September 01, 2017

(STATS) - South Carolina State was surprised to learn this summer that the only SWAC team to win a game in the MEAC-SWAC Challenge is the one they are about to play at Southern.

ESPN broadcaster Jay Walker fired off the warning to the Bulldogs at MEAC football media day last month. The MEAC program will play at Southern on Sunday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in the annual early matchup between the two FCS conferences of historically black colleges.

"Bulldogs," Walker said, "you better show up going down there in the Baton Rouge ... and tell your team not to eat too much of the gumbo and the crawfish and the etouffee before that, and you've got a better chance at it."

Southern won its two previous appearances in the game in 2007 (33-27 over Florida A&M) and 2010 (37-27 over Delaware State). But that's it for the SWAC as the MEAC owns a 9-2 series lead, including five straight wins by double figures. Last year's game - Alcorn State at Bethune-Cookman - was stopped in the second quarter by severe weather and canceled.

South Carolina State is coming off only its second losing season (5-6) through 15 seasons under coach Buddy Pough, but returns 13 starters, including STATS FCS Preseason All-American Darius Leonard at linebacker. Southern returns 14 starters from an 8-3 season, including quarterback Austin Howard and All-America cornerback Danny Johnson.

"I think any time you can have national exposure is great exposure," Southern coach Dawson Odums said. "It gives you an opportunity to sell your product, not only from a football standpoint, but an institutional standpoint."

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