SC State faces Jackson State in Celebration Bowl Saturday
Celebration Bowl: South Carolina State (6-5) vs. Jackson State (11-1), Dec. 18, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, 12 noon EST (ABC).
Line: Jackson State by 10.5, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
Series record: Tied 2-2.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Jackson State is looking to cap a brilliant second season for coach Deion Sanders. Coach Prime brought huge attention to the Mississippi HBCU, and he backed up the hype by guiding the Tigers to their first Southwestern Athletic Conference championship in 14 years. Jackson State has already had quite a week, shocking the college football world when Travis Hunter, a top-ranked prep cornerback from Suwanee, Georgia, made the unprecedented decision to spurn Florida State and sign with the FCS Tigers.
South Carolina State posted a perfect 5-0 record in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference and hopes to claim its first postseason victory since a 1994 win over Grambling State in the Heritage Bowl.
South Carolina State QB Corey Fields Jr. vs. Jackson State’s defense. The Tigers, with one of the top-ranked units in FCS, will try to force Fields into some costly mistakes. He’s thrown nearly as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns (14) this season and must take care of the football for the Bulldogs to have any shot at pulling off the upset. That’s easier said than done against a Tigers defense led by James Houston, who has 21.5 tackles behind the line.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
South Carolina State: RB Kendrell Flowers leads the Bulldogs in rushing with 637 yards and nine touchdowns.
Jackson State: QB Shedeur Sanders, the coach’s son, became the first HBCU player to win the Jerry Rice award as the top freshman in FCS football. Sanders has completed 256 of 377 passes (68%) for 3,056 yards, with 29 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
FACTS & FIGURES
This is a matchup between two traditional powers in Black college football. The programs have combined for 34 conference championships and 952 wins; each have four alumni in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. … The Tigers and Bulldogs played between 1991-1994, with each team winning two games. … This is the first Celebration Bowl appearance for both schools. … Jackson State has won 11 games for the first time in school history. … Deion Sanders is returning to Atlanta, where he famously made his mark playing for both the NFL’s Falcons and Major League Baseball’s Braves in the early 1990s. … Jackson State is going for the 500th win in school history.