By Solomon Crenshaw Jr.
The McDonald’s Magic City Classic presented by Coca-Cola is annually part of the discussion in determining who will represent the East Division in the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship Game.
And this 79th installment of the Classic is no different, despite being different in virtually every other way.
Because of COVID-19 concerns, this Classic has:
- No parade.
- No tailgating.
- No bands.
But if last week’s primers are any indication, the clash at Legion Field will have plenty of offensive fireworks. And the winner of this 6:30 p.m. Saturday game on ESPNU will be a frontrunner for the conference division title and a berth in the league championship game.
Alabama A&M was pegged the team to beat in the division after former favorite Alcorn State opted to not play in the spring. The Bulldogs have lost to no teams this spring but have repeatedly suffered the frustration of having games postponed or canceled because of COVID-19 protocols.
A&M is 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference after outscoring Jackson State 52-43 last Saturday. Senior quarterback Aqeel Glass put up the most points for the Bulldogs against a Division I opponent in 12 years to notch the victory. For that, he was named Stats Perform FCS National Player of the Week and SWAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Glass connected on 27 of 40 passes with no interceptions and set career highs with 440 yards passing and six touchdowns. He added a seventh TD on the ground.
Senior wide receiver Zabrian Moore was the recipient of four of Glass’ tosses for 114 yards and a touchdown. The Bulldogs’ Troy Lendvay earned SWAC Specialist of the Week, punting four times for 163 yards, including a long of 53 yards.
Before beating the Tigers last week, coach Connell Maynor’s team’s only conference victory came via a forfeit by Alcorn State.
Alabama State, which beat Jackson State earlier this spring, tuned up for the Classic with a 42-17 win over Mississippi Valley State.
This time, the passing attack paced the Hornets (3-2 overall, 3-1 SWAC).
Quarterback Ryan Nettles, the SWAC Newcomer of the Week, threw for 305 yards on 20-for-34 passing. He ran seven times for 83 yards, including a long of 53 yards.
ASU’s Irshaad Davis was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Week. He led the Hornets in tackles for the third straight game, finishing with five solo stops, a pass breakup and a 14-yard return on an interception.
Davis also nearly teamed up for a touchdown on a fumble recovery.
Attendance at this spring Classic is limited to 17,500.
No. 10 JSU downed No. 16 Murray State 28-14 to claim its ninth OVC crown before joining the ASUN Conference in the fall.
Coach John Grass’ squad hopes to add a national championship to its parting prizes as it begins the national championship playoffs on the weekend of April 24-25. The FCS Playoff field has been reduced from 24 to 16 teams for the spring. There will be 11 automatic qualifiers, which will consist of the champions of every conference with the exception of the Ivy League and the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC).