2021 Bayou Classic: The Return to the Bayou

0 Comments

The 48th Annual Bayou Classic or “Battle of the Bayou” as some may call it, returned to its home location of New Orleans this past Thanksgiving weekend. After being held in Shreveport during the unusual SWAC season this spring due to COVID-19, the weekend of festivities was one that everyone had been eagerly anticipating. Between the newly renovated Caesars Superdome, the game returning to the city, and the interest of having two interim coaches facing off against one another, the 2021 Bayou Classic was sure to be one for the books.

2021 Bayou Classic: A Little Background of the Series

The matchup between Grambling and Southern originally began in 1932 but became “Bayou Classic” in 1974. As of today, Southern leads the series 24-23 all time, with a current three-game win streak. Students, alumni, faculty, family, and even just regular supporters, come out to see the action between the two friendly rivals of HBCUS in Louisiana. This year would be the first time since 2019 that the game was held back in New Orleans. The Caesars Superdome that was formally under the name “Mercedes Benz Superdome,” went under a few major changes including a rebranding and renovation inside the dome, causing the game to be played in the Independence Stadium in Shreveport, LA. At the start of this fall season, organizers announced that the game would be back in New Orleans on the last Saturday of November, like in previous years.

Pre-Game Festivities

Although things were different for a year, many of the historic traditions prevailed. To start the week off, the Annual Mayors Press Conference was held Monday morning, which included the athletic directors of both schools, presidents, as well as a spokesperson from Bayou Classic sponsor Proctor & Gamble.

Fast forward to the end of the week once the teams have arrived, and the annual Coaches Luncheon was held that Friday at the Hyatt Hotel with both football teams. Noted at the press conference on Monday, for the first time this year there was a showcase of small Black businesses outside of the luncheon. The showcase was used to show off products to potential customers and explain what their business was about.

Friday night, the second most important day of the Bayou Classic weekend, consisted of the long-awaited Greek Show and Battle of the Bands. With the lights off and the stadium full of spectators, the Greek Show, consisting of members of the Divine 9 from both Southern and Grambling, started the night off as they went against each other to see who would come out as the first-place winner for a $3,000 check. The crowd’s atmosphere was filled with excitement and happiness from members of the sororities and fraternities as well as students and alumni that came to watch both battles of the night. During the Greek show, each organization includes a theme along with their stepping, strolling, and organization chants. Some of this year’s themes included Dora the Explorer, Michael Jackson’s Triller, the Netflix hit Squid Games, and a version of the movie “US”.

That was just the beginning of the action that Friday night in the Caesars Superdome. Immediately after, as the crowd was still hype from the Greek Show, the highly anticipated Battle of the Bands began. This exciting musical showdown is always an event filled with pure amazement as the two most prestigious bands in the state of Louisiana go blow for blow in this friendly rivalry. With the crowd all standing, the Superdome was lit by cell phone flashlights as the DJ introduced the bands.

First to come to the field was the famous Southern University ‘Human Jukebox’ escorted elegantly by the Fabulous Dancing Dolls. Following their introduction, Grambling State University Marching Band, or the ‘World Famed Tiger Marching Band’ made their way to the field escorted by the Orchesis Dance Company. As the battle began, the energy inside of the dome was no less then amazing and electrifying. When the bands began and the crowd was able to distinguish the instrumentals of each song, everyone sang out in awe of pure amazement seeing the bands battle for the winning title that was ultimately determined by the fans at the end of the night.

2021 Bayou Classic Game Day

Finally! The day everyone has been waiting on. The 48th Annual Bayou Classic football game. From early in the day, people started filling the streets walking around in their blue and gold and gold and black for both teams. On the corners of each block, tents began to set up selling school gear for everyone to show their school pride as well as food trucks, and snack shacks selling funnel cakes and other tasty treats.

Around 2:30pm as the doors opened, fans started to slowly make their way into the seats to get ready for kickoff. Players from both teams are on the field getting warmed up, dancing to hype themselves up, ecstatic to finally be back in the dome.

“It’s just different,” New Orleans native Jakobi Jones of the Jaguars said when asked about being back in the Superdome. “Bayou Classic in the dome feel like home, and it’s what you dream of growing up in New Orleans watching the Saints, like you dream to play where those guys play, and it just wasn’t the same during the spring in Shreveport.”

Media outlets began to make their way to the seventh floor into the press box where they set up their stations and were able to enjoy a southern classic meal of red beans and rice. With 30 minutes left until kickoff, the Royal Courts were introduced from both Southern and Grambling, followed by the introductions of the marching bands as they marched to their side of the superdome. Fans were still pouring in as the excitement began to show. At 4pm the National Anthem was played, and the coin toss determined who got the ball, the game began.

The intensity of the game started early and was held throughout the whole game but was most intense at the very last stretch.

A close game in the fourth quarter had the crowd going crazy with school spirit and chants. With Grambling up 19-13, Southern was able to score a touchdown to make the score 20-19. As the anticipation grew, the entire stadium’s energy shifted with worry as the game was coming close to an end and the winner was uncertain. With 6 minutes left, Grambling scored a touchdown and GramFam, including their Marching Band, had the stadium going wild as the Tigers took a 26-20 lead. But the back-and-forth battle continued as the Jags were able to score a touchdown with 4:27 left in the game. The crowd went crazy only to have the touchdown taken away. As Southern fans booed because of the verdict, the Jaguars did not let that affect them. They went to score the touchdown back to 26-26 right after. Now everyone was out of their seats with so much enthusiasm and excitement. The crowd was out of the roof after that with everyone out their chairs, waving their pom poms around, singing HBCU classics, like Got My Whisky and You Make Me Happy. Grambling side of the stadium and all their fans were yelling out in happiness and excitement as they figured the Tigers would make the final field goal.

And their hopes were rewarded… Grambling kicker Garrett Urban nailed a 25-yard field goal with two seconds left in the game to give the Tigers the 29-26 Bayou Classic win, and players, coaches and athletic staff immediately rushed the field in excitement and happiness after snapping their Bayou Classic losing streak.

Although Grambling won in the end, history was made by a Jaguar this year. Quarterback Ladarius Skelton closed out his collegiate career winning his fourth straight MVP trophy.

To those who don’t know about the history of Bayou Classic, it is more than just a football game. The culture, atmosphere, and school pride signify the true HBCU experience. The friendly rivalry allows fans to come from all over to celebrate the importance of HBCU culture. The first Classic back in the Bayou was nothing short of an amazing weekend. As said by Rocky Dufauchard of New Orleans & Company: “The Bayou Classic is called the Bayou Classic for one reason — because New Orleans is truly your home, and you’re back.”

Author’s Note: Alexis Easton is a senior, aspiring sportswriter and broadcaster currently studying Mass Communication with a focus in Public Relations at Southern University. Starting off as a sports journalist for the school newspaper, Southern Digest, she now works as an intern with the Southern University Athletic Department where she writes game recaps for multiple sports. You can follow her on Instagram @lexeastonn or read her articles on gojagsports.com and southerndigest.com

Big Ten Championship: Best Bets, Predictions, and Preview for Purdue-Michigan

0 Comments

The regular season in college football ended in spectacular fashion last week, featuring high-stakes rivalry contests and upsets in every major conference. The Big Ten had it all.

In the Big Ten West, where Iowa simply needed to beat a downtrodden Nebraska for the division title, the Cornhuskers upset the Hawkeyes with a remarkable performance on offense. Once Iowa was knocked out, Purdue was in the driver’s seat and took care of business on the road at Indiana to top the West with a 30-16 win over the Hoosiers.

In the Big Ten East, Michigan and Ohio State faced off in Columbus for the division in what was anticipated as the game of the season, with both teams ranked in the top four. The marquee matchup lived up to its billing through three quarters, as Michigan led 24-20 before the final 15 minutes. But the close contest turned into something else entirely in the fourth quarter, as the Wolverines outscored the Buckeyes 21-3 in the final 10 minutes and intercepted Heisman candidate C.J. Stroud twice in the final five. Michigan won the game 45-23 after the runaway ending, keeping its No. 2 CFP ranking and earning its second straight trip to the Big Ten Championship; Ohio State sits No. 5 in the CFP rankings hoping a playoff path emerges for them this weekend with kickoff just hours away.

Purdue vs. Michigan Preview: Wolverines seek second straight conference title (MICH -16.5, o/u 51.5)

Best Bets: Michigan -16.5, Over 51.5

No. 2 Michigan (12-0) and Purdue (8-4) will meet at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis Saturday night, with Michigan heavily favored to win its second consecutive Big Ten title. The Wolverines made easy work of the Big Ten Championship game in this building last season, defeating Iowa 42-3. Michigan last won back-to-back conference titles in 2003 and 2004.

Michigan will again be without star running back Blake Corum (at one point considered a Heisman contender), who sat out most of the Ohio State game due to a knee injury and is set to undergo season-ending surgery, according to multiple reports.

The team’s rushing core didn’t slow down in Corum’s absence, though, as sophomore Donovan Edwards earned a career-high 22 carries and 216 rush yards, most of which came on 75- and 85-yard touchdown runs in the final minutes against Ohio State. “If somebody’s down, the whole running back room has to be accountable to get the offense going,” Edwards said after the win.

The Wolverines are exuding confidence and pride ahead of this game following their performance in Columbus last weekend.

“We’re excited to get back there, enjoy it, and dominate,” sophomore quarterback J.J. McCarthy said Wednesday. McCarthy was a star last weekend, creating explosive plays that have sometimes been missing from the Michigan passing game this season. He threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns (of 45, 69, and 75 yards) with no interceptions.

McCarthy said that the team is not taking Purdue lightly, but they of course have bigger goals in mind. “It’s another game in the way of our ultimate goal, which is the national championship,” he told reporters. “We’re still focused on going 15-0.” Michigan’s last national title came in 1997, when the team was voted national champions in the AP Poll, but the win was considered contested because Nebraska won the Coach’s Poll.

RELATED: College Football Playoff expands to 12 teams for 2024 season

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh isn’t taking this weekend lightly either. “First rule of champions – do not let up,” he told Michigan Football Radio on Tuesday.

Despite being the better team, the Wolverines are smart not to underestimate the upset-capable Boilermakers from Purdue. Purdue has nine wins against AP No. 1 and No. 2 sides as an unranked team, more than any other school in the poll era. (Michigan is ranked No. 2 in the CFP and AP rankings.) The Boilermakers have upset No. 2 teams in the Big Ten twice in the last four years, first Ohio State in 2018 and then Iowa in 2021.

Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm engineered both of those upsets, and says his team is hungry heading into this weekend. “They’ve got a chip on their shoulder,” he said Thursday. “They’re out to prove to people what they can do.”

Senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell has been practicing since Wednesday and is expected to play. O’Connell led Purdue to its division-sealing win at Indiana last weekend just days after the sudden death of his older brother, Sean. He went home to be with family following that game and returned in time to practice on Wednesday.

In a statement Sunday, O’Connell said, “Sean was not only one of Purdue Football’s biggest fans, but he was a better son, brother and friend.”

O’Connell leads the Big Ten in passing yards per game with an average of 284, while his favorite target – senior wide receiver Charlie Jones – leads the conference in receiving yards and touchdowns (he’s in the top five nationally for both stats as well).

O’Connell and Jones will have their work cut out for them against one of the top defenses in the country, and Purdue will likely use the full playbook as they go to Indiana with nothing to lose.

Prediction: Jeff Brohm and Purdue have proven their ability to play up to great teams like Michigan, and Michigan could be on a comedown after the huge game at Ohio State last weekend. But the Wolverines showed no sign of comedown after Ohio State last year and they should be able to stay in control of this game to cover, even if Purdue creates a little chaos and scores some points to put the Over in play.

 

More Championship Week Predictions

The team at NBC Sports EDGE has taken a deep dive on this week’s Big Ten Championship game and are serving up their favorite plays for the week. Here’s a preview:

Purdue Team Total Over 17.5 (+110)

Vaughn Dalzell (@VmoneySports)

Aidan O’Connell is expected to play but miss some practice after the unexpected death of his brother prior to the Indiana game.

O’Connell could have another emotional showing as a he went 18-of-29 for 290 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Indiana to clinch the Big Ten Championship berth (30-16 win).

With O’Connell as the starting quarterback, the Boilermakers scored 18 or more points in nine out of 11 games this season and six-straight to end last year (15 of the last 17). The only defenses to keep Purdue Under 18 points was Iowa (3 points) and Norhtwestern (17 points) during that 17-game span. 

While it will be an unpopular bet, Purdue could score two-plus touchdowns on Michigan — Rutgers (17), Penn State (17), Illinois (17), Ohio State (23) and Maryland (27) all scored at least 17 points versus Michigan this season.

 

Read more of the EDGE team’s Big Ten plays here. If you’re looking for a deeper dive into every game this Championship Saturday, join NBC Sports analysts Vaughn Dalzell, Eric Froton, and Brad Thomas Saturday from 11A-12P Eastern for the NBC Sports YouTube Championship Saturday Q&A as they dive into the weekend’s slate of games, answer your questions, and offer value plays including sides, totals, and props.

 

 

**Betting stats are provided by BetMGM. Must be 21+ years of age or older to wager. Must be present in NY. If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, help is available. Call (877-8-HOPENY) or text HOPENY (467369).

2022 Bayou Classic: More than a football game

0 Comments

Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, the city of New Orleans is packed with fans of the Southern University Jaguars and Grambling University Tigers from all over, and this year was no exception. Two amazing HBCUs compete for the championship inside of Caesar’s Superdome. In addition to the game, there were a plethora of events that led up to this highly anticipated matchup – here’s a look back at some of the highlights from a week filled with tradition and football.

Monday – Press Conference

Bayou Classic week began with a press conference held at the Superdome. Spectators got a chance to hear from both head coaches, both university presidents, New Orleans mayor Latoya Cantrell, a few of the sponsors and the director of facilities of the Superdome. According to attendee Mel Cordier, a public relations professional, the university presidents spoke on “student and alumni engagement on and off campus and what’s to come for the betterment of the universities.” Mayor Cantrell enlightened the room when she mentioned that New Orleans is one of the top ten growing cities since the COVID-19 pandemic. The sponsors discussed how they show their support with not just dollars but also by providing scholarships to students and supporting various university departments, such as the marching bands. The director of facilities mentioned that his staff has been working around the clock to have the Superdome ready before fans take their seats.

RELATED: 2022 Bayou Classic: It’s Not Over Until It’s Over

Friday – Battle of the Bands and Greek Show highlight busy schedule

Fast forward to Friday: The morning began with representatives from NBC Universal conducting a seminar to give students insight from NBCU Academy and NBC Sports leaders about careers in media and sports broadcasting. This enlightening event took place at the Hyatt Regency hotel.

At noon, there was a coaches’ luncheon where athletic staff from each university talked about the significance of this Bayou Classic.

On Friday afternoon, the Superdome opened its doors for the annual Battle of The Bands and Greek show. Seven National Pan-Hellenic Council fraternity and sorority chapters competed for a significant check that would go towards funding for the winning chapter. Each team took the stage and performed a stepping routine. Procter and Gamble, the lead sponsor for the last six years, presented the Alpha Tau chapter of Delta Sigma Theta and the Delta Sigma chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha with the grand prize.

“It’s about creating the resources that young people need to go to school and have future opportunity to join the ranks of a Fortune 500 company,” said Damon Jones, Chief Communications Officer of Procter and Gamble. Proctor and Gamble is responsible for creating everyday household goods such as Crest Toothpaste and Tide Laundry Detergent, to name a few.

How does it feel to win the Greek show? “We had big shoes to fill being that past shows have been nothing but immaculate,” said Amariya Jackson, a member of Delta Sigma Theta. “Being able to show the ones that came before us that we are just as dedicated as them means everything.”

Right after the Greek Show was the Battle of the Bands. Southern University’s Human Jukebox went against the Grambling “World Famed” Tiger Marching Band. Zion Williams, a tenor drummer from Grambling University, described performing in the Battle of the Bands as a learning experience. “Bayou Classic is the battle of the best bands in Louisiana. The football game is the battle of a never-ending lifelong rivalry,” Williams said.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Bayou Classic - Southern vs Grambling

The bands performed various R&B and soul hits and the crowd loved hearing the instrumental versions of their favorite songs.

RELATED: ROTC members continue unique tradition at 2022 Bayou Classic

Saturday – Game Day

What is so significant about this Bayou Classic? It was the tiebreaker – headed into kickoff, the series was tied all-time 24-24. With a win, the Jaguars would be playing in the SWAC championship. This game had fans on the edges of their seats. Grambling University wide receiver Lyndon Rash scored the first touchdown on a four-yard pass from Julian Calvez. Southern freshman running back Karl Ligon ran it in two yards to score the Jaguar’s first touchdown. RB Kendric Rhymes made it 14-7 with a five-yard run into the endzone at the end of the second half.

By the 3rd quarter, after an amazing halftime show, Grambling led 17-14. That soon changed when Southern quarterback BeSean McCray kept it himself and ran it in 22 yards, putting Southern ahead 21-17.

Senior defensive back Kriston Davis intercepted the Grambling QB in the final minutes of the game and returned it 42 yards for the score, bringing the Jaguars to victory at 34-17.

RELATED: USC defense, Caleb Williams’ Heisman-worthy performance never give Notre Dame an opening

After the game the SWAC Western Division trophy was presented to Jaguar’s coach Eric Dooley. The Jaguars officially hold the title of the SWAC West champions and will face SWAC East champions Jackson State for the conference title.

Southern running back Kendric Rhymes, who hails from Houston Texas, described playing in the Bayou Classic as different from any other game: “The whole city comes out and we put on a show.”

Impact of the Bayou Classic

A Classic football game is unlike normal bowl games because they include events such as the ones mentioned above. Tailgate parties, social events, and business expos all took place throughout the weekend.

This stadium was filled with die-hard fans of each team. There were people that have been attending the Bayou Classic each year for decades. Former Southern University student body president and Baton Rouge native Anthony Kenney spoke to the significance. “Bayou Classic is the epitome of HBCU pride and tradition in Louisiana,” Kenney said. “It has always been seen as a huge event, almost bigger than Thanksgiving itself. It’s a family rivalry but it is all about unity when it is said and done. I’m so glad I went to Southern U.”

After the Bayou Classic, no one is going straight home. Bourbon Street was filled with people enjoying themselves and hanging out. All of the after parties have the clubs packed! Celebrities even attend the nightlife festivities.

Author’s Note: Lealer Sims is a graduating senior from Southern University. She is an aspiring multimedia journalist, with an interest in entertainment reporting. She has worked at a television station and for different publications. You can keep up with her on all platforms @lealerimani. You can read some of her work at Southerndigest.com