The State of the MEAC by Cameron Rivers
As this football season comes down the stretch, the race for the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference championship is heating up.
During the preseason, North Carolina Central University was ranked number one in the league’s annual preseason poll and was picked to defend its MEAC Championship. However, with only 3 games left until the end of the regular season, the North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University Aggies are number one in the MEAC rankings, remaining undefeated in both conference and nonconference play, with a 9-0 record, the only Football Championship Subdivision team this season to do so. Ranked number 6 nationally, N.C. A&T is the only MEAC team ranked amongst FCS teams.
Led by redshirt junior quarterback, Lamar Raynard, he leads the conference in passing yards and touchdowns and also has a career passing efficiency rating of 148.23, which is the best in school history. Raynard is two touchdown passes away from breaking the Aggies single season touchdown pass record.
North Carolina A&T is number one in the conference in passing offense, rushing offense, rushing defense, sacks and interceptions. Running back Marquell Cartwright leads the conference in rushing (98.6 yards per game), and he is second in rushing touchdowns, with a total of eight. Sophomore wide receiver Elijah Bell leads the MEAC in receiving yards with 73 yards per game and nine touchdowns, two touchdown receptions away from breaking the Aggies single season record.
On the defensive side of the ball, Freshman defensive back Franklin McCain III, leads the MEAC with five interceptions, and three returned for touchdowns. Sophomore defensive lineman Darryl Johnson, leads the conference in sacks (5.5). Safety Jeremy Taylor has also had an outstanding season for the Aggies. A former linebacker, he was switched to safety for the 2017 season and leads the team in tackles (45), three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a recovered fumble. While the season is not over yet; the Aggies are chasing history, as only two teams in N.C. A&T history have finished undefeated (1927, 1943).
While N.C. A&T is still at the top of the MEAC, Howard University is not far behind. Howard (4-1 in MEAC play, 5-3 overall), is led by true freshman dual-threat quarterback, Caylin Newton,who is the younger brother of Carolina Panthers’ quarterback, Cam Newton. Newton leads the MEAC in total offense (298.7 yard per game) and scoring. Howard only has one conference loss, and they picked up an impressive Footbal Bowl Subdivision win as they defeated University of Nevada Las Vegas on Sept.2. Howard joins N.C. A&T as the only teams in the MEAC to defeat a FBS opponent this season with the Aggies defeating University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
North Carolina Central (4-1 in MEAC play, 6-2 overall), is right behind N.C. A&T in MEAC rankings, with only one conference loss, defeating Hampton University (4-1 in MEAC play, 5-3 overall) over the weekend to take the number two spot. The biggest test of the season for both the Eagles and the Aggies will come on November 18th, as the final game of the season for both teams. This game will decide who will be the MEAC Champions.
The ultimate prize for the MEAC Champion is a postseason berth to the 3rd annual Celebration Bowl, the black college football championship, in Atlanta, Ga. on Dec. 16 at the brand-new Mercedes Benz Stadium. The bowl series features the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference winners and South Western Athletic Conference winners. The series stands at 1-1, with North Carolina A&T defeating Alcorn State in 2015 and North Carolina Central losing to Grambling State University in 2016.