It was probably better on Tuesday at SWAC football media day that Deion Sanders is not still coaching in the conference at Jackson State.

The charismatic Coach Prime surely would have been incensed to see the two-time defending champion Tigers picked second to Florida A&M in the East Division portion of the preseason poll.

Even worse, they were tied with Mississippi Valley State for the fewest selections on the SWAC’s preseason team, gaining only one among the 52 players.

With 10 of the 12 teams receiving at least one first-place vote toward its divisional race – a high number even for the usual SWAC voting – it all suggested Jackson State’s recent dominance will be put to the test in the Post Prime era, and that teams foresee a more wide-open, if not wilder, title race.

Like FAMU in the East, Southern was the preseason pick in the West Division. The two division winners will meet in the SWAC championship game on Dec. 2.


Jackson State enters the 2023 season under 44-year-old coach T.C. Taylor, a former Sanders assistant, with 20 straight wins over SWAC opponents the last two years – 16 conference games, two SWAC foes in non-conference games and two SWAC championship games. The Tigers (12-1) beat Southern 43-24 in last year’s title game before suffering their lone loss against MEAC champion North Carolina Central in the Celebration Bowl.

Regarding the SWAC preseason slight, er, selections, Taylor said, “It’s a respect deal – we look at it that way – but I get, I get it, those are opinions right now. We had a lot of turnover on our roster, so a lot of people don’t see what we saw all summer with these guys preparing. One thing I tell everybody, ‘Understand this, the guys that we did bring in have a championship mentality.’”

In the reworked lineup, tight end DJ Stevens was the Tigers’ only selection on the SWAC preseason team. Running back J.D. Martin and defensive lineman Devonta Davis represented the program at media day and also are key returnees on a team with over 70 newcomers.

They’ll open the Taylor era against South Carolina State in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge on Aug. 26 in Atlanta. SCSU defeated JSU in the 2021 Celebration Bowl.

Florida A&M, which has lost only to JSU in conference play the last two seasons, led the way in preseason first-team selections (seven), including quarterback Jeremy Moussa as the preseason offensive player of the year, and overall selections (10). Southern was second with nine overall selections, and Alcorn State and Texas Southern tied for third with six each.

Not surprisingly, Florida A&M coach Willie Simmons has the Celebration Bowl in mind, mentioning “the 13-game season we’re preparing for.”


Southwestern Athletic Conference Preseason Poll

East Division

1. Florida A&M (2022 Season: 9-2, 7-1), 116 points (16 first-place votes)

2. Jackson State (12-1, 8-0), 94 (2)

3. Alabama State (6-5, 4-4), 80 (2)

4. Alabama A&M (4-7, 4-4), 73 (2)

5. Mississippi Valley State (2-9, 2-6), 35 (2)

6. Bethune-Cookman (2-9, 2-6), 34

West Division

1. Southern (7-5, 5-3), 122 (13)

2. Alcorn State (5-6, 4-4), 94 (6)

3. Texas Southern (5-6, 4-4), 73 (1)

4. Grambling State (3-8, 2-6), 69 (2)

5. Prairie View A&M (6-5, 5-3), 68 (2)

6. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-8, 1-7), 33

Preseason Offensive Player of the Year

Jeremy Moussa, QB, Florida A&M

Preseason Defensive Player of the Year

Sundiata Anderson, DE, Grambling State