2021 Bayou Classic: Rivalry game returns for epic showdown between two SWAC powerhouses

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Bayou Classic - Southern at Grambling
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The 2021 Bayou Classic returns to action on Saturday, November 27, at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans.

The matchup features two rival opponents, the Southern University Jaguars and the Grambling State University Tigers. These two historic programs play in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and have competed against each other dating back to 1932.

The Classic officially started in 1974 at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans. This was just the beginning of the notable year-round rivalry between the two programs. It is regarded as one of the best-known annual games and rivalries in HBCU football.

Key storylines to watch in the 2021 Bayou Classic

Southern (4-6) has won the last three matchups and currently leads the all-time series between Grambling 24-23, giving the Jaguars bragging rights for now, but the Tigers look to change that with a victory in this year’s Classic.

Both programs have had an underachieving season by their standards, but a win in this year’s Battle of the Bayou can swing the momentum for both programs headed into next season.

The Tigers currently hold a 3-7 record heading into Saturday’s matchup, as they look to leave it all out on the field and bring the trophy back home.

Grambling has also been faced with adversity over the past few weeks. On November 15, 2021, the Tigers announced the firing of their head football coach, Broderick Fobbs, right before the biggest game of the season. Linebacker’s coach and special teams coordinator Terrence Graves, will assume duties as interim coach headed into the Bayou Classic.

The defense will certainly be the team’s focus coming into this matchup, given the background of their new coach. The stingy Tigers defense is currently ranked fifth in the SWAC and will need to rise to the occasion to slow down the versatile Southern offense. The Tigers look to take away the Jaguars’ elite rushing attack, which leads the conference with 193.5 rush yards a game despite their 4-6 record.

GSU sophomore defensive end, Sundiata Anderson, discussed the importance of containing the strong run game of Southern in this year’s Bayou Classic.

“The goal is to be physical up front and win the line of scrimmage anytime we step on the field,” Anderson said. “With them leading the SWAC in rush yards per game, it is a must that we come out and do just that. We know they will try to establish the run early. It is our job to pay attention to detail and know our assignments to win the game.”

If the Tigers defensive line does not repeat its trend of shutting down the run as it has this entire season, it will prove difficult to keep the Jaguars from running all over them.

Moving on to the offensive side of the ball, it has been difficult to find any consistency all season long. The Tigers are currently ranked last in total offense but look to score points early and often heading into a hostile environment against their rival opponents.

With SU’s defense allowing 31 points per game, Grambling has a great opportunity to put up some of their biggest offensive numbers of the season

Donald Johnson III, a sophomore wide receiver for the G-Men, highlighted the importance of finishing drives and securing points on the board.

“Offensively, we just have to remain patient and take what the defense gives us,” Johnson said. “We know with the offensive talent we have on this team we can score points with anyone we are put up against. It’s just a matter of executing and not deviating away from the game plan.”

The Tigers look to continue to progress in practice as they prepare for the Jaguars with their new head coach. The Classic is set to be filled with tons of energy and excitement between these two fierce competitors.

How to Watch the 2021 Bayou Classic:

The 2021 Bayou Classic airs Saturday, November 27th at 5 PM E.T. on NBCSN.

About the Author: Keion D. Russell is a senior at Grambling State University, from Phoenix, Arizona. He studies Sports Journalism with a minor in Business Management. You can follow him on social media at @keionrussell on Twitter and @royalruss on Instagram.

RELATED: 2021 Bayou Classic – Everything You Need to Know about the Matchup Between Grambling and Southern

Big Ten Football Week 4 Storylines: Ohio State, Michigan among teams facing first conference opponents

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In two weeks, the Big Ten has gone from having five ranked teams to three: Wisconsin fell out of the rankings after Week 2 and this week, Michigan State was dropped after a poor showing at Washington (39-28 final).

The three teams that remain in the top 25, though – (3) Ohio State, (4) Michigan, and (14) Penn State – looked great in Week 3 matchups that included Michigan’s 59-0 shutout against UConn and an impressive 41-12 win for Penn State on the road at Auburn.

Fortunately for Michigan State, their loss to a possibly-better-than-we-thought Washington team wasn’t the worst showing in the conference last Saturday; that accolade goes to Nebraska, whose loss to No. 6 Oklahoma wasn’t as close as the 49-14 score makes it sound.

Week 4 features eight Big Ten teams in their first conference matchups of the season, including Michigan and Ohio State, both playing at home.

 

Maryland’s trip to the Big House should be telling for No. 4 Michigan

The Michigan Wolverines (3-0) have won their first three games by a combined score of 166-17, and yet, it’s not clear how good the team is. Its all-home schedule against Colorado State, Hawaii, and UConn hasn’t put Michigan to the test so far – they’re blowing out teams that they should be blowing out, which doesn’t tell us much.

That isn’t to say Michigan is likely to lose to Maryland (3-0) on Saturday; Michigan is better on paper across the board and it’s unlikely they give this game away to the Terps, who are also undefeated (albeit less convincingly) through three non-conference games. But a team worthy of the No. 4 ranking will make a win look easy and shut down the Maryland offense (Michigan is allowing a third-best 194 yards per game), and a team not worthy of that ranking… won’t.

Head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t give away much when asked about how Michigan has prepared for their first conference test, remarking only on the great work ethic and leadership he’s seen from his players. But he did note that they have their guard up after winning the conference last season: “There’s a big target [on our backs]. Whenever you’re a defending champion, it’s gonna be there.”

Maryland coach Mike Locksley put the Terrapins’ mental approach simply on Tuesday when he said, “We have nothing to lose.” He noted that Michigan has been more disciplined than his team through three games, citing penalty numbers: Michigan is third-best in the FBS in penalty yards given away this season (65); Maryland is third-worst (271). “We always talk about trying to close the gap on teams like that,” Locksley told reporters on Tuesday. “This affords us an opportunity to see how and where we fit.”

“[We’ll] try to play to the best of our ability and keep the game really tight and get it to the fourth quarter. And you never know what can happen.”

 

No. 3 Ohio State puts offense to first big test against Wisconsin

Third-ranked Ohio State (3-0) faces its first conference test in hosting Wisconsin (2-1), which was ranked 19th before losing in a Week 2 upset to Washington State. Ohio State opened with a big win at home against Notre Dame, a win that lost some of its luster after Notre Dame lost to Marshall in Week 2.

That said, the Buckeyes are the best offensive team in the nation through three weeks with an average 565.3 yards per game, and Wisconsin is expected to be the best defense the team has faced so far. After OSU put 77 points on Toledo in Week 3, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson said, “As good as the offense might look, the offense is not good until the end of the year and you can see how tough and how consistent it is.”

“Wisconsin epitomizes Big Ten football,” OSU coach Ryan Day said on Thursday, noting the Badgers’ physical style of play and calling Wisconsin QB Graham Mertz and RB Braelon Allen “the best we’ve seen” at both positions.

The Badgers rebounded in Week 3 with a 66-7 win over New Mexico State, but that hasn’t changed their underdog status going into Saturday at The Shoe, where Wisconsin hasn’t won since 2004.

Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst complimented the formidable Buckeyes offense, calling C.J. Stroud “a heck of a quarterback” and remarking on the challenge his defense will face in OSU: “They do a great job of threatening and using the whole field.”

Ohio State will don blackout uniforms for the primetime matchup, which is the team’s fourth straight home game.

 

Michigan State looks for rebound against Minnesota team with momentum

Of all the Big Ten contests in Week 4, this one figures to be the most intriguing. Michigan State (2-1) is unranked for the first time this season after the Spartans struggled to compete at Washington last week, which could make the home game against Minnesota (3-0) a revenge game or a letdown spot.

Head coach Mel Tucker called the Washington result “very disappointing” after the Spartans’ secondary got chewed up by the Huskies, led by QB Michael Penix Jr. Tucker listed the major issues as poor communication and missed assignments rather than schematic problems, and said he took the failures personally: “I’m a horse—t football coach right now.”

“We’re going to be defined by how we respond,” Tucker said. “We have to raise our level of intensity in what we’re doing…You have to learn from adversity.”

Minnesota has earned three solid wins in non-conference play so far, showing balance with great numbers on both sides of the ball: the Golden Gophers are second in the FBS in offensive yards per game (554.7) and second in yards allowed per game (170.3).

“We know it’s going to be a hostile environment… They’re a dangerous football team,” Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said this week, specifically noting the strength of the Michigan State defensive front, which gave up only 30 rush yards to Washington last Saturday.

Minnesota will need some productivity on the ground, especially after wide receiver Chris Autman-Bell suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 3 against Colorado, for which he underwent surgery on Wednesday. Autman-Bell was leading the Gophers with 11 receptions and 214 receiving yards.

The Gophers are averaging a second-in-FBS 312.7 rush yards per game so far, but the Spartans present the first big defensive challenge of their season.

As Michigan State adjusts its defensive approach and Minnesota tweaks its offense, this game is expected to be a close one: Minnesota is a slight road favorite entering the weekend.

 

Iowa heads to Rutgers for Defensive Clash

The Iowa Hawkeyes (2-1) and Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-0) face off Saturday night with Rutgers at home, looking to start the season 4-0 for the first time in a decade (2012).

It won’t be an easy path for the Scarlet Knights, whose quarterback situation leaves plenty to be desired – Evan Simon and Gavin Wimsatt combined for 59 pass yards against Temple in Week 3 – and who likely won’t catch a break against an Iowa defense that’s allowed 13 points across three games this season.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said there are “several” offensive things he wants to fix, and also said injured QB Noah Vedral’s status will be a game-time decision on Saturday. The recent passing numbers for the team make a Vedral return all the more appealing to the Rutgers faithful.

Opposite Iowa’s renowned defense, Rutgers boasts strong defensive stats as well – the team is second in FBS in rush yards allowed (less than 33 per game) and Iowa has scored three of its lowly four touchdowns this season on the ground.

Iowa is coming off an easy but long 27-0 win over Nevada in Week 3: with nearly four hours of weather delays, the game lasted almost seven hours.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz acknowledged the parallels between his team and Schiano’s, noting the defense but also the strong punters both teams will bring to the game.

“They don’t do dumb things,” Ferentz said of the Knights. “They make you earn anything you get.”

Looking back on a celebratory weekend as Howard bests Morehouse in HBCU NY Classic

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Howard University gained their first win of the season, a 31-0 victory over Morehouse College, at MetLife Stadium this past weekend at the HBCU NY Classic. As over 35,000 fans packed the stands, sharp sounds from Howard’s Showtime Marching Band and Morehouse’s House of Funk serenaded the crowd.

“It felt really really good to play in the NYC classic,” said Greg Coleman, a member of the Showtime Marching Band. “The crowd had a lot of energy and I’m so happy that Howard students were able to make the trip and support the band.”

RELATED: 2022 HBCU NY Classic: Morehouse and Howard’s Long-Awaited Reunion

Though the game was scoreless through the first half, fans’ enthusiasm and excitement at MetLife remained high, punctuated by Aaron Bickert scoring a field goal for Howard. Wide receiver Antoine Murray took it from there, securing a win for the Bison with 116 receiving yards and two touchdown catches. 

This year, the Howard University Student Association began bussing students to various games in hopes of improving the team’s performance. So far, they’ve traveled to Atlanta for the MEAC/SWAC challenge and managed to bring 150 students to the HBCU NYC Classic.

“During campaign season I made it a priority to go and develop a relationship with Coach [Larry] Scott,” said Jordyn Allen, Howard’s Student Body President. “I just wanted to create an experience for students that makes them want to go and support our sports teams.”

Coach Scott and Allen both rallied around the idea of creating a larger community for student athletes. 

“The whole concept is that we’re all one, one Howard and the more that we can pull together on that end of the rope the stronger we all are on and off the field,” said Scott. “In any endeavor that Howard puts its name on it should be synonymous with eliteness, with greatness across the board and the only way to do that is to make sure we’re all one.”

RELATED: Things We Learned: Notre Dame OL’s second-half surge against Cal a step forward despite ‘a long way to go’

Students and alumni bonded over fond memories and food provided at a tailgate sponsored by the Jordan Brand before kickoff, while royal court representatives from Howard and Spelman College, the sister school for Morehouse College, united on the field. 

What a great weekend to be a Bison! From meeting new friends from Spelman College and Morehouse College, to bonding with my beautiful Sister Queens, in the midst of celebrating HBCUs with Nordstrom, to winning Saturday’s game, I am so full of joy,” said Cecily Davis, the 84th Miss Howard University. 

Prior to the Inaugural HBCU NYC Classic, Nordstrom hosted a pop-up shop with the goal of creating a more equitable shelf by honoring Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The company sponsored Mister and Miss Howard University with shoes from Christian Louboutin, in addition to offering Tahir Murray, a Howard alumnus and owner of the Legacy, History, Pride Brand the opportunity to feature his merchandise. Murray also created the gameday shirts for Google, with the help of Morehouse graduate Grant Bennett

RELATED: Underclassmen Maroon Tiger Players Embrace Challenge and HBCU Culture in Howard U Showdown

Spelman, Morehouse, and Howard took over the city for an action packed weekend,” Murray said. “Working with Nordstrom and Google during the weekend of a historical HBCU football classic was nothing short of a dream come true. Both companies serve as prime examples of the endless collaborative opportunities there are to create impact through fashion. LHP is all about building products with a purpose and we are excited to continue building upon the Legacy, History, and Pride of HBCUs with the worlds’ most innovative minds.”

“Working with Tahir and his brand Legacy History Pride was a full circle moment for me,” Bennett added. “Tahir and I have been trying to collaborate on a project for a while now but we wanted to make sure it was a project that was authentic and impactful. For us to connect on curating merchandise for Google in a game featuring our alma maters was truly special.”

Author’s note: Ashleigh Fields is a well-established writer, award-winning journalist and two-time self-published author who previously served as the Editor-in-Chief for The Hilltop, Howard University’s campus newspaper. She is an avid speaker with an interest in education and public policy. You can read more of her work here.