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CSN SWAC Attack: Happy Thanksgiving!
By Brandon Williams, CSN SWAC Attack Columnist
Prairie View A&M coach Henry Frazier III watches football alone, and Saturday afternoon will be no exception.
Frazier – along with an order of hot wings – will be viewing the Bayou Classic between Grambling and Southern, and (at least for a few hours) will become a fan of the Jaguars, who must defeat the Tigers to set up Sunday’s three-way coin flip that will decide the Southwestern Athletic Conference West division title.
“I’ll be sitting and waiting,” said Frazier, “but I’ll also make sure I have something light blue (to represent Southern) nearby.”
A Tigers loss would leave Grambling, Prairie View and Southern with identical 6-1 records in SWAC play. The three teams would flip, with the one school holding the odd side of the coin being eliminated. The fate of the two surviving teams would be decided by head-to-head results, with the Panthers (who defeated Southern, but lost to Grambling) either making plans for the Dec. 13 title game in Birmingham, Ala., against East division champion Jackson State or lamenting what might have been.
The Panthers – ranked 25th in this week’s Sports Network poll – resumed practice this week in the event Frazier’s coin-flipping skills are needed in New Orleans Sunday morning.
“I’m working on my flipping,” said Frazier. “I think the key will be to get in rhythm with (Southern coach) Pete Richardson, but ultimately, this is going to be shooting in the dark.”
Southern, which has won 12 of the last 15 meetings between Grambling, might have the edge based on recent history. But the Tigers enter the game with an eight-game winning streak, including a 40-16 triumph over Prairie View A&M on Oct. 4 that gave the Panthers their only blemish in a 9-1 season.
“I think Grambling comes in with the edge, but the pressure is clearly on them,” Frazier said. “They’ve found their stride, but I hate that they did it against us. If they win, they finish undefeated, so they’d deserve to go.
“Southern will play with a lot of confidence, especially when you consider how well they’ve played in this series. They’ll come in with a sense of nothing to lose.”
Still, Frazier will be prepared to go leave on short notice should the Jaguars win.
“I’ll be ready to fly out Saturday night,” he said. “I told my players that I wanted them to be at church Sunday morning, because we’ll need all the help we can get.”
GAME OF THE WEEK
Grambling State (9-2, 6-0) vs. Southern (6-4, 5-1), 1 p.m. Saturday, Superdome, New Orleans, La.
Why it matters: The West division title hangs in the balance. The Tigers could possibly go from a date to Jackson State to a long, painful vacation in less than 24 hours if they lose. For once, the pageantry of halftime will be secondary to the actual game.
What to watch for: Southern QB Bryant Lee’s ability to exploit a Grambling State secondary that has been lights-out during the Tigers’ eight-game winning streak. The Jaguars cannot win if Lee is unable to get the passing attack in gear.
Who to watch for: Grambling QB Greg Dillon’s passing, which has improved weekly. The Tigers can not only pound out yardage on the ground, but Dillon’s arm has made the offense more prolific.
Stat to watch for: Grambling is second in the FCS with 23 interceptions, but it’s what they do with them that makes them dangerous. The Tigers have returned five picks for touchdowns, including one in last week’s 33-7 triumph at Texas Southern.
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News and Notes
* A victory over Arkansas-Pine Bluff at the Dallas Lone Star Classic would give Texas Southern its fifth victory of the season, surpassing its entire victory total of the previous four years.
* Alabama State will look to snap Tuskegee’s 26-game win streak in today’s Turkey Day Classic in Montgomery, Ala. The Golden Tigers have won seven of the last eight meetings, including last season’s 64-58 shootout that took three overtimes to complete.
* Banged-up Jackson State will use the weekend to begin preparations for the West Division winner. The extra week of rest will go a long way toward healing the shoulder of QB Trae Rutland, who was injured three weeks ago.
* Prairie View (12. 8 points per game) and Grambling State (13.4) are ranked 2-3 in FCS scoring defense, trailing only Yale’s 10.5 ppg. On the other side of the coin, only three other schools (Campbell, Idaho State, Indiana State) surpassed the 40.4 points per game allowed by Texas Southern.