MEAC Football Kicks Off Saturday Afternoon

Florida A&M kicks off the 2017 season this weekend as the Rattlers will face Texas Southern in the inaugural Jake Gaither Football Classic at Bragg Stadium in Tallahassee, Fla. The contest will be shown live on ESPNU. This marks the first meeting between both schools since 1968 as FAMU leads TSU 9-2 overall.

• This marks FAMU’s first season opener at home since 2011 as the Rattlers battled Fort Valley State. FAMU’s last winning season occurred in 2011 as they finished 7-4. Since 2012, FAMU is 15-42 overall but is coming off a 4-7 campaign which marked its best record since 2012 (4-7). Saturday’s game pits Florida A&M against a team from the SWAC for the first time since traveling to Jackson State in 2014.

• FAMU’s Alex Wood and Texas Southern head coach Michael Haywood have history with each other as Wood served as Haywood’s wide receiver coach at Miami University (Ohio) in 2010. Both Wood and Haywood have been FBS head coaches with Wood serving as Buffalo’s interim head coach while Haywood coached at Miami University (Ohio).

• Texas Southern has had limited exposure to MEAC teams over the years as Saturday is its first MEAC opponent since Howard in 2013. Against the current lineup of MEAC squads, TSU holds an all-time record of 10-19 as they’ve played Bethune-Cookman, Florida A&M, Hampton, Howard, Norfolk State and Savannah State. In the games versus FAMU, Hampton and Savannah State, the aforementioned schools were members of other leagues at the time while BCU faced TSU three times as a member of the MEAC.

• The 2017 MEAC football schedule is comprised of 78 total games, including 44 conference contests, 33 non-conference games and a minimum of one postseason contest (Celebration Bowl). The 2017 MEAC football schedule is comprised of 78 total games, including 44 conference contests, 33 non-conference games and a minimum of one postseason contest (Celebration Bowl). The 2017 schedule will play out over 13 weeks with the conference schedule concluding on Nov. 18. The 2017 MEAC Champion is scheduled to play on national television in the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 16 in Atlanta, Ga. Six teams on the 2017 MEAC schedule participated in 2016-17 postseason bowl games. Three of the MEAC’s 16 games scheduled against Football Championship Subdivision teams were 2016 FCS Playoff participants with one (James Madison) the defending national champion. The MEAC schedule also features 12 games versus Football Bowl Subdivision teams with the first occurring on Aug. 31 and the finale on Nov. 18.

• The MEAC is coming off a successful 2016 campaign as the league produced a pair of postseason participants in North Carolina A&T State and North Carolina Central. NCAT earned an at-large bid to the NCAA FCS Playoffs while NCCU was crowned league champion and participated in the second annual Celebration Bowl.

• The MEAC was 4-31 against non-conference foes in 2016. Last year’s North Carolina A&T State’s win over Kent State on Sept. 10, 2016 was the Aggies’ first FBS win in school history and the first MEAC FBS win since Bethune-Cookman defeated C-USA’s Florida International 14-12 in 2014.

• North Carolina Central was picked to defend its MEAC Football Championship as the Eagles topped the league’s annual preseason poll. The Eagles have won three consecutive MEAC Championships as the 2016 title was their first outright title since returning to the MEAC.

• Howard University running back Anthony Philyaw was selected as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while South Carolina State linebacker Darius Leonard was selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. A 2016 All-MEAC First teamer, Philyaw was the MEAC’s second-leading rusher last fall with 1,230 yards and nine touchdowns on 222 attempts. Leonard continues South Carolina State’s strong tradition of defensive play as last season’s MEAC Defensive Player of the year honor marked the fourth consecutive season a SC State defender has earned the postseason award.

• The National Football Foundation (NFF) & College Hall of Fame announced a partnership with the MEAC to reveal the league’s offensive and defensive players of the year as part of the festivities surrounding the 60th NFF Annual Awards Dinner Dec. 5 at the New York Hilton Midtown in New York City. This marks the second consecutive year the players will be honored in New York.

• At stake once again for the MEAC Champion is a postseason berth to the 3rd annual Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, Ga. on Dec. 16 at the brand new Mercedes Benz Stadium. North Carolina Central fell to Grambling State 10-9 in 2016. The all-time bowl series featuring the MEAC and SWAC Champions stands at 1-1.

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