Bowl season kicks off on Saturday with a new flavor. FCS schools Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T will meet in the first Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome (Noon ET, ABC). Why should you watch this game? Here are three reasons:
1. It pits two conference champions: So many bowl games involve teams with six-win seasons (or in this year's case, 5-7 teams) or teams with interim head coaches since the coaching carousel has completed a few spins already in the offseason. Why not watch two quality teams who actually won something of substance -- a conference championship -- do battle? Alcorn State won the SWAC championship game, beating Grambling State on Dec. 5; North Carolina A&T won the MEAC via a three-way tiebreaker over Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina Central. Both teams won nine games; these are good football teams.
2. It's historic: This is a new game but the third attempt at a MEAC-SWAC bowl that would be considered a national championship of sorts for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which comprise both conferences. The last attempt at such a game, the Heritage Bowl, ran from 1991 to 1999. Could the third time be a charm? Perhaps this is the game that sticks around for a long time and becomes a mainstay for the champions in each conference. Plus, the bands are certain to put on a show. HBCUs are known for their excellent marching bands and Alcorn State's Sounds of Dyn-O-mite and A&T's Blue & Gold Marching Machine are sure to impress.
3. These are well-coached teams: Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T had two of the top three defenses nationally among 123 FCS teams this season. Both programs have seen rough times but have been on the rise in the last four years -- they each won 32 games in the last four years after the two schools combined for only 25 wins from 2008 to 2011. Tip of the cap to Alcorn State's Jay Hopson and A&T's Rod Broadway for building that success. An Alcorn State win would give the Braves back-to-back 10-win seasons; a North Carolina A&T win would give the Aggies their first 10-win season since 2003.