August 21, 2017

(STATS) - Not even a championship three-peat in the MEAC has North Carolina Central coach Jerry Mack sitting back and marveling over the Eagles' success during his tenure.

"I'm extremely proud of what we've been accomplishing," the fourth-year coach said, "but we still have not accomplished our No. 1 goal and that's to win a black college national championship. And I think that's the focus this upcoming year."

To achieve their goal, the Eagles will not only have to win the MEAC title again - last year was their first outright crown after two shared titles - but they will have to beat the SWAC champion in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.

They were on the doorstep of their goal last December, but a 10-9 loss to Grambling State in the Celebration Bowl left them wanting more.

"I'm really proud of the guys that helped build this thing in the beginning year and, obviously, super proud of the guys that are on the football team now because they started this journey with me," Mack, the MEAC's 2016 coach of the year, said. "But we've still got one more goal and we're not going to let down on those goals."

N.C. Central was picked as the favorite in the MEAC's preseason poll, but archrival North Carolina A&T, last year's runner-up, returns its starting quarterback - unlike Central - and more starters overall. The Aggies are a tad motivated as well.

A&T has blown the opportunity to win an outright MEAC title each of the past three years by losing to Central in the regular-season finale. Last year's result was the most decisive, 42-21.

"It starts with me, I've got to do a better job of getting our guys prepared," A&T coach Rod Broadway said. "And our guys have to play better. It's a team effort. You've got to give North Carolina Central credit; they've come a long way. Coach Mack's done an outstanding job and built an outstanding program."

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2017 MEAC race and STATS' predicted order of finish:

1. North Carolina A&T

2. North Carolina Central

3. South Carolina State

4. Bethune-Cookman

5. Morgan State

6. Hampton

7. Florida A&M

8. Norfolk State

9. Savannah State

10. Howard

11. Delaware State

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TEAM CAPSULES=

1. NORTH CAROLINA A&T AGGIES=

LOCATION: Greensboro, North Carolina

STADIUM: Aggie Stadium

COACH: Rod Broadway (47-22, six seasons; 115-45 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 9-3, 7-1 MEAC (2nd); No. 20 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (8 offense/9 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Tarik Cohen, RB; Denzel Keyes, WR; Marquis Ragland, DL

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Brandon Parker, LT, R-Sr. (first-team STATS FCS All-American)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Jeremy Taylor, LB, Sr. (79 TT, 10.5 TFL, 2 Sacks, 4 INT, 8 PBU, 1 FR, 3 FF, 1 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Lamar Raynard, QB, R-Jr.; Kylil Carter, QB, Jr.; Marquell Cartwright, RB, R-Jr.; Jamari Smith, RB, Gr. (South Carolina graduate transfer); Elijah Bell, WR, So.; Khris Gardin, WR/PR, Sr.; Leroy Hill, TE, R-Jr.; Darriel Mack, C, R-Sr.; Christian Marshall, RT, Gr. (Jackson State graduate transfer); Darryl Johnson, Jr., DE, R-So.; Julian McKnight, DL, R-Jr.; Kenneth Melton, DL, R-Sr.; Marcus Albert, OLB, R-Sr.; Kiaundric Richardson, LB, Jr.; Zerius Lockhart, FS, R-Sr.

OUTLOOK: The return of a veteran lineup is one of the reasons the Aggies believe they will overcome the loss of Cohen, the MEAC's all-time leading rusher, and get back to a championship level after finishing second to North Carolina Central. Raynard gets to work behind an offensive line that returns four starters, led by the All-American Parker. Cartwright has big shoes to fill as Cohen's successor. The defense must shore up its pass defense after ranking last in the conference, although that was a byproduct of the Aggies ranking first in rush defense. They had seven players on the MEAC's preseason first team. Lockhart, a free safety, was the lone defensive player because, curiously, Taylor, who made the 2016 postseason first team, was not nominated for the honor.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Gardner-Webb

Sept. 9, Mars Hill

Sept. 16, at Charlotte

Sept. 23, at Morgan State*

Sept. 30, at South Carolina State*

Oct. 7, Delaware State*

Oct. 14, at Florida A&M*

Oct. 21, Bethune-Cookman*

Nov. 4, at Norfolk State*

Nov. 11, Savannah State*

Nov. 18, North Carolina Central*

* - MEAC game

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2. NORTH CAROLINA CENTRAL EAGLES=

LOCATION: Durham, North Carolina

STADIUM: O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium

COACH: Jerry Mack (24-11, three seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 9-3, 8-0 MEAC (1st); No. 22 in final STATS FCS Top 25

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (4 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Malcolm Bell, QB; Carl Jones, C; Frederick Henry-Ajudua, DE

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Dorrel McClain, RB, R-Jr. (95 carries, 453 yards, 7 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Reggie Hunter, LB, R-Sr. (84 TT, 12 TFL, 2 Sacks, 4 INT)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Naiil Ramadan, QB, R-So.; Micah Zanders, QB, So. (Hinds CC transfer); Ramone Simpson, RB, R-Jr.; Jalen Wilkes, WR, Jr.; David Miller, WR, R-Sr.; Jordan Fieulleteau, WR, R-Sr. (North Carolina transfer); Nick Leverett, OT, R-So.; Twishawn Glenn, OL, So.; Antonio Brown, DE, R-Sr.; Chris Burton, DT, R-Sr. (Cincinnati transfer); Ja'Quan Smith, DT, R-Sr.; De'Niro Laster, LB, R-Sr. (Kentucky transfer); Davanta Reynolds, WS, R-Jr.; Alden McClellon, SS, Jr.; Alphonso Carter, CB, R-Sr. (Louisville transfer); Nathaniel Tilque, P, Sr.

OUTLOOK: The Eagles posted the most wins in the team's Division I era as they captured the outright MEAC championship and reached the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. While replacing Bell and four starters on the offensive line will be difficult, the Eagles boast two excellent running backs: McClain, the 2015 MEAC rookie of the year who was plagued by injury a year ago, and Simpson, who made the All-MEAC second team while gaining 870 yards from scrimmage. The defense has added transfers to an already strong nucleus. Smith, Brown, Hunter and McClellon made the MEAC's preseason first team.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Duke

Sept. 9, Shaw

Sept. 23, South Carolina State*

Sept. 30, at Florida A&M*

Oct. 7, at Howard*

Oct. 14, Gardner-Webb

Oct. 21, Norfolk State*

Oct. 28, Delaware State*

Nov. 4, at Hampton*

Nov. 11, Bethune-Cookman*

Nov. 18, at North Carolina A&T*

* - MEAC game

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3. SOUTH CAROLINA STATE BULLDOGS=

LOCATION: Orangeburg, South Carolina

STADIUM: Oliver C. Dawson Stadium

COACH: Buddy Pough (117-57, 15 seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 5-6, 5-3 MEAC (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (5 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Adrian Kollock Jr., QB/WR; Javarius Leamon, OL; Phillip Henry, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Justin Evans, OL, R-Sr. (All-MEAC preseason first team)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Darius Leonard, LB, R-Sr. (124 TT, 14.5 TFL, 3.5 Sacks, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 4 QBH, 4 FF, 2 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Mykal Moody, QB, Sr.; Dewann Ford, QB, R-So.; LeBron Morris, RB, So.; Quan Caldwell, WR, R-Jr.; Demontrez Burroughs, WR, So.; Victor Ishmael, Jr., C/OL, Sr.; Robbie Stephenson, OL, Sr.; Shaquille Crouch, DT, R-So.; Paul McKiever, DL, R-So.; Ty Cravens, DE, R-Sr.; Greg Newell, DE, R-Sr.; Dayshawn Taylor, LB, R-Sr.; Bruce Johnson, OLB. Jr.; Jason Baxter, S, Gr.; Devondre Powell, DB, Sr.; Tyler Scandrett, PK, Sr.

OUTLOOK: A standout defense will lead the way as the Bulldogs try to rebound from a 5-6 record (three FBS losses), which tied for the worst mark under the highly successful Pough. The strength is at linebacker with Leonard, the MEAC defensive player of the year, and Taylor (83 tackles, 10 1/2 for loss). The offensive line is senior-led, but the Bulldogs are somewhat inexperienced in the offensive backfield. All eyes are on the quarterback position. Moody, a converted wide receiver, excelled in his season-closing start against Bethune-Cookman, and the Bulldogs also return Ford. The four-game stretch from Sept. 23 to Oct. 14 will determine if the Bulldogs can get back to a championship level.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 3, at Southern

Sept. 9, Charleston Southern

Sept. 16, Johnson C. Smith

Sept. 23, at North Carolina Central*

Sept. 30, North Carolina A&T*

Oct. 7, Morgan State*

Oct. 14, at Bethune-Cookman*

Oct. 21, at Delaware State*

Oct. 28, Howard*

Nov. 11, Hampton*

Nov. 18, at Savannah State*

* - MEAC game

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4. BETHUNE-COOKMAN WILDCATS=

LOCATION: Daytona Beach, Florida

STADIUM: Memorial Stadium

COACH: Terry Sims (13-8, two seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 4-6, 4-4 MEAC (Tie/5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 15 (8 offense/7 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Jamaruz Thompkins, RB; Trevin Huff, OL; DeMarcus Womack, DE

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Larry Brihm Jr., QB, R-Sr. (101 of 176, 1,368 yards, 11 TD, 4 INT)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Diquan Richardson, S, Sr. (60 TT, 2.5 TFL, 4 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FR, 1 BK)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Cameron Rigby, RB, Sr.; Frank Brown, WR/PR, R-Sr.; Jawill Davis, WR, R-Sr.; Keavon Mitchell, WR, Jr.; Ja-Quan Lumas, TE, R-Sr.; Job Buissereth, OL, Sr.; Phillip Norman, OL, R-Sr.; Todney Evans, DL, Sr.; Trenton Bridges, LB, R-Jr.; Alexander Morales, LB, Sr.; Jamaal Burgess, DB, Sr.; Arthur Williams, DB, Sr.; Elliott Miller, CB, Jr.; Uriel Hernandez, PK/P, Jr.

OUTLOOK: Having won at least a share of five MEAC titles in the 2010s, last season was jarring for the Wildcats. Injuries factored heavily in the losing season and the Wildcats started with five straight defeats. But the 'Cats return 15 starters to fuel a rebound. Brihm is a highly experienced quarterback and go-to receiver Brown caught seven TD passes last season. While the defense was average compared to the program standard, Richardson and Bridges, the team's leading tacklers, expect to lead improved results. The Wildcats will open the season with four straight road games, including at Miami (Florida) and Florida Atlantic.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Miami (Florida)

Sept. 9, at Southeastern Louisiana

Sept. 16, at Florida Atlantic

Sept. 23, at Howard*

Sept. 30, Savannah State*

Oct. 14, South Carolina State*

Oct. 21, at North Carolina A&T*

Oct. 28, Hampton*

Nov. 4, Morgan State*

Nov. 11, at North Carolina Central*

Nov. 18, Florida A&M* (at Camping World Stadium, Orlando)

* - MEAC game

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5. MORGAN STATE BEARS=

LOCATION: Baltimore

STADIUM: Hughes Stadium

COACH: Fred Farrier (3-8, one season)

2016 RECORDS: 3-8, 3-5 MEAC (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Chris Andrews, QB; Thomas Martin, WR; Greg Gibson, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Herb Walker Jr., RB, R-Sr. (24 carries, 69 yards in four games)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Jai Franklin, DE, Sr. (50 TT, 13 TFL, 4 Sacks, 4 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Elijah Staley, QB, R-Jr. (Tyler JC transfer); Eric Harrell, RB, Jr. ; Amonta Poteat, WR, R-Sr.; William King, WR/RS, Jr.; Cooper Clarkin, OL, Jr.; Matthew Thompson, RT, Sr.; Adrien Allen, C, Jr.; Joshua Miles, OT, Sr.; Ayodeji Agbelese, DL, Sr.; Antoine McCray, DL, Jr.; Damare' Whitaker LB, Sr.; Darius Johnson, DB, Jr.; Carl Garnes, DB, Jr.

OUTLOOK: The interim tag was removed from Farrier's title, and now he hopes to get the Bears back to a winning level. His seniors were part of the 2014 squad that earned a share of the MEAC title and qualified for the playoffs. On a defense that lost only two starters, Garnes and Johnson will keep the secondary solid to allow Franklin and Agbelese (4 1/2 sacks) to mount a pass rush. On offense, Staley, a 6-foot-6 left-hander, was brought in to settle the quarterback position. He spent two seasons, including a redshirt, at Mississippi State. The Bears will have a strong running game with the return of veteran offensive linemen along with Harrell and Walker, who returns from a foot injury. In 2014, he set the school's single-season rushing mark (1,408 yards).

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Towson

Sept. 9, Albany

Sept. 16, at Rutgers

Sept. 23, North Carolina A&T*

Oct. 7, at South Carolina State*

Oct. 14, Savannah State*

Oct. 21, at Howard*

Oct. 28, Florida A&M*

Nov. 4, at Bethune-Cookman*

Nov. 11, at Delaware State*

Nov. 18, Norfolk State*

* - MEAC game

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6. HAMPTON PIRATES=

LOCATION: Hampton, Virginia

STADIUM: Armstrong Stadium

COACH: Connell Maynor (14-20, three seasons; 59-26 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 5-6, 5-3 MEAC (Tie/3rd)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (6 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Rashawn Proctor WR; Twarn Mixon WR; Devin Vandyke LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Yahkee Johnson, RB, Sr. (135 carries, 763 yards, 4 TD; 22 receptions, 192 yards, 1 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Steven Smith Jr., DE, Sr. (61 TT, 10.5 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 10 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Delmon Williams, QB, Jr. (San Jose City College transfer); Ronald Bell, WR/RS, So.; Malik Mackey, OT, R-So.; Gibril Ghee, OG, R-So.; Owen Obasuyi, DL, Jr.; Desmond Sturdivant, DL, Jr.; Robert Scott IV, DB, So.; Brendan Cole, DB, Sr.

OUTLOOK: After playing a number of seniors and grad students last season, this year's Pirates squad has a small senior class. There are big questions on offense as it breaks in a new quarterback (likely Williams) and two new go-to wide receivers to replace Proctor and Mixson, who combined for three first-team All-MEAC selections in their careers. Johnson, a preseason All-MEAC running back, will be a senior leader in his second season in the program. In a conference with some solid defenses last season, the Pirates ranked second in fewest yards allowed per game (340.5). The first half of the MEAC scheduled suggests the Pirates can get off to a strong start.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at Ohio

Sept. 8, Delaware State*

Sept. 16, Livingstone

Sept. 23, Monmouth

Oct. 7, at Savannah State*

Oct. 14, at Norfolk State*

Oct. 21, Florida A&M*

Oct. 28, at Bethune-Cookman*

Nov. 4, North Carolina Central*

Nov. 11, at South Carolina State*

Nov. 18, Howard*

* - MEAC game

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7. FLORIDA A&M RATTLERS=

LOCATION: Tallahassee, Florida

STADIUM: Bragg Memorial Stadium

COACH: Alex Wood (5-17, two seasons; 30-41 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 4-4 MEAC (Tie/5th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 14 (8 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Keonte Cash, OG; Curtis Alexander, DT; Colby Blanton, PK/P

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Brandon Norwood, WR/KR, Sr. (51 receptions, 468 yards, 4 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Orlando McKinley, CB, Jr. (34 TT, 4 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Ryan Stanley, QB, R-So.; Devin Bowers, RB, Jr.; Desmon Noird, TE, Sr.; Loubens Polinice, LT, R-So.; Khalil Harris, C, R-So.; Osman Aguilera, RG, Sr.; Obinna Nwankwo, RG, Sr.; Elijah Price, DE, Sr.; Calvin Darville, DE, R-Sr.; Antonio Miller, DE, So.; Quenteze Gallon, OLB, Jr.; Emilio Gibbs, LB, Jr.; Terry Jefferson, SS, R-So.; Kalil Clark, PK/P, R-Fr.

OUTLOOK: Last year's .500 MEAC record represented a three-win improvement from Wood's first season. They're building with a young nucleus, including Stanley, who is coming off an excellent freshman season. While the skill positions and secondary are strengths, the Rattlers seek progress on their offensive and defensive lines. But Wood thinks Darville and Price could form the best defensive end tandem in the conference. The Rattlers will play in the first Division I game of the season, hosting Texas Southern in the inaugural Jake Gaither Classic on Aug. 26.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 26, Texas Southern

Sept. 2, at Arkansas

Sept. 16, Tennessee State (at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa)

Sept. 23, at Savannah State*

Sept. 30, North Carolina Central*

Oct. 7, at Norfolk State*

Oct. 14, North Carolina A&T*

Oct. 21, at Hampton*

Oct. 28, at Morgan State*

Nov. 4, Howard*

Nov. 18, Bethune-Cookman* (at Camping World Stadium, Orlando)

* - MEAC game

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8. NORFOLK STATE SPARTANS=

LOCATION: Norfolk, Virginia

STADIUM: William Price Stadium

COACH: Latrell Scott (8-14, two seasons; 33-23 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 4-7, 3-5 MEAC (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Greg Hankerson, QB; Gerard Johnson, RB; Brandon Walker, DB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Marcus Taylor, WR/KR, Jr. (37 receptions, 454 yards, 2 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Kyle Archie, LB, Sr. (73 TT, 5 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Tripp Harrington, QB, Fr.; Tyre Givers-Wilson, QB, So.; Quintreil Chung, RB, Jr.; George Wahee, WR/PR, R-So.; Aaron Savage, RB, Jr.; Demetreus Ferebee, TE, R-Sr.; Chris Lee, DT, Sr.; Nigel Chavis, DE, R-So.; Deshaywn Middleton, NG, R-Jr.; Kyron Speller, DL, R-So.; Hadji Gaylord, DL, R-Jr. Cephas Harden, LB, R-So.; J.T. Wahee, DB, So.; Bobby Price, DB, So.; Nhyre' Quinerly, DB, R-So.

OUTLOOK: The Spartans' proud program is seeking its first winning season since capturing the MEAC title in 2011. Included in Scott's third season is a Sept. 16 matchup at FCS national champion James Madison. Defense has long been a staple with the Spartans, and the depth and talent on the defensive line is terrific with second-team All-MEAC tackle Lee along with Chavis and Middleton. But Norfolk State ranked ninth in the conference in scoring offense (15.8 ppg) and 10th in total offense (280.5 ypg). Chung will take over at running back and the 5-8 Taylor and Wahee are two reliable wide receivers who will help the new starting quarterback.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, Virginia State

Sept. 9, William & Mary

Sept. 16, at James Madison

Sept. 23, at Delaware State*

Oct. 7, Florida A&M*

Oct. 14, Hampton*

Oct. 21, at North Carolina Central*

Oct. 28, Savannah State*

Nov. 4, North Carolina A&T*

Nov. 11, at Howard*

Nov. 18, at Morgan State*

* - MEAC game

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9. SAVANNAH STATE TIGERS=

LOCATION: Savannah, Georgia

STADIUM: Ted Wright Stadium

COACH: Erik Raeburn (3-7, one season; 138-46 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 3-7, 3-5 MEAC (Tie/7th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Arshon Spaulding, RB; Marquis Smith, LB; John Barron, PK

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: T.J. Bell, QB, So. (72 of 146, 762 yards, 5 TD, 6 INT; 81 carries, 307 yards, 3 TD)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Stefen Banks, DE, Jr. (67 TT, 17.5 TFL, 7.5 Sacks, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 7 QBH, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Tino Smith II, QB/WR, Sr.; Uriah Oliver, RB, Jr.; Steven "Tyler" Hagan, WR, Sr.; Juwuan Tolbert, WR, So.; Derek Kirkland, WR, Sr.; Steven Claude, WR, So.; Paris Baker, TE, Sr.; Brandon Carswell, DL, Jr; Kevhan Bent, DL, So; Ellison Burns III, LB, Sr.; Mulik Simmons, LB, Sr.; David Crowley, DB, Sr.; Isaiah Bennett, DB, Jr.; Darrell "Vanquez" Bonner, DB, Jr.; Giovanni Lugo, PK, So. (Georgia State transfer)

OUTLOOK: Savannah State has announced it will drop back to the NCAA Division II level in 2019. The struggles of the athletic program reflect with football as last season's 3-7 record marked just the second time it surpassed two wins since joining the FCS level in 2000. But Raeburn's first season was considered a success with the 3-5 conference mark. Plus, the Tigers were allowed to have spring practices following APR penalties in 2015 and '16. With eight starters returning on each side of the ball, the Tigers are optimistic. Bell hopes to settle a quarterback position that has had a lot of player turnover. Defensive leader Banks is coming off a banner sophomore season. There should be more consistency in Raeburn's second season.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 9, at Appalachian State

Sept. 16, at Montana

Sept. 23, Florida A&M*

Sept. 30, at Bethune-Cookman*

Oct. 7, Hampton*

Oct. 14, at Morgan State*

Oct. 21, at Charleston Southern

Oct. 28, at Norfolk State*

Nov. 4, Delaware State*

Nov. 11, at North Carolina A&T*

Nov. 18, South Carolina State*

* - MEAC game

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10. HOWARD BISON=

LOCATION: Washington, D.C.

STADIUM: William H. Greene Stadium

COACH: Mike London (first season; 27-46 overall)

2016 RECORDS: 2-9, 2-6 MEAC (10th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 11 (6 offense/5 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Toree Boyd, OL; Jalen Day, LB; Craig Johnson, SS

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Anthony Philyaw, RB, Sr. (222 carries, 1,230 yards, 9 TD; 21 receptions, 215 yards)

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: David Lee, LB, Sr. (48 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Caylin Newton, QB, Fr.; Ramar Williams, QB, Fr.; Dez Wortham, RB, Gr.; Kyle Anthony, WR, So.; Gerald Wright, OL, Sr.; Richard Johnson DL, R-Sr.; Saevon Denkins, DL, Fr.; Devin Rollins, LB, R-Sr.; Marcellus Allison, LB, So.; Travon Hunt, CB, R-Sr.; Bryan Cook CB, Fr.; Tye Freeland, FS, Fr.; Yoseff Banks, DB, Sr.

OUTLOOK: London, who won the 2008 FCS national title at Richmond before he became Virginia's coach, was one of the big hires of the FCS offseason, but he arrived to a program that has only one winning season in the last 15 years. The Bison might turn the offense over to Newton, the younger and, at 5-11, 175 pounds, much smaller brother of Carolina Panthers star Cam Newton. As Newton settles in, the Bison will rely on Philyaw, the MEAC's preseason offensive player of the year, and Anthony, who caught 40 passes as a freshman. The defense ranked second from the bottom in the MEAC and the special teams struggled as well, so London has to lay a foundation for future success.

SCHEDULE:

Sept. 2, at UNLV

Sept. 9, at Kent State

Sept. 16, at Richmond*

Sept. 23, Bethune-Cookman*

Oct. 7, North Carolina Central*

Oct. 14, at Delaware State*

Oct. 21, Morgan State*

Oct. 28, at South Carolina State*

Nov. 4, at Florida A&M*

Nov. 11, Norfolk State*

Nov. 18, at Hampton** - MEAC game

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11. DELAWARE STATE HORNETS=

LOCATION: Dover, Delaware

STADIUM: Alumni Stadium

COACH: Kenny Carter (1-21, two seasons)

2016 RECORDS: 0-11, 0-8 MEAC (11th)

STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)

THREE KEY LOSSES: Aris Scott, WR; Ernest Mengoni, C ; Rashawn Barrett, LB

ONE TO WATCH ON OFFENSE: Mike Waters, RB, So.

ONE TO WATCH ON DEFENSE: Malik Harris, LB, Sr. (82 TT, 11 TFL, 3 Sacks, 1 FR, 3 FF)

OTHER KEY PLAYERS: Jack McDaniel, QB, Fr.; Keenan Black, QB, So.; Brycen Alleyne, RB/KR, Jr.; Fatu Sua-Godinet, WR, So.; Isaiah Williams, TE, So.; Joshua Fala, OL, So.; Cade Pedro, OL, So.; Caleb Hebron, DL, So.; Xaiver Wilcher, DB, Jr.; Brian Cavicante, LB, So.; Kameron Rogers, LB, Sr.; Denzel Burgette, LB, Jr.; Garfield Heslop, LB, Jr.; Jahad Niebauer, DB, So.; Brock Nichols, DB, So.; Wizdom Nzidee, PK, Sr.; Fidel Romo-Martinez, P, So.

OUTLOOK: The Hornets have lost 26 of their last 27 games. As they continue to play an impossible non-conference schedule, facing Delaware, West Virginia and Florida State, they hope it pays off in the MEAC schedule. The Hornets return two of the MEAC's top five rushers in Waters and Alleyne, who combined for 1,395 yards. Alleyne, though, underwent offseason knee surgery. Improved defense starts with defending the run because the Hornets surrendered 263.4 rushing yards per game. Harris has led the team in tackles in each of the past two seasons.

SCHEDULE:

Aug. 31, at Delaware

Sept. 8, at Hampton*

Sept. 16, at West Virginia

Sept. 23, Norfolk State*

Oct. 7, at North Carolina A&T*

Oct. 14, Howard*

Oct. 21, South Carolina State*

Oct. 28, at North Carolina Central*

Nov. 4, at Savannah State*

Nov. 11, Morgan State*

Nov. 18, at Florida State

* - MEAC game

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