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2017 Celebration Bowl Preview

The Celebration Bowl is the only bowl game that pits two non-FBS opponents against each other. Teams from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in the FCS conferences get to showcase their talents on national television. The winners of the SWAC and MEAC get the bid to this game.

This bowl game is going into its third year in existence and is commonly referred to the HBCU national championship. While a lot of people won’t tune in, this game has produced some NFL players in the past, Tarik Cohen and Chad Williams to name two. The game has also been competitive in both years of its existence. In 2015 the game was decided by seven points. Last year was close and resulted in a one point Grambling victory.

Grambling has won the SWAC for the second straight year to clinch a spot in this game. North Carolina A&T qualified in 2015 for the MEAC and is back for their second time. These are the only two winners of this bowl game, so the winner will bring back bragging rights for their schools and conferences.

Grambling Tigers (11-1)

The Tigers did not lose a game against an FCS opponent. Their only loss on the season was to Tulane, but have since gone on an 11 game winning streak. Grambling beat Alcorn State twice, once in the regular season and once in the conference championship game, to punch their ticket to this bowl game.

2017 Celebration Bowl Preview
Devante Kincade (Photo by youtube.com)

Devante Kincade played quarterback for the Tigers last year and is back again for his senior season, helping the offense produce 33 points per game. The Ole Miss transfer had a great year, throwing for 2,680 yards, 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Kincade also rushed for 315 yards and six more scores. Other than Kincade, their best running back this season has been Martez Carter, who has run for 845 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Carter is also a good receiver out of the backfield with 30 receptions for 402 yards. Their leading receiver is Darrell Clark who has 489 yards and six touchdowns. Kincade does a good job spreading the ball around, as the Tigers have seven receivers with at least 200 yards.

Defensively, the Tigers have only allowed 20 points per game. That is good enough for 30th in scoring defenses for the FCS. Considering the fact that they gave up 43 to Tulane in the opener, their defense is very good against FCS competition. They have the 13th best rushing defense and also specialize in forcing turnovers, as they forced 31 on the season.

Deaumante Johnson leads the team with five interceptions as a junior defensive back. Linebacker De’Arius Christmas leads the team with 80 total tackles and has also added two forced fumbles

North Carolina A&T Aggies (11-0)

The Aggies were able to go undefeated and win the MEAC Championship Game. They were also able to beat an FBS team in Charlotte. North Carolina A&T are in for a challenge to win the Celebration Bowl and keep their unblemished record alive.

2017 Celebration Bowl Preview
Marquell Cartwright (Photo by NCATAggies.com)

They were the eighth best scoring offense in the FCS, averaging 36.4 points per game. Lamar Raynard is the quarterback for the Aggies and threw for 2,707 yards, 26 touchdowns and five interceptions. With 65% completion, he operates the offense efficiently. Elijah Bell is his leading receiver with 858 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. He averages a touchdown a game and over 15 yards per catch. They have five other receivers with at least 200 yards on the season.

North Carolina A&T have a good rushing attack that averaged 172 yards per game. Marquell Cartwright broke the 1,000 yard mark with 1,080 yards. He had 13 rushing touchdowns and just one fumble on the season.

The offense is very good, but the defense is dynamic. They allow just 12.3 points per game, which includes their game against Charlotte. North Carolina A&T boasts the fifth best rushing defense in the FCS and has forced 26 turnovers.

Jeremy Taylor and Franklin McCain II lead the team with five interceptions each. Darryl Johnson and Sam Blue are tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks.

Prediction

The Aggies have proven that they can even play with some FBS teams. Their balanced offense and potent defense will lead them to a win. It should be yet another close game in the Celebration Bowl, with North Carolina Central edging out a win.

North Carolina A&T Aggies 34 Grambling Tigers 30

 

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