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Who Has the Best Defense? Jackson State or Florida A&M?

For Jackson State and Florida A&M to continue winning in 2021, their defenses must continue to lead and support the team.

For Jackson State and Florida A&M to continue winning in 2021, their defenses must continue to lead and support the team.   

The two defenses are aggressive and tenacious.  They rank high, not only in the SWAC, but among the FCS teams.

Which one will hold during the stretch run?  And, which one will fall?

Jackson State vs. Florida A&M in Week 1 

"FAMU and Jackson State will play a critical game to start the season that will have implications for the rest of the season," said SWAC Commissioner Dr. Charles McClelland.

His words are swirling the conference and slowly developing into a hurricane of prophecy.

The primary reason for the implications was simple. The loser may lose out on postseason recognition and an opportunity to play in the 2021 Cricket Celebration Bowl and FCS playoffs.

Jacksson State Defense

When Jackson State University (5-1, 3-0 SWAC) and Florida A&M University (4-2, 2-1 SWAC) squared off in the Orange Blossom Classic, their defenses dominated the 7-6 affair. At this point, it's their defenses who continue to be the consistent strength of the teams.

Two well-coached defensive units kept their respective offenses in the game. In the end, the Tigers would prevail 7-6 over the Rattlers in a hard-fought gridiron battle.

Since that Week 1 tilt, these spirited defenses have been gaining confidence and helping Coaches Sanders and Simmons teams win in the SWAC. Both Jackson State (No. 1) and Florida A&M ( No. 2) boast the SWAC's two best defenses.

The top rankings don't stop in the SWAC. After seven weeks of the season, Coach Sanders and Coach Simmons have Top 5 FCS Defenses with the Tigers ranked at No. 2 and the Rattlers at No. 5 through Week 7.

They have defeated common opponents Alabama A&M and Alabama State.

Jackson State University's Aubrey Miller Jr.


Jackson State has a stingy defense that yields 240.5 yards per game; FAMU surrenders 262.7 yards per game.

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The FCS rankings (thru Week 7) for the Tigers are 1st in tackles for loss (62), 2nd in fewest total yards allowed (240.5 per game), 3rd in fewest touchdowns allowed (7), 4th in scoring defense (73 points), and 8th in rushing defense (77.8).

Florida A&M is 6th in scoring defense (90 points), 6th in team sacks (21), 7th in 3rd down conversions allowed (25.9%), 9th in red zone defense (66.7%), 12th in rushing defense (101.7 yards per game), 9th in turnovers gained (14).

Every coach would tell if the team is not No. 1 in all categories; there's room for improvement.

The early loss to Jackson State was pivotal and unfortunate for Florida A&M. If both teams continue their winning streaks, JSU will own the tiebreaker over FAMU. Hence, they would represent the SWAC East in the conference championship game.

Second, if the conference modifies its position on having the champion representative in the 2021 Cricket Celebration Bowl, Jackson State would get the nod over Florida A&M to be invited for the FCS Playoffs.

Florida A&M Rattlers linebacker Isaiah Land


FAMU's athletic director, Kortne Gosha, has began "rattling" cages for the Rattlers. Sports reporter Vaughn Wilson wrote, "It may take making the SWAC commissioner aware that the school is interested in the playoffs and establishing a committee to pursue the NCAA in ensuring that FAMU is considered." The same would go for Jackson State.

Nonetheless, Jackson State would need to vanquish Bethune-Cookman, Mississippi Valley State, Texas Southern, Southern, and Alcorn State, who have a combined W-L total of 10-20 (50%). JSU is in the driver's seat. Coach Sander's team is ranked 20th in the FCS, and FAMU hasn't been ranked.

Florida A&M has a more manageable schedule ahead. Mississippi Valley State, Grambling, Southern, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and Bethune Cookman have a W-L record of 9-23 (39.1%).

Jackson State can afford to stumble once, with the preference being a SWAC West team. The Rattlers' slate of contests should have them confident going down the final stretch of the season.

The remaining games are when you need to have a strong defense. Can Jackson State's and Florida A&M's defenses continue their early success and catapult one, if not both, into postseason action?

We shall see.

SWAC teams in the Top 50 Defenses in the FCS are Prairie View (No. 10), Alcorn (No. 21), and Alabama State (No. 29).