It’s right there on South Carolina State’s athletics website for all to see – the football schedule includes the Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 in Atlanta.
The Bulldogs don’t seem to be worried about it possibly motivating the MEAC competition.
That SCSU was installed as a prohibitive favorite in the MEAC preseason poll at Friday’s media day in Norfolk, Virginia, reinforced it will be hard for anybody to stop a title repeat. The Bulldogs return a veteran lineup from last year’s squad, which swept through the conference before it hammered coach Deion Sanders’ Jackson State squad 31-10 in the Celebration Bowl.
Quarterback Corey Fields Jr. threw three of his four touchdown passes to 6-foot-5 wide receiver Shaquan Davis in the bowl win, and both are back to light up the scoreboard along with running back Kendrell Flowers, who scored 12 touchdowns.
Perhaps even more intimidating is the return of bookend defensive ends Jeblonski Green – the MEAC’s preseason defensive player of the year – and Patrick Godbolt, who had 19.5 and 12.5 tackles for loss, respectively, last season. Linebacker B.J. Davis also is back off a team-high 76 tackles.
While the Celebration Bowl win was the lasting memory with SCSU last season, the other MEAC teams will try to prove a team can live dangerously only so many times. The Bulldogs only beat runner-up North Carolina Central and Howard by three points each and Delaware State by six, and needed to come from behind in the fourth quarter against Norfolk State, so it was more an escape from the MEAC than what may have been remembered afterward.
North Carolina Central, which features preseason first-team quarterback Davius Richard, and Norfolk State, behind MEAC preseason offensive player of the year J.J. Davis at running back, are given the best chances of unseating SCSU.
SCSU coach Buddy Pough enters his 21st season guiding his alma mater just seven wins shy of 150 in his career, and he’s 109-38 against MEAC foes. He’s led eight of the Bulldogs’ 18 all-time conference titles.
Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Preseason Poll
1. South Carolina State (2021: 7-5, 5-0 MEAC), 124 points (8 first-place votes)
2. North Carolina Central (6-5, 4-1), 92 (1)
3. Norfolk State (6-5, 2-3), 80
4. Delaware State (5-6, 2-3), 58 (1)
5. Howard (2-8, 1-4), 52 (1)
6. Morgan State (2-9, 1-4), 26 (1)
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
J.J. Davis, RB, Norfolk State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Jeblonski Green, DL, South Carolina State