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.