A few upsets across the MEAC this weekend helped improve N.C. Central’s chances of returning to the conference’s postseason bowl on Dec. 16.
When the Eagles lost to Norfolk State, 28-21, at home on Oct. 21, their goal of winning a fourth straight MEAC was still obtainable, so was a return to the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta, but that picture wasn’t as clear.
But Bethune-Cookman and Savannah State did N.C. Central some favors this past weekend. The Wildcats upset Hampton, which was previously undefeated in the MEAC, 24-21, while Savannah State knocked off Norfolk State, 27-9, handing the Spartans their second conference loss. That leaves N.C. Central, Hampton and Howard, all 4-1 in the MEAC, in a tie for second place in the league. N.C. Central, which defeated Delaware State, 42-14, this past weekend, travels to Hampton on Saturday for the first matchup between the two schools since 2014.
That game will basically serve as an elimination game. The loser will then have two losses, making it difficult to share the league title. However, there is precedent for a split with at least two losses. In 2014, there was a five-way share for the MEAC title.
The Eagles do control their own destiny this season, though. If they win the rest of their three games, they’re guaranteed at least a share of the MEAC title.
North Carolina A&T, which hosts N.C. Central on Nov. 18, remains the lone undefeated team in the league at 5-0. The Eagles need to beat the Aggies – and some other things need to happen – for NCCU to get back to the Celebration Bowl.
Howard would need to lose another game for the Eagles to return to Atlanta. N.C. Central defeated Howard, 13-7, on Oct. 7. Howard rounds out the season at Florida A&M, followed by consecutive home games versus Norfolk State, then Hampton.
N.C. Central has to take care of its own business, too. After the road trip to Hampton, the Eagles host Bethune-Cookman. The Wildcats (2-2) have never lost in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium and defeated N.C. Central 28-26 in 2015, costing the Eagles an outright title.
The perfect scenario for N.C. Central would be to win its next three games, and for both Howard and N.C. A&T to lose multiple times before Nov. 18.
NCCU Celebration Bowl scenarios
Best-case scenario: NCCU wins out, Howard and A&T lose multiple games before the end of the regular season.
Best-case (reality) scenario: NCCU wins out, Howard loses one game in final three weeks, Eagles’ game against N.C. A&T on Nov. 18 turns into MEAC title game.
A-share-of-the-MEAC-title scenario: NCCU and Howard win out, creates three-way tie for MEAC title with one loss N.C. A&T.
Worst-case scenario: NCCU loses any game in the final three weeks of the season.