SWAC Championship Preview: Jackson State vs. Prairie View A&M
The SWAC championship game has a late afternoon kickoff on Saturday, but there’s definitely a prime-time feel to it.
The way coach Deion Sanders has turned around Jackson State’s program this year brings an additional spotlight to the only FCS conference that hosts an annual championship game.
The Tigers’ massive home crowd and the overall SWAC celebration also will be storylines in the West Division champion’s matchup against Prairie View A&M, the East Division champion. The two teams did not meet in the regular season.
A capsule look at the matchup:
Jackson State (10-1, 8-0 SWAC) vs. Prairie View A&M (7-4, 6-2 SWAC)
Kickoff – 4 p.m. ET Saturday at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson, Mississippi (ESPN2)
Series – Jackson State leads 40-19-2
Coaches – Jackson State: Deion Sanders (14-4 including one forfeit win, two seasons); Prairie View A&M: Eric Dooley (20-16, four seasons)
3 Players to Watch – Jackson State: QB Shedeur Sanders (248 of 361, 2,971 yards, 28 TDs, 5 INTs), DE James Houston (59 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 14.5 sacks, 7 forced fumbles), LB Aubrey Miller Jr. (91 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks); Prairie View A&M: QB Jawon Pass (197 of 311, 2,592 yards, 16 TDs, 9 INTs; 239 rushing yards, 4 TDs), DL Jason Dumas (33 tackles, 13 TFL, 7.5 sacks, 14 QB hits), S Drake Cheatum (82 tackles, 6 TFL, 5 INTs, 4 pass breakups)
3 Key Factors – 1. Prairie View must shake off a three-game losing streak and solve Jackson State’s SWAC-leading defense, which is allowing only 258.3 yards and 13.8 points per game. In addition, the Tigers rank No. 1 in the FCS in sacks (48), sack yardage (316), tackles for loss (98) and tackle yardage for loss (454). 2. The Tigers offense has come to rely on the steadiness of Shedeur Sanders (200+ passing yards in every game) because it’s been penalty-filled and above 75 net rushing yards only three times. The visiting Panthers will try to sustain drives. They have been below 132 rushing yards only once and are 5-1 when winning time of possession. 3. Jackson State has a decisive advantage on returns, with Isaiah Bolden and Warren Newman helping the Tigers to FCS top-10 averages on kickoff and punt returns, respectively. Prairie View kicker Luis Reyes provides a lift with 15 of 17 accuracy (88.2 percent) on career field goals, although his long is only 36 yards.
Up Next – The winner will advance to the Cricket Celebration Bowl for the first time and face MEAC champion South Carolina State on Dec. 18 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Prediction – Both programs seek a second all-time win in the 23rd SWAC championship game. Jackson State will do so while claiming a program-record 11th victory as well, 34-24.