A Preview: A look inside the Celebration Bowl by Bradford Brooks
The Grambling State University Tigers will take on the Aggies of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University at the third annual Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl, the first game of the college football bowl season.
Grambling State Tigers (11-1)
The defending 2016 Celebration Bowl champions, the Grambling State University Tigers, had another great season by finishing their regular season with a record of a 11-1 and were able to capture back to back South-Western Athletic Conference championships by defeating Alcorn State in the SWAC championship game 40 to 32.
The Tigers are led by their high powered offense which is orchestrated by the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, senior quarterback Devante Kincade, and All-SWAC first team running back Martez Carter. The Tigers are currently ranked 12th overall in the Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll and are averaging 32.67 points per game, and 373.9 total yards per game on the offensive side of the ball. Not only do the Tigers have playmakers on the offensive side of the ball but they also have studs on the defensive side, like star linebacker and the 2017 SWAC Defensive Player of the Year De’Arius Christmas.
The Grambling defense has been able to force a turnover in every game this season except two. The Grambling State Tigers, coached by the SWAC Coach of the Year Broderick Fobbs, are coming into this game hot and very confident as the Tigers have won 11 straight games since their season opening loss to Tulane and have also been able to register 21 straight wins against FCS opponents.
North Carolina A&T Aggies (11-0)
No Tarik Cohen, no problem. Coming into this season there were many questions surrounding the Aggies of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University of whether they would be able to keep up their recent success after losing a big senior class and current Chicago Bears running back, Tarik Cohen.
However all those questions and concerns were silenced as the Aggies delivered and were able to capture their first ever undefeated season in Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference history finishing the year at 11-0. The Aggies won the first ever Celebration Bowl in 2015 and will look to capture a second title as they travel to Atlanta with the number one ranked scoring offense in the MEAC, which has averaged just over 36 points per game.
The Aggie offense will also have senior quarterback and MEAC offensive player of the year, Lamar Raynard, and their big play All-MEAC wide receiver, Elijah Bell, at their disposal. This offense comes into this game ranked number one in pass efficiency, number one in total passing yards this season, and are ranked number 7 in the country in the FCS Coaches Poll.
The Aggies are exceptionally good on both sides of the ball, as they were able to capture 12 of 25 spots on the MEAC all conference first teams. Head coach Rod Broadway’s team has a shutdown defense that was able to finish the season as the number one scoring defense, number one in rushing defense, and number one in total defense in the MEAC.
Saturday Dec 16, 2017 (Noon ET on ABC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta)
Last year the Grambling State Tigers were able to win the Celebration Bowl in a low scoring game with a score of 10 to 9 over North Carolina Central University. However don’t expect that to be the case this year in this game. Look forward to seeing two very high powered offenses trade jabs with each other in a high scoring shoot out game in Atlanta.
The keys to victory for the Aggies is quite simple , they must continue to remain balanced and efficient on offense by first controlling the offensive line led by senior and FCS All-American left tackle, Brandon Parker, and establishing a running game with running back Marquell Cartwright. Quarterback Lamar Raynard will also have to continue to protect the football as he will be going against a very good Grambling secondary. The X factor in this game will be the Aggies special team unit led by FCS all-time leading return man, Kris Gardin.
For the Tigers the key will be to create pressure on the defensive side of the ball and force turnovers as they have done all season. The Tigers will also need to create running lanes and opportunities for its two elite playmakers in quarterback Devante Kincade and speedy running back Martez Carter, who will be facing a stout Aggie defense.
Overall this should be a very entertaining and back and forth game. Look for both of these teams to trade blows, but ultimately the Aggies of North Carolina A&T will win this game and capture their second Celebration Bowl title this Saturday.
Prediction: Aggies 42, Tigers 31