The last five champions have come out of the West Division and each has been a different program (Texas Southern later vacated its 2010 title). None of those games were decided by more than seven points, and that came in overtime last season with Southern topping Jackson State.
Speaking of Jackson State, it's been in the championship game each of the last two seasons ... and then it fired coach Rick Comegy last December.
Comegy wound up staying in the same state to take over at Mississippi Valley State, which, like Alcorn State, has never played in the SWAC Championship Game since it was started in 1999.
And Alcorn State just may have the best team in the conference this season. Or it could finish third in the East.
It's always too tough to call in the SWAC.
This year's championship game will be played Dec. 6 at Houston's NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium). All 10 teams are eligible for it despite Alabama State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valley State, Prairie View and Southern having NCAA Academic Progress Rate penalties.
Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2014 Southwestern Athletic Conference race.
The Sports Network's predicted order of finish:
1. Alcorn State
2. Alabama State
3. Jackson State
4. Alabama A&M
5. Mississippi Valley State
2. Prairie View A&M
3. Arkansas-Pine Bluff
4. Texas Southern
5. Grambling State
1. ALCORN STATE BRAVES
LOCATION: Lorman, Mississippi
STADIUM: Jack Spinks Stadium
COACH: Jay Hopson (13-10 in two seasons at Alcorn State)
LAST SEASON: 9-3 overall, 7-2 SWAC (Tie/2nd)
STARTERS RETURNING: 19 (10 offense/9 defense)
BIG LOSSES: RB Arnold Walker (224 carries, 1,191 yards, 16 TD); WR/PR Tavoris Doss (32 receptions, 418 yards, 3 TD; 16.1-yard punt return average, 1 TD); TE Jordan Payne (24 receptions, 350 yards, 9 TD); DL Terrance Green (28 TT, 8 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FR)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB John Gibbs, Jr. (201-for-354, 2,567 yards, 21 TD, 5 INT; 100 carries, 455 yards, 4 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DB C.J. Morgan, Sr. (44 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 INT, 12 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: RB Anthony Williams, Sr. (62 carries, 255 yards, 5 TD)
RB Joe Price, Sr.
RB Darryan Ragsdale (Hinds CC transfer)
FB Alondrea Young, Sr.
WR Tollette George, Sr. (52 receptions, 637 yards, 3 TD)
WR LaDarrien Davis, Jr. (23 receptions, 371 yards, 3 TD)
WR/TE Jordan Payne, Jr. (24 receptions, 350 yards, 9 TD)
WR Zerick Rollins Jr., Sr.
OL Detonio Dade, So.
OL Issac Sampson, Jr.
OL Jonathan Scott, Jr.
DE Deion Roberson, Sr. (50 TT, 12.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 QBH, 2 FF)
DL Deion McNair, Sr. (27 TT, 4.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 FF)
DL Mauola Malaga, Jr.
DL Carrington Aloese, Sr.
LB William Thomas Jr., Sr. (72 TT, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 2 QBH)
LB Damon Watkins, So. (75 TT, 5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 FR, 1 FF)
DB Anthony Williams Jr., Jr. (46 TT, 3 INT, 8 PBU, 2 FF, 1 BLK)
DB Quinton Cantue, Jr. (39 TT, 1 sack, 2 INT, 6 PBU)
DB Hendrick Taylor, Sr. (38 TT, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 1 QBH)
DB Warren Gatewood, Jr.
S Devon Francois, Sr. (90 TT, 2 INT, 4 PBU)
PK/P Haiden McCraney, So. (12-of-18 FG, 81 points; 51 punts, 41.3 ypp)
OUTLOOK: After improving by five wins last season, the Braves appear primed to build off a breakout season under Hopson. They benefit from home games against some of the perceived top teams, such as Southern, the defending conference champion; Jackson State, the defending East champ; and Alabama State, the preseason conference favorite in the East. The talent is there with 19 returning starters, including their top nine tacklers on a defense led by Morgan, who made the all-conference first team a year ago. The biggest loss is Walker, who led the conference in rushing and was named its co-offensive player of the year. But the mobile Gibbs ranks among the SWAC's best quarterbacks and should move the attack with both his arm and legs. And not to be overlooked are some of the better special teams units in the conference.
Aug. 30 - Virginia-Lynchburg
Sept. 6 - at Southern Mississippi
Sept. 13 - Louisiana College
Sept. 20 - at Mississippi Valley State
Sept. 27 - Southern
Oct. 2 - Alabama State
Oct. 11 - at Grambling State
Oct. 18 - Texas Southern
Oct. 25 - at Prairie View A&M
Nov. 8 - at Alabama A&M
Nov. 15 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Nov. 22 - Jackson State
2. ALABAMA STATE HORNETS
LOCATION: Montgomery, Alabama
STADIUM: Hornet Stadium
COACH: Reggie Barlow (42-37 in seven seasons at Alabama State)
LAST SEASON: 8-4 overall, 7-2 SWAC (Tie/2nd)
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (7 offense/9 defense)
BIG LOSSES: RB Isaiah Crowell (170 carries, 1,121 yards, 15 TD); WR Jamel Johnson (28 receptions, 355 yards, 5 TD); C Edmond Davis; DE Carlton Jones (36 TT, 10.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks, 5 QBH, 1 FF); LB Leland Baker (88 TT, 17.5 TFL, 6 sacks, 2 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 FR); PK/P Bobby Wenzig (12-of-17 FG, 63 points; 77 punts, 42.8 ypp)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Malcolm Cyrus, Sr. (130 carries, 742 yards, 6 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: MLB Kourtney Berry, So. (105 TT, 12.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 3 QBH, 2 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Daniel Duhart, Jr. (158-for-291, 1,903 yards, 18 TD, 8 INT; 72 carries, 161 yards)
QB Quinteris Toppings, So.
RB Jahaad Coleman, Jr. (32 carries, 207 yards, 3 TD)
WR Earl Lucas, Sr. (52 receptions, 517 yards, 3 TD)
WR DeMario Bell, Jr. (30 receptions, 594 yards, 3 TD)
OT Matthew Bates, Sr.
OT Tovar Allen, Sr.
OG Robert Roquemore, Jr.
OG Damian Love, Jr.
DE Chris Terry, Sr. (31 TT, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 QBH, 2 FF)
DE Edward Mosley, Sr.
DT Derrick Billups, Sr. (52 TT, 13 TFL, 5 sacks, 1 FR, 3 FF, 1 BLK)
DT Justin Mitchell, Sr. (38 TT, 7 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF)
DT Rodrick Henderson, So. (33 TT, 8.5 TFL, 2 PBU)
OLB Daerius Washington, Jr. (80 TT, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 3 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF)
FS Nagee Bright, Jr. (65 TT, 1.5 TFL, 4 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
FS Deandre Rashada, Sr. (76 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU)
CB Nick Martin, Jr. (32 TT, 11 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)
CB Bradley Street, Jr.
CB Marcus Berg, Jr.
PK Alex Louthan, So.
RS Myles Everett, Jr. (22.8-yard KO return average, 1 TD)
OUTLOOK: Like Alcorn State, the oh-so-consistent Hornets finished one game behind Jackson State in the East standings last season and return a veteran starting lineup. They ranked second in the conference in scoring defense (25.8 points per game) and first against the run (110.1 yards per game) last season, and should be strong up front again. Berry is their most highly regarded player, named the 2013 SWAC newcomer of the year and now entering his sophomore season as the preseason defensive player of the year. They lost Crowell to the NFL, but their running game still remains sound with the return of Cyrus, who had a 241-yard outing against Prairie View A&M and two other 100-yard games as a junior. Duhart often rotated good performances with subpar outings, so he seeks more consistency this season. A glaring area for improvement: The Hornets committed 124 penalties for 93.2 yards per game - both conference highs.
Aug. 30 - at Sam Houston State
Sept. 6 - Tennessee State
Sept. 13 - Mississippi Valley State
Sept. 20 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Sept. 27 - Texas Southern
Oct. 2 - at Alcorn State
Oct. 11 - at Prairie View A&M
Oct. 25 - Alabama A&M
Nov. 1 - at Southern
Nov. 8 - Jackson State
Nov. 15 - at Grambling State
Nov. 22 - Stillman
3. JACKSON STATE TIGERS
LOCATION: Jackson, Mississippi
STADIUM: Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium
COACH: Harold Jackson (first season)
LAST SEASON: 8-4 overall, 8-1 SWAC (1st)
STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (6 offense/4 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Clayton Moore (139-for-275, 2,009 yards, 15 TD; 152 carries, 641 yards, 5 TD); RB Tommy Gooden (166 carries, 875 yards, 6 TD); WR Zach Pendleton (53 receptions, 1,067 yards, 10 TD); OL Jordan Arthur; OL Derrick Jean; DT Robert Smith (40 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 5 QBH); ILB Todd Wilcher (51 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 PBU); OLB John McNabb (49 TT, 5.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FF); S Cam Loeffler (65 TT, 1 PBU); CB Travis Woods (55 TT, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF); CB Qua Cox (32 TT, 6 PBU, 1 FR)
OFFENSIVE STAR: OG Jonathan Smith, Sr.
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB/DE Javancy Jones, So. (54 TT, 14 TFL, 5 sacks, 2 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FF, 1 BLK)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB LaMontiez Ivy, So.
QB Evan Ingram, Sr.
RB Rakeem Sims, Sr. (100 carries, 474 yards, 5 TD)
WR Jairus Moll, Jr.
WR Tobi Singleton, Sr. (30 receptions, 476 yards, 2 TD)
WR Daniel Williams, So.
WR Devin Fosselman, Jr.
WR DeSean McKenzie, Jr.
ATH Jarius Moore, So.
OT Danny Williams, Sr.
DT Coleman Johnson, Jr.
DE Jamal Jones, Jr.
OLB Ryan Griffin, Sr. (62 TT, 8.5 TFL, 3 INT, 4 PBU, 3 QBH)
OLB Tedderick Terrell, Jr. (46 TT, 13.5 TFL, 7 sacks, 1 QBH, 2 FF)
ILB Stacy Noble, So.
OLB Ariane McCree, Sr. (94 TT, 14.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 BLK)
DB Antonio Sutton, Jr. (32 TT, 2 TFL, 8 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
PK Ryan Deising, Jr. (12-of-15 FG, 69 points)
P Darcy Williamson, So. (50 punts, 41.9 ypp)
OUTLOOK: Jackson has been an acting head coach at different stops, but this is his first full-time spot as he replaces Rick Comegy after a successful eight- year run. The Tigers, hoping to reach the SWAC Championship Game for a third straight season, are replacing a lot of talent. Ivy might have remained their starting quarterback if he had not been injured during the first game last season. He should expect a big senior season out of RB Sims, and WR Singleton is capable of a breakout season. Jones is one the SWAC's bright young defensive standouts and can line up at defensive end or standing at linebacker, where the Tigers should have a special group of players. But the secondary isn't a strength going into the season. Ending the regular season with three straight road games is difficult.
Aug. 30 - Florida A&M
Sept. 6 - Virginia-Lynchburg
Sept. 13 - at Tennessee State (at Memphis, Tennessee)
Sept. 20 - Grambling State
Sept. 27 - at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Oct. 4 - Prairie View A&M
Oct. 11 - Mississippi Valley State
Oct. 25 - Southern
Nov. 1 - Alabama A&M
Nov. 8 - at Alabama State
Nov. 15 - at Texas Southern
Nov. 22 - at Alcorn State
4. ALABAMA A&M BULLDOGS
LOCATION: Huntsville, Alabama
STADIUM: Louis Crews Stadium
COACH: James Spady (first season)
LAST SEASON: 4-8 overall, 4-5 SWAC (4th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (7 offense/6 defense)
BIG LOSSES: TB Barrington Scott (245 carries, 1,058 yards, 7 TD); FB Bryan Nelson; WR/RS Terrance Pride (12.1-yard punt return average); TE Jonathan Dorsey (16 receptions, 301 yards, 3 TD); DE Chartavious Keith (55 TT, 9.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 5 QBH, 2 BLK); DE Reginald Bailey (44 TT, 11.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 4 QBH, 1 FR); MLB Robert Nelson (100 TT, 8.5 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FF); MLB Conard Johnson (67 TT, 8 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 1 PBU); SS Lawrence Barnett (44 TT, 4 TFL, 4 INT, 2 PBU); FS Derek Harris (33 TT, 2 TFL, 4 INT, 5 PBU, 2 FR); CB Tremaine Shepherd
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Montaurius Smith, Sr. (56 receptions, 779 yards, 5 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DT Anthony Lanier, Jr. (51 TT, 10 TFL, 1 PBU, 6 QBH, 1 FR)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Jaymason Lee, Sr. (98-for-212, 1,553 yards, 11 TD, 6 INT)
QB Brandon Wells, Jr. (59-for-132, 696 yards, 4 TD, 8 INT; 56 carries, 122 yards, 1 TD)
TB Brandon Elemire, Jr. (72 carries, 545 yards, 3 TD)
LT Winston Hunt, Jr.
LG James Driver, Jr.
C Devin Dobbins, So.
RG Austin Simmons, So.
RT Alan Cruz, Sr.
DT Areka Jackson, Jr. (40 TT, 6.5 TFL, 1 QBH)
DE Corey Johnson, Jr.
CB A.J. Clark, Sr. (54 TT, 2.5 TFL, 2 PBU)
PK Cesar Ramon, So.
P Rashad Anderson, So.
OUTLOOK: A minus-10 turnover ratio helped lead to a drop in A&M's program last season, costing coach Anthony Jones his job. Spady has made plenty of adjustments, put emphasis on special teams play and welcomed competition among his players to spur a turnaround. It includes more consistency out of last year's two quarterbacks, Lee and Wells, although WR Smith and TB Elemire will take some of the pressure off them. There is significant change on defense, including a new trio of starting linebackers. The Bulldogs open the season in the SWAC/MEAC Challenge and don't play a home game until Oct. 4. The stretch of opponents from Oct. 11 to Nov. 15 is too strong to allow Spady's rebuilding team to get into the East Division race.
Aug. 31 - North Carolina A&T (at Orlando, Florida)
Sept. 6 - at Tuskegee
Sept. 13 - at UAB
Sept. 20 - at Texas Southern
Sept. 27 - at Mississippi Valley State
Oct. 4 - Grambling State
Oct. 11 - Southern
Oct. 25 - at Alabama State
Nov. 1 - at Jackson State
Nov. 8 - Alcorn State
Nov. 15 - Prairie View A&M
Nov. 22 - at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
5. MISSISSIPPI VALLEY STATE DELTA DEVILS
LOCATION: Itta Bena, Mississippi
STADIUM: Rice-Totten Field
COACH: Rick Comegy (56-35 in seven seasons at Jackson State; 164-86 overall)
LAST SEASON: 2-9 overall, 2-7 SWAC (5th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 10 (7 offense/3 defense)
BIG LOSSES: WR Richard Drake (31 receptions, 389 yards, 4 TD); DT Robert Simpson (65 TT, 15 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 5 PBU, 5 QBH, 1 FR, 2 BLK); LB Jameel Franklin (51 TT, 10 TFL, 4 sacks, 1 INT, 4 QBH, 2 FR); DB Kevin Eugene (48 TT, 1 INT, 6 PBU, 1 FF)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR/KR Julian Stafford, R-Sr. (52 receptions, 694 yards, 3 TD; 23.1-yard KO return average, 1 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: CB Avery Boykin, Sr. (57 TT, 5 TFL, 6 INT, 7 PBU)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Patrick Ivy, Sr. (101-for-232, 1,443 yards, 10 TD, 9 INT; 75 carries, 260 yards, 5 TD)
RB Cortez Frizell, Sr. (104 carries, 266 yards, 3 TD)
RB John Johnson, Jr.
FB Cody Gilchrist, So.
WR Jerrell Moore, Jr.
OL Jarrod Lewis, Sr.
OL Trevin Wallace, Jr.
DE Sean Fugate, Sr. (40 TT, 12 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 1 QBH)
DT Jeremiah Russell, Sr.
LB Brandon Powe, Sr. (55 TT, 8 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 PBU, 3 QBH)
LB Antonio Benson, Sr. (80 TT, 8 TFL, 2 sacks, 3 PBU, 3 FF)
CB Jeremy Johnson, Sr. (62 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU)
CB Le'Trey Jones, Jr. (31 TT, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 4 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR)
S Terrance Hudson, Sr. (41 TT, 2 TFL, 2 INT, 1 QBH)
S Davon Jones, Sr.
PK/P Cherchen Galon, Sr.
OUTLOOK: The Delta Devils are thrilled to have Comegy as their new head coach after he averaged eight wins over seven years at Jackson State. It's likely going to take several recruiting classes to significantly raise the talent in a program that has had only one winning record in SWAC play (5-4 under Karl Morgan in 2012) in the last seven seasons. Comegy does inherit two of the SWAC's best players at their positions in the versatile Stafford and Boykin, an All-American cornerback. But QB Ivy was up and down last season and his offensive line needs improvement. The defense will be hard-pressed to fill the production of Simpson up front. The season's first opponent - Faith - may better describe the Delta Devils' feeling toward their head coaching change.
Aug. 30 - Faith
Sept. 6 - at Illinois State
Sept. 13 - at Alabama State
Sept. 20 - Alcorn State
Sept. 27 - Alabama A&M
Oct. 4 - at Texas Southern
Oct. 11 - at Jackson State
Oct. 18 - Prairie View A&M
Nov. 1 - at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Nov. 6 - Grambling State
Nov. 15 - at Southern
1. SOUTHERN JAGUARS
LOCATION: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
STADIUM: Ace W. Mumford Stadium
COACH: Dawson Odums (13-9 in two seasons at Southern)
LAST SEASON: 9-4 overall, 7-2 SWAC (1st)
STARTERS RETURNING: 16 (8 offense/8 defense)
BIG LOSSES: QB Dray Joseph (271-for-437, 3,573 yards, 30 TD); WR Lee Doss (78 receptions, 1,172 yards, 11 TD); LB Anthony Balancier (90 TT, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 3 INT, 3 PBU, 5 QBH, 2 FF); LB Franchot West (77 TT, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 FR); DB Omar Cook (77 TT, 1.5 TFL, 3 INT, 3 PBU, 2 FR, 1 FF)
OFFENSIVE STAR: RB Lenard Tillery, So. (184 carries, 784 yards, 9 TD; 17 receptions, 135 yards)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Daniel Brown, Sr. (86 TT, 14 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 8 QBH, 2 FR, 2 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Deonte Shorts, R-Fr.
FB Brian McCain, Sr.
WR/RS Willie Quinn, Jr. (57 receptions, 753 yards, 7 TD; 29.5-yard KO return average, 1 TD)
WR Randall Menard, Jr. (19 receptions, 366 yards, 4 TD)
WR Mike Jones, Jr.
TE Bradley Coleman, Jr.
OL Dwayne Houston, Sr.
OL Zach Brown, Sr.
OL Anthony Mosley, Jr.
DL Arthur Miley, Sr. (60 TT, 3 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FR, 1 FF)
DE Jaylen Jordan, Sr.
LB Detrane Lindsey, Sr. (49 TT, 1 INT, 1 PBU)
LB Javon Allen, Sr. (60 TT, 2 sacks, 1 PBU, 2 FF)
DB Dionte McCuffy, Jr. (69 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF)
DB D'Andre Woodland, Sr. (40 TT, 3 TFL, 4 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
PK Greg Pittman, Jr. (8-of-12 FG, 68 points)
OUTLOOK: The defending SWAC champions return eight starters on each side of the ball, but the losses are significant, including Joseph, the 2013 co- conference offensive player of the year, and the conference's best wide receiver in Doss. The likely new quarterback, Shorts, gained some experience as a redshirt behind Joseph, but the position is the glaring difference between the Jaguars and Prairie View A&M, the other main challenger in the West Division race, which they face on the road Sept. 20. The Jaguars will keep feeding the ball to RB Tillery and WR Quinn, and they must improve on short- yardage situations. The losses of Balancier and West at linebacker also will be felt, but Brown really gets after opposing quarterbacks.
Aug. 30 - at Louisiana
Sept. 6 - Central Methodist
Sept. 13 - Northwestern State
Sept. 20 - at Prairie View A&M
Sept. 27 - at Alcorn State
Oct. 4 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Oct. 11 - at Alabama A&M
Oct. 25 - at Jackson State
Nov. 1 - Alabama State
Nov. 8 - Texas Southern
Nov. 15 - Mississippi Valley State
Nov. 29 - Grambling State
2. PRAIRIE VIEW A&M PANTHERS
LOCATION: Prairie View, Texas
STADIUM: Edward L. Blackshear Field
COACH: Heisham Northern (14-20 in three seasons at Prairie View A&M)
LAST SEASON: 6-6 overall, 5-4 SWAC (2nd)
STARTERS RETURNING: 17 (10 offense/7 defense)
BIG LOSSES: WR DeAndre Cooper (80 receptions, 1,038 yards, 12 TD); WR Patrick Gant (38 receptions, 356 yards, 3 TD); DE Liki Porotesano (32 TT, 4.5 TFL, 6 QBH); LB Raheem Cardwell (103 TT, 8 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 INT, 1 FR, 1 FF); LB Chuck Obi (79 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 INT, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FR, 1 FF)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Jerry Lovelocke, Sr. (285-for-429, 2,838 yards, 23 TD, 9 INT; 75 carries, 284 yards, 9 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Jerome Howard, Sr. (80 TT, 18 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 INT, 4 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 2 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB De'Auntre Smiley, Sr. (57-for-88, 810 yards, 8 TD, 3 INT; 49 carries, 168 yards, 5 TD)
RB Courtney Brown, Sr. (179 carries, 1,039 yards, 10 TD; 52 receptions, 505 yards, 4 TD)
RB/KR Johnt? Hebert, Jr. (156 carries, 907 yards, 5 TD; 39 receptions, 260 yards)
WR Jacoby Anderson, Grad Student (47 receptions, 578 yards, 2 TD)
WR/PR Gabe Dunlap, Sr. (37 receptions, 296 yards, 3 TD)
WR Nick Pitre, So.
WR Greg Thurmond, Sr.
C Dillon Bonnet, Sr.
LT Tre Glover, Sr.
LG Glen Haisley, Jr.
DT Michael Daniels, Sr. (34 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 FF)
DE Darrien Patterson-Ramsey, Sr.
DE/LB Jamespaul Bryant, So. (51 TT, 6 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 2 FR)
LB Danny Brownell, Sr.
CB Foster Brown II, So. (54 TT, 3.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FF)
CB Robert Jackson III, Jr. (50 TT, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 FF)
DB Joshua Holley, So. (54 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 5 PBU, 1 FR)
PK Chris Barrick, Sr. (6-of-15 FG, 78 points)
P Travis Jatzlau, Sr. (61 punts, 41 ypp)
LS Joe Sable, Sr.
OUTLOOK: An explosive offense will fuel the Panthers, who last won the SWAC title in 2009. Lovelocke is a tremendous quarterback, and many teams would want to have his backup in Smiley. But Lovelocke doesn't do it alone as he's surrounded by a terrific running game and pass catchers out of the backfield with Brown and Hebert. The offense is replacing WR Cooper, who set the Panthers' single-season receiving yardage record, but Anderson is next in line to put up big numbers. Despite all the positive vibes on offense, the defense needs significant improvement and has a different defensive coordinator (the highly experienced Cliff Yoshida) for the third straight season. The Panthers surrendered allowed 485.6 yards and 35.9 points per game a year ago. Northern hopes to get something out of a large freshman class. His team is playing only a 10-game schedule.
Aug. 31 - Texas Southern (at Reliant Stadium, Houston)
Sept. 13 - at McNeese State
Sept. 20 - Southern
Sept. 27 - at Grambling State (at Dallas)
Oct. 4 - at Jackson State
Oct. 11 - Alabama State
Oct. 18 - at Mississippi Valley State
Oct. 25 - Alcorn State
Nov. 8 - at Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Nov. 15 - at Alabama A&M
3. ARKANSAS-PINE BLUFF GOLDEN LIONS
LOCATION: Pine Bluff, Arkansas
STADIUM: Golden Lion Stadium
COACH: Monte Coleman (31-36 in six seasons at Arkansas-Pine Bluff)
LAST SEASON: 2-9 overall, 2-7 SWAC (Tie/3rd)
STARTERS RETURNING: 12 (6 offense/6 defense)
BIG LOSSES: WR Desmond Beverly (57 receptions, 745 yards); WR Dexter Bryant (25 receptions, 305 yards, 1 TD); LG Kenny Eagle; RG Keathric Brown; DE Anthony Smith (41 TT, 9 TFL, 3.5 sacks, 1 PBU, 10 QBH, 3 FR, 2 FF); LB Xavier Lofton (88 TT, 7.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks, 3 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF); LB Jer-ryan Harris (107 TT, 3 TFL, 1 QBH, 1 FR); FS Gyovanni Harvey (46 TT, 5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FR, 2 FF); CB David Watson (38 TT, 1 INT, 2 PBU)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Ben Anderson, Sr. (210-for-357, 2,787 yards, 19 TD, 11 INT; 183 carries, 824 yards, 9 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Antonio Jenkins, Jr. (94 TT, 6 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 FF, 1 BLK)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: TB Jeremiah Young, So. (106 carries, 526 yards, 7 TD)
WR Cody Swain, Jr. (30 receptions, 523 yards, 4 TD)
WR Willie Young, Jr.
LT Me'Kale Carter, Sr.
C Toddra Pamplin, Jr.
RT Trevor Reagan, So.
DT Tony Goss, Sr. (35 TT, 7 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 3 QBH, 1 BLK)
DT Caleb Ealy, Jr. (41 TT, 3 TFL)
DE Joel Green, Sr.
LB Willie Duncan III, So. (61 TT, 2 TFL)
LB Kyle Walker, Jr. (52 TT, 2 TFL, 2 FF)
SS Tavion Garrison, So.
FS Kevin Rucker, Jr. (27 TT, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR)
P Dylan Neiheiser,
PK Tyler Strickland, Sr. (9-of-15 FG, 62 points)
LS C.J. Branch, Sr.
RS Andre Mitchell, Jr.
Holder Braxton Hoof, So.
OUTLOOK: The Golden Lions have to wipe the slate clean after following up their 2012 SWAC championship with a two-win season despite having a veteran team last year. This year's team has veteran leaders, but the roster is relatively young. The Golden Lions return key players at the skills position, with dual-threat QB Anderson looking to finish a strong career. Young broke out as a freshman running back, but the offensive line needs improvement from a year ago. So does the team's defense - in a big way. It allowed a whopping 40.5 points per game (last in the SWAC) as well 483.5 yards per game. Jenkins will be the leader of a defense that is young on the back end. Coleman will have to get his team ready for a tough start to the SWAC schedule.
Aug. 30 - at Texas State
Sept. 6 - Concordia (Alabama)
Sept. 20 - at Alabama State
Sept. 27 - Jackson State
Oct. 4 - at Southern
Oct. 18 - at Grambling State
Oct. 25 - at Texas Southern
Nov. 1 - Mississippi Valley State
Nov. 8 - Prairie View A&M
Nov. 15 - at Alcorn State
Nov. 22 - Alabama A&M
4. TEXAS SOUTHERN TIGERS
STADIUM: BBVA Compass Stadium
COACH: Darrell Asberry (4-18 in two seasons at Texas Southern; 44-43 overall)
LAST SEASON: 2-9 overall, 2-7 SWAC (Tie/3rd)
STARTERS RETURNING: 19 (10 offense/9 defense)
BIG LOSSES: RB/KR Edward Perkings-Loving (24.9-yard KO return average); WR Dedric Shipman (40 receptions, 561 yards, 2 TD); DL Greg Brady (34 TT, 6.5 TFL, 1.5 sack, 2 PBU); DB Brandon Thomas (82 TT, 11.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 4 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR)
OFFENSIVE STAR: QB Homer Causey, Jr. (121-for-239, 1,459 yards, 5 TD, 9 INT; 149 carries, 694 yards, 6 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: DE Amir Bloom, Jr. (29 TT, 13.5 TFL, 8 sacks, 1 QBH, 1 FR, 1 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB Jay Christophe, So.
RB Daveonn Porter, Sr. (132 carries, 577 yards, 4 TD)
WR Malik Cross, Jr. (33 receptions, 396 yards, 1 TD)
WR Fred Plummer, Grad Student (injured last season)
TE Billy Rosenberg, Jr.
OL Kendrick Williams, Sr.
DL Derrick Lyles, So. (Mississippi Gulf Coast JC transfer)
LB Jarius Moore, Jr. (68 TT, 4.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 QBH)
LB LaKendrick Conley, Sr. (54 TT, 3 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 1 FR)
LB Zack Bamijoko, So. (37 TT, 2 TFL, 1 INT, 1 PBU, 1 FR)
DB Demetrius Johnson, So. (42 TT, 1.5 TFL, 2 INT, 8 PBU)
DB Tray Walker, Sr. (51 TT, 1 INT, 4 PBU)
DB Darveon Trahan, Sr. (57 TT)
DB Mike Holmes, Sr. (53 TT, 5 PBU)
DB Brandon Thomas, Sr.
DB Le'Tevin Wilcox, Sr. (55 TT, 2.5 TFL, 1 INT, 3 PBU)
P/K Cory Carter, Jr. (71 punts, 44.3 ypp)
OUTLOOK: There's quiet optimism at TSU, where Asberry has a veteran team following 2-9 records in both of his first two seasons on the sideline. Added chemistry and disciplined play are musts for the Tigers. Causey got most of the starts at quarterback last season and is seeking more consistency as a junior. His Tigers were the only SWAC team not to pass for at least 2,000 yards. RB Porter will be a force if the offensive line improves. The defense has productive players returning but needs to be more physical. Bloom and Thomas both made the SWAC preseason team. The Tigers hope to pull some upsets while they try to get their program going again. This is the final year of their three-year NCAA-imposed probation.
Aug. 31 - at Prairie View A&M (at Reliant Stadium, Houston)
Sept. 4 - Texas College
Sept. 13 - at Central State
Sept. 20 - Alabama A&M
Sept. 27 - at Alabama State
Oct. 4 - Mississippi Valley State
Oct. 18 - at Alcorn State
Oct. 25 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Nov. 1 - Grambling State
Nov. 8 - at Southern
Nov. 15 - Jackson State
5. GRAMBLING STATE TIGERS
LOCATION: Grambling, Louisiana
STADIUM: Eddie Robinson Stadium
COACH: Broderick Fobbs (first season)
LAST SEASON: 1-11 overall, 1-8 SWAC (5th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 13 (6 offense/7 defense)
BIG LOSSES: RB Jestin Kelly (139 carries, 635 yards, 3 TD); WR Robert Bailey (20 receptions, 246 yards, 1 TD); OL Clint Marsh; DE Weston Simmons (24 TT, 5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 QBH)
OFFENSIVE STAR: WR Chester Rogers, So. (48 receptions, 735 yards, 5 TD)
DEFENSIVE STAR: LB Steve Orisakwe, Sr. (96 TT, 11.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR, 1 FF)
OTHER KEY PLAYERS: QB D.J. Williams, Sr. (119-for-260, 1,457 yards, 11 TD, 8 INT)
QB Johnathan Williams, Jr. (46-for-73, 668 yards, 8 TD, 2 INT; 44 carries, 209 yards, 4 TD)
RB Cedric Skinner, Jr. (69 carries, 317 yards)
RB Juwan Martin, Sr.
WR/PR Anthony McGhee, Sr. (45 receptions, 552 yards, 6 TD)
WR Chad Williams, So.
TE Brandon Byrdsong, Jr.
OL Justin Miller, So.
C/RG Anthony Cherry, Sr.
LT Trent Scott, So.
DE Donovan McCray, So. (46 TT, 12.5 TFL, 1 PBU, 2 QBH, 1 FR)
DL Phillip McClain, Sr. (34 TT, 7 TFL, 1 QBH)
DE Jevonta Williams, So. (28 TT, 7.5 TFL, 2 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
DT Centerio Ford, Jr.
LB Aaron Breed, Sr. (83 TT, 9 TFL, 2 PBU)
CB Tyree Hollins, Sr. (48 TT, 4.5 TFL, 3 INT, 7 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
CB Dwight Amphy, Jr.
DB Nicholas Peoples, Jr. (78 TT, 3 sacks, 3 INT, 3 PBU)
DB Naquan Smith, Sr. (68 TT, 3 INT, 5 PBU)
S/LB David Smith, Sr. (39 TT, 1 sack, 1 PBU, 1 FR, 1 FF)
PK/P Johnathan Wallace, So. (5-of-8 FG, 32 points; 75 punts, 40.9 ypp)
OUTLOOK: Fobbs has delivered healing at his alma mater after the Tigers went through a tumultuous 2013 season, including their forfeit to Jackson State during a six-day player walkout regarding conditions in the program. The Tigers are coming off back-to-back one-win seasons and Fobbs is stressing that the offense score points quickly and the defense be aggressive to create stops and turnovers. QB D.J. Williams remained in the program after his father Doug was fired as head coach last year and now seeks a strong senior season, although Johnathan Williams has plenty of experience alongside him. The defense has numerous key pieces back, led by LB Orisakwe and a veteran secondary, and should be improved. In a schedule oddity, Fobbs won't coach his first game on campus until Alcorn State arrives on Oct. 11.
Aug. 30 - at Lamar
Sept. 6 - at Houston
Sept. 13 - at Bethune-Cookman
Sept. 20 - at Jackson State
Sept. 27 - Prairie View A&M (at Dallas)
Oct. 4 - at Alabama A&M
Oct. 11 - Alcorn State
Oct. 18 - Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Nov. 1 - at Texas Southern
Nov. 6 - at Mississippi Valley State
Nov 15 - Alabama State
Nov. 29 - at Southern