAC OVERALL
rv Alcorn State Univeristy Braves Lorman MS 7-2 10-3
Alabama State University Hornets Montgomery AL 5-4 7-5
Jackson State University Tigers Jackson MS 3-6 5-7
Alabama A&M University Bulldogs Huntsville AL 3-6 4-8
Mississippi Valley State University Delta Devils Itta Bena MS 1-8 2-9
Southern University and A&M College Jaguars Baton Rouge LA 8-1 9-4
Grambling State University Tigers Grambling LA 7-2 7-5
Prairie View A&M University Panthers Prairie View TX 5-4 5-5
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Golden Lions Pine Bluff AR 3-6 4-7
Texas Southern University Tigers Houston TX 3-6 5-6

The SWAC once again led all FCS conferences in attendance, helped out by their practice of playing numerous games as festival games in large stadiums with lots of additional side entertainment. It's what works for them, and allows the conference to live on its own little island, completely unconcerned with things like the playoffs.

Of course, that's because their financial constraints have completely stripped the SWAC of its former glory. It's hard for folks to understand this in the 21st century, but once upon a time teams like Grambling and Jackson State were still a more desirable option for five-star black talent even after integration. But when, say, Texas has exponentially more money to start with, their ability to completely oustrip Grambling in regard to facilities, educational resources, and ultimately alumni completely reversed the tide.

Your SWAC champion last year was Alcorn State, making their first SWAC Championship Game appearance since it began in 1999 and winning the conference for the first time since 1994. The Braves are the preseason pick to repeat in the East, with the other four teams neatly stacked beneath; there was no dispute at all over the order. In the West, Grambling edges out Southern for preseason honors, with Prairie View trailing well behind. Texas Southern and UAPB bring up the rear, with the Tigers having a significant lead, but not quite the value of a full position.

Alcorn State

All-SWAC Selections: 11 (3/8)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 8

Key losses: RB Anthony Williams III (723/12), DLs Deion Robertson (21 TFL) and Jamil Cooks (13.5 TFL/8.5 sacks), LB Corey Williams (8 TFL/6 sacks), DB Devon Francois (84 T/5 INT)

Key returnees (First-team preseason selections in italics): QB John Gibbs Jr. (2,482, 21/7; 1,006/11 rushing), RBs Aaron Baker (725/13) and Darryan Ragsdale (691/7), WR Charles Hughes (413/2), TE Jordan Payne (463/5), OLs Isaac Sampson and Detonio Dade, DL Darien Moody (10.5 TFL/7.5 sacks), LB Damon Watkins (79 T/10.5 TFL), DBs Warren Gatewood and Anthony Williams Jr, K Haiden McCraney

Sampson and Dade were first- and second-team All-SWAC selections last year, but neither received the preseason honor this year. Gibbs was the co-Offensive Player of the Year last year, and earned the preseason nod as well. Alcorn's losses are not insignificant, but on offense the only loss that matters won't matter. Williams III's production is easily going to be made up by the returning pair of Baker and Ragsdale, plus senior Joe Price, who missed 2014 with an injury, returns. There's also plenty of depth at receiver and a strong line to protect everyone.

Defensively, however, the Braves have issues. Four of the top five tacklers are gone, and that statement doesn't even account for Robertson, Cooks, and Williams. That could burden a solid returning secondary. But Alcorn should still repeat in the east.

Jackson State

All-SWAC Selections: 6 (2/4)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 6

Key losses: LB Ariane McCree (89 T/13.5 TFL/6 sacks)

Key returnees: QB La Montiez Ivy (3,209, 22/14), RB Jarius Moore (380/3), WRs Daniel Williams (990/9) and Jairus Moll (485/6), OL Marcus Cook, LB Javencey Jones (107 T/18 TFL), DB Robert Porter (17 PD), K Ryan Deising (18/23, 32/32 PAT)

The Tigers, for all in tends and purposes, lose almost nothing. The offense returns in full force, with only a lack of a rushing game standing in their way. Jackson only averaged 102 yards on the ground last year, largely due to an injury-depleted offensive line. Seven starters are back on defense, softening the blow of losing McCree.

Alabama A&M

All-SWAC Selections: 1 (0/1)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 2

Key losses: QB Jaymason Lee (2,488, 18/9), WR Montaurius Smith (1,035/6)

Key returnees: RBs Harvey Harris (651/6), Brandon Eldemire (530/6), and Byran Brower (421/2), WR O'Darius Williams (432/0), OL Courtney Brown, DL Anthony Lanier (16 TFL), LB Bryan Brower (83 T), DB Dexter Reese (5 INT)

We apologize if we have our Browers backward. The stats from last year have Bryan as the RB and Byran as the LB, and the roster has it reversed. If that wasn't confusing enough, they're twin brothers, and that was a really cruel thing for their parents to do to them. Bryan, or Byran... the linebacker was the team's leading tackler. De'Angelo Ballard, a transfer from SW Mississippi CC, appears to have the inside track in the competition to replace Lee. Losing the combination of Lee and Smith, for a team which only won four games last year, will be rough. But a good bit of the talent on defense returns, and the strong backfield will at least, one hopes, give the Bulldogs time to rebuild a passing game.

Alabama State

All-SWAC Selections: 9 (3/6)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 5

Key losses: RB Malcolm Cyrus (1,497/9), DL Edward Mosley (10 TFL/6 sacks)

Key returnees: QB Daniel Duhart (2,105, 10/7), RB Khalid Thomas (546/5), WR Demario Ball (625/4), OLs Damian Love and Jylan Ware, LBs Kourtney Berry (117 T/11.5 TFL) and Daerius Washington (92 T/12.5 TFL), DB Najee Bright (4 INT)

Reggie Barlow is out after eight years and a division title in 2010. After winning four MEAC titles in five years at Bethune-Cookman and earning three trips to the playoffs, Brian Jenkins has moved to Alabama State to take over the program. There's a bit of a cloud over him, however, as there are allegations that things were not entirely kosher in Daytona Beach.

Bright was a first-team All-SWAC selection, but did not receive a preseason nod this year. The only loss the Hornets are really worried about is a big one as Cyrus, who shared Offensive Player of the Year honors, carried much of the offense. The defense is in fine shape, and Berry earned the preseason Defensive Player of the Year nod. If Thomas can step into his shoes, everything will be alright in Montgomery.

Mississippi Valley State

All-SWAC Selections: 2 (2/0)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 3

Key losses: QB Patrick Ivy (870, 9/8) WR Julian Stafford (981/9)

Key returnees: QB Quintavious Peterson (741, 5/6), RB Jerrell Moore (302/1), TE Natron Brooks, OL Sean Brown, DBs LeTrey Jones (63 T) and Charles Moore

Mom always said if you don't have anything nice to say... well, Peterson shared Offensive Rookie of the Year honors last year. Of course, he was a transfer, so he'll be gone after this season. The Delta Devils are going to struggle.

Grambling State

All-SWAC Selections: 1 (0/1)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 4

Key losses: RB Juwan Martin (335/3), LBs Aaron Breed (106 T/21.5 TFL/8 sacks) and Steve Onsakwe (22.5 TFL/8.5 sacks), DB Tyree Hollins (5 INT)

Key returnees: QB Johnathan Williams (2,454, 18/7; 484/8 rushing), WR Chester Rogers (712/4), Chad Williams (572/5), and Verlon Hunter (574/7), DLs Jamison Goins and Javonte Williams, LB Henry Taylor, KRs Martez Carter (24.1/1) and Ka'Jandre Domino (30.2/1)

The loss of Breed and Onsakwe is the biggest challenge facing the Tigers in 2015, as the linebackers were a disruptive penetrative force. Grambling is also going to have to find some semblance of a running game. Amazingly, Johnathan Williams was the only All-SWAC selection last year, earning second-team honors after once again getting playing time after an injury. The job is his this year without question, and that's a big part of why Grambling's getting the nod to win the West.

Southern

All-SWAC Selections: 7 (3/4)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 7

Key losses: WR Reggie Travis (514/5), OLs Zach Brown and DeWayne Houston, DL Arthur Miley (7 sacks), LB Brian McCain (12 TFL), DB DeAndre Woodland (23 PD)

Key returnees: QB Austin Howard (2,334, 17/8), RB Lenard Tillery (1,196/9), WR/KR Willie Quinn (892/5; 3 return TDs), OLs Anthony Mosley and Terrell Lee, DL Gabe Echols, LB Demetrius Carter (101 T), DBs Danny Johnson (25 PD) and Donnie McDuffy

The biggest issue for Southern is the loss of Brown and Houston, who did an exemplary job protecting co-Offensive Rookie of the Year Howard. If the Jaguars can rebuild that line around Mosley and Lee, they're a threat to win the West yet again. That task, however, was made more difficult by the loss of their spring practice sessions due to APR penalties.

Prairie View A&M

All-SWAC Selections: 8 (5/3)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 5

Key losses: QB Jerry Lovelocke (2,473, 16/9), WRs Greg Thurmond (612/2) and Gabe Dunlap (502/3), OL Tre Glover, LBs Jerome Howard (118 T/15 TFL) and Danny Brownell (94 T/16 TFL), K Chris Barrick (15-17 FGs, 43-44 PATs)

Key returnees: RB and All-American KR Johnta Hebert (1,063/12; 28.8 YPKOR), WR Nick Pitre (541/7), OLs Glen Haisley and Jordan Johnson, DL Devohn Reed, DB Damond Jackson

Willie Simmons, former Alcorn offensive coordinator, takes over as head coach after the school elected not to renew Heishma Northern's contract. He'll be working with Trey Green on replacing the big shoes of Lovelocke. Filling the gaping hole at linebacker left by the graduation of Howard -- the SWAC Defensive Player of the Year -- and Brownell is another critical task. But Prairie View will still be decent, which is a long way away from the 1990s.

Texas Southern

All-SWAC Selections: 2 (1/1)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 3

Key losses: QB Jamal Small (904, 8/4), RB Daveonn Porter (827/6), WR Fred Plummer (446/4)

Key returnees: WR Malik Cross (420/6), OL Glenn Jackson, DL Amir Bloom, LB Darian Claiborne (77 T), K Eric Medina (14-18 FGs/32-33 PATs), P Corey Carter (45.0 avg)

Texas Southern started last year 4-0, and promptly collapsed. Senior Homer Causey and junior Jay Christope are settling the quarterback debate in camp. They also happen to be the two leading returning rushers, which is ungood. In fact, everything about this team is pretty awful this year except the kicking specialists and Claiborne, last year's Defensive Rookie of the Year. It's going to be a long season in Houston.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff

All-SWAC Selections: 4 (0/4)

Preseason All-SWAC Selections: 4

Key losses: QB Benjamin Anderson (2,462, 17/10; 633/7 rushing)

Key returnees: RB Brian Handley (820/2), WR Willie Young (727/9) and Marvante King (481/3), DL Demarcus Berry (16.5 TFL/8 sacks), LB Willie Duncan (100 T), DB Kevin Rucker (5 INT)

Sophomore Marcus Terrell figures to be the starting quarterback, and that's the only major loss the Golden Lions absorbed in the off-season. But despite the returning top-shelf talent in each of the three defensive units, their partners were horrible. UAPB gave up over 40 points six times last year. They'll have to do better.

Game of the Year

This answer is always the same whenever both teams are competitive: November 28 at the Superdome. The Bayou Classic. Grambling vs Southern.

Tomorrow

We'll get back to Picking the Big 12, and then preview the Southland Conference and the Southern Conference as we steam through FCS week.