November 11th, 2021 4:00am
Picture this: It’s November 9, 2018, or the day before the championship game. You know the opponents: Fayetteville State and Bowie State. You’ve caught the “itis” after a good meal, and you drift to sleep. Somehow, you woke up and its November 12, 2021. You intended to watch the 2018 CIAA Football Championship, and you frantically go to find out who won in 2018. Bowie State.
You then searched for 2019. Bowie State again.
Surely, 2020 would have a different outcome, right. Well, it did, because we didn’t play football.
So, you’re right back where you started, and it’s the night before the championship game again. It’s Bowie State and Fayetteville State, third time around. Surely this must be a really feedback loop, right?
From the North, you have the two time defending CIAA Champion Bowie State, winners of the Northern Division for every year since 2015, except when Virginia State briefly assumed the mantle in 2017. From the South, you have the challenger, Fayetteville State, who has represented their division since 2017.
The differences from 2018 and now? There’s no Amir Hall, and there’s no Stevie Green. Instead, we have Ja’Rome Johnson, who has craft his own style of play within BSU’s offense. We also have running back by committee for FSU, led by then backup, now starter Donshel Jetton and accompanied by a host of rushers who could start at other CIAA schools.
Lets unpack this matchup a little more.
#7 Bowie State (9-1) vs Fayetteville State (8-1) @ Salem, Virginia
With everyone else’s season completed, all eyes turn their attention to this matchup.
Bowie State comes into this matchup with the highest ranking a CIAA team has attained in 8 years. Fayetteville State comes in as probably the most overlooked division champion in some time.
FSU has had two years to plot and plan for this moment. Several starters came back after graduating for this moment, lead by CIAA Defensive Player of the Year Keyshawn James. The offense retooled despite losing one coordinator after another. This team is probably the strongest FSU we have seen out of the last four years.
Bowie State is a heavy favorite in this game, but it does not mean they are unbeatable (as we nearly saw against Virginia State some weeks ago). You are likely asking: how can FSU win this game? Well, allow me to present to you the likely ways you can tell whether FSU is going to have a chance.
Tale of the tape:
FSU averages 394 yards of total offense a game, a tad higher than BSU’s 385 yards.
Bowie converts 39 percent of its third down conversions, favorably comparing to FSU’s 37 percent.
FSU is second in the country in total defense, and Bowie is third (203 yards vs 209 yards).
FSU is third in the country in scoring defense at 13 points a game. Bowie is eighth at 14 points.
Bowie is tops in the country in tackles for loss, and FSU is second in the country (both average about 10 a game).
Bowie nets about 34 yards of punting yards, while FSU is a bit behind at 30 yards per punt.
Of course, the winner gets a Championship ring. A win would be FSU’s first championship since 2009. A win for Bowie means that they would be the fifth school in history to three-peat, and the second school remaining in the conference to do so (Virginia Union being the other school). Also, Bowie would likely do no worse than a #2 seed in the playoffs, while FSU would likely get into the playoffs if they knocked off BSU.
Who has the advantage?:
Stranger things have happened in the championship game, but as mentioned before, BSU is the heavy favorite. FSU has to play relative mistake-free football, to have a chance to claim the crown. Its possible, but it would require a departure from the way they have recently. So, its likely that BSU will retain the crown for another 12 months.
As always, you can follow me via @d2kferg for tomorrow’s action, as well as to catch me on various outlets where we discuss the games’ aftermath. You can also catch myself, and other D2football.com columnist’s thoughts on Sundays at 8pm/7pm Central on Inside D2 Football. This week, we will react to the playoff seeding that will be released on Sunday afternoon.