SWAC Championship Game: Southern at Alcorn State

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The Matchup – Southern (8-4, 6-1 SWAC West) at Alcorn State (8-3, 6-1 SWAC East)

Kickoff – 4 p.m. ET at Jack Spinks-Mario Casem Stadium (22,500) in Lorman, Mississippi

Coverage – ESPNU

Series – Alcorn State leads 39-27-2 (last meeting: Alcorn State won 27-13 at home on Oct. 26)

Coaches: Southern: Dawson Odums (58-33, eight seasons); Alcorn State: Fred McNair (29-18, four seasons)

3 Players to Watch – Southern: QB Ladarius Skelton (135 of 221, 1,483 yards, 13 TDs, 6 INTs; 824 rush yards, 12 TDs), RB Devon Benn (148 carries, 793 yards, 7 TDs), DE/LB Jordan Lewis (45 tackles, 10½ tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles); Alcorn State: QB Felix Harper (167 of 270, 2,387 yards, 29 TDs, 5 INTs; 4 rush TDs), RB Niko Duffey (943 scrimmage yards, 8 TDs), LB Solomon Muhammad (77 tackles, 8½ tackles for loss, 2 INTs)

The Skinny – This is a rematch of the 2018 SWAC championship game, won by Alcorn State 37-28. In this year’s regular-season meeting, Harper had 277 passing yards and threw for two touchdowns and ran for another one as the Braves scored 24 unanswered points on their first four possessions of the second half. It kept Odums snakebitten against Alcorn as the Southern coach has an impressive 50-18 record against SWAC programs, but is 1-8 against the Braves. Since the loss, Skelton has heated up in Southern’s four-game winning streak. He threw two touchdown passes to Hunter Register and freshman Jarod Sims rushed for two scores in a 30-28 win over Grambling State for the West title last Saturday. The Jaguars rank first in the SWAC in rushing yards per game (226.8), although Alcorn has allowed the fewest rushing yards per game (127.5) and rushing TDs (10). Defensively, Calvin Lunkins (77 tackles, 5 TFL) leads Southern in tackles while Lewis is one of the conference’s premier pass rushers. There’s a decided difference in turnover margin with Alcorn plus-8 and Southern minus-5. Harper, the SWAC offensive player of the year, has played a big part in Alcorn’s success with 29 TD passes versus five interceptions. He has big-play receivers in LeCharles Pringle (37 receptions, 13 TDs) and Chris Blair (36 receptions, 21.6 yards per catch), and Southern is vulnerable against the pass. Alcorn State ranks first in the SWAC in scoring defense (19.3 points per game) and total defense (328.5 yards per game), led by Muhammad and FS Qwynnterrio Cole (68 tackles, 5 INTs). Alcorn’s streak of six straight appearances in the title game began with a 38-24 win over Southern in 2014.

Up Next – The winner will take on MEAC champion North Carolina A&T (8-3) in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on Dec. 21 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Prediction – Southern was the preseason pick here to win the SWAC, but it’s hard to pick against Alcorn State at home given its success over the Jaguars this decade (nine of the last 10 meetings). Alcorn State, 28-21.

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