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Celebration Bowl 2017 by the numbers: Which team has a better chance to win?

In the N.C. A&T and Grambling matchup, one school is favored by 75 percent

North Carolina A&T (11-0) and Grambling (10-1) will meet in the third annual Celebration Bowl, the competition that determines the champion between the two most prominent HBCU conferences.

This game, which will be broadcast live on ABC from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday at noon, matches North Carolina A&T and Grambling, the two previous Celebration Bowl winners. Grambling won last year’s game over North Carolina Central 10-9, and North Carolina A&T beat Alcorn State 41-34 in 2015.

Grambling defeated Alcorn State 40-32 on Dec. 2 at NRG Stadium in Houston to win its second straight and 26th overall Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championship. The Tigers have won 15 historically black college or university (HBCU) national championships during the Sheridan Poll era (since 1920), the most of any school.

North Carolina A&T defeated North Carolina Central 24-10 on Nov. 18 to win its eighth Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship and is looking to become the first team in history to go undefeated. The Aggies have won four HBCU national championships during the Sheridan Poll era.

In the ESPN Football Power Index (FPI), N.C. A&T is given a 75 percent chance of winning. The FPI is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of a team’s performance. Projected results are based on 10,000 simulations using FPI, game results and the strength of schedule.

Here’s a look at both teams by the numbers.

Matchup Notes

Both teams enter the contest on 11-game winning streaks, the second-longest active winning streaks in the FCS.

Longest active win streaks in the Football Championship Subdivision

  • James Madison … 25
  • North Carolina A&T … 11
  • Grambling … 11

North Carolina A&T is one of two teams ranked in the top 10 in the FCS in both scoring offense and scoring defense. The Aggies are scoring 36.4 points per game while allowing just 12.3 points per game. Grambling ranks 22nd in the FCS in scoring offense (32.7 PPG) and ranks 28th in scoring defense (20.4 PPG allowed).


  • PPG 8th … 22nd
  • Opp PPG 3rd … 27th
  • Yards PG 22nd … 55th
  • Opp YPG 4th … 29th

Both teams make few mistakes with the football and get after the opposing quarterback. Grambling has lost 10 turnovers and leads the FCS with 3.9 sacks per game. N.C. A&T also has just 10 turnovers on the season and sacked the opposing quarterback 3.2 times per game.

FCS ranking


  • Turnovers Lost T-3rd … T-3rd
  • Team Sacks PG T-8th … 1st


  • North Carolina A&T is 11-0 and looking to become the first team in MEAC history to go undefeated (MEAC first played football in 1971; this would be N.C. A&T’s third undefeated season, after 1927 and 1943).
  • North Carolina A&T defeated FBS member University of North Carolina, Charlotte in September. It was the school’s second straight season with an FBS win, having beaten Kent State in 2016. The Aggies won their first outright MEAC championship since 2003 when they defeated rival North Carolina Central.
  • North Carolina A&T had a school-record 12 players make first team All-MEAC: seven players on offense, four players on defense and one on special teams.
  • Quarterback Lamar Raynard was named MEAC Offensive Player of the Year, marking the fourth straight year that an Aggie has won the award. Chicago Bears rookie running back Tarik Cohen won the award for North Carolina A&T the previous three years.


  • Just like N.C. A&T, the Grambling Tigers also come into the game riding an 11-game win streak. Their only loss of the season came in their season opener to FBS member Tulane.
  • Grambling defeated Alcorn State 40-32 on Dec. 2 at NRG Stadium in Houston to win its second straight and 26th overall SWAC championship. The Tigers have won 15 HBCU national championships during the Sheridan Poll era (since 1920), the most of any school.

Most HBCU National Championships – Sheridan Poll Era (since 1920) … Last

  • Grambling State 15 … 2016
  • Tennessee State 12 … 2013
  • Florida A&M 10 … 1998
  • Southern 9 … 2003
  • Tuskegee 8 … 2007
  • Morgan State 7 … 1967

Grambling’s pass rush has been excellent this season. The Tigers’ 47 sacks rank first in the FCS, while North Carolina A&T has 35 sacks, 11th in the FCS.

Players to watch


  • QB Lamar Raynard – MEAC Offensive Player of the Year, led MEAC in passing yards
  • RB Marquell Cartwright – First team All-MEAC, led MEAC in rushing yards
  • DL Darryl Johnson Jr. – First team All-MEAC; 15.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks


  • QB DeVante Kincade – Two-time SWAC Offensive Player of the Year
  • LB De’Arius Christman – SWAC Defensive Player of the Year
  • DB De’Aumante Johnson – First team All-SWAC; led SWAC with five interceptions

The legacy of coach Eddie Robinson

Few coaches in any collegiate sport are more synonymous with one program than Eddie Robinson is with Grambling football. The Hall of Fame coaching pioneer retired as the winningest coach in Division I football history (Penn State coach Joe Paterno eventually passed him). “Coach Rob” is still revered by those who played for him, and his achievements during his 55 years as Tigers head coach speak for themselves.

By the numbers – Eddie Robinson

  • 408 career wins (second most in Division I history)
  • 55 seasons as Grambling head coach (longest tenure in Division I history)
  • 19 SWAC championships (most by any coach)
  • 9 HBCU national championships (most all-time)

Coach Rod Broadway

Current North Carolina A&T head coach Rod Broadway will be a prominent character in this matchup, as he has coached and won HBCU national championships at both of these schools, as well as N.C. A&T’s chief rival, North Carolina Central.

Rod Broadway head coaching timeline


  • NC A&T 2011-current … 121-22
  • Grambling 2007-10 … 35-12
  • NC Central 2003-06 … 33-11

>> Won HBCU national championship at all three schools

2016 Celebration Bowl

Grambling 10, North Carolina Central 9

Offensive MVP: Martez Carter (Grambling): 201 all-purpose yards, 1 rush TD

Defensive MVP: Jameel Jackson (Grambling): 5 tackles, INT

Grambling was able to knock off North Carolina Central in a low-scoring affair. Grambling held a 10-3 lead when North Carolina Central scored a touchdown with 2:14 left in the game. After an excessive celebration penalty that pushed North Carolina Central back, Grambling blocked a game-tying extra point and held on for the victory.

Notable Alumni Athletes


  • Jesse Jackson Sr.: The civil rights leader, politician and minister played quarterback for the Aggies for a short time.


  • Doug Williams: 2001 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, first African-American quarterback to win Super Bowl (Super Bowl XXII MVP), 62-33 record in nine seasons as Grambling head coach.
  • Willis Reed: 1982 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, two-time NBA champion with the New York Knicks, 1969-70 NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, seven-time All-Star.

The MEAC & SWAC in the NFL Draft

Since integration allowed black athletes new opportunities at larger schools, the talent pool at HBCUs has dried up significantly. The MEAC and SWAC combined to have 11 first-rounders drafted in the first decade of the common draft era (since 1967) but have had just 10 such picks since.

MEAC and SWAC players drafted – NFL Common Draft Era (Since 1967)

1967-76 … since 1977

  • Drafts 10 … 41
  • Picks 273 … 290
  • First-rounders 11 … 10

>>52 total picks since 2000

The MEAC has not had a first-round NFL draft pick since 1996. The SWAC has not had a first-round draft pick since 2000.

Grambling has had 96 players selected during the common draft era, the most of any HBCU program. The last Tiger to be drafted was wide receiver Chad Williams, who was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round this past spring.

North Carolina A&T has had 20 players selected during the common draft era. The last Aggie to be drafted was also in 2017: Cohen, who was picked in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears.

Pro Football Hall of Famers

MEAC (school) – induction year

  • Marion Motley (South Carolina State) – 1968
  • Roosevelt Brown (Morgan State) – 1975
  • Len Ford (Morgan State) – 1976
  • **Deacon Jones (South Carolina State) – 1980
  • Willie Lanier (Morgan State) – 1986
  • Art Shell (Maryland Eastern Shore) – 1989
  • Larry Little (Bethune-Cookman) – 1993
  • Leroy Kelly (Morgan State) – 1994
  • Elvin Bethea (North Carolina A&T State) – 2003
  • Harry Carson (South Carolina State) – 2006
  • Bob Hayes (Florida A&M) – 2009
  • Shannon Sharpe (Savannah State) – 2011

**Transferred to Mississippi Valley State of the SWAC

SWAC (school) – induction year

  • ***Deacon Jones (Mississippi Valley State) – 1980
  • Willie Davis (Grambling State) – 1981
  • Willie Brown (Grambling State) – 1984
  • Ken Houston (Prairie View A&M) – 1986
  • Mel Blount (Southern) – 1989
  • Buck Buchanan (Grambling State) – 1990
  • Lem Barney (Jackson State) – 1992
  • Walter Payton (Jackson State) – 1993
  • Charlie Joiner (Grambling State) – 1996
  • Jackie Slater (Jackson State) – 2001
  • John Stallworth (Alabama A&M) – 2002
  • Emmitt Thomas (Bishop) – 2008
  • Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State) – 2010
  • Michael Strahan (Texas Southern) – 2014
  • Aeneas Williams (Southern) – 2014

***Transferred from South Carolina State of the MEAC

The bands

NORTH CAROLINA A&T’s The Blue and Gold Marching Machine began in 1918.

GRAMBLING’s World Famed Marching Band began in 1926, performed at Super Bowl I and Super Bowl IX and at George W. Bush’s 2001 presidential inauguration.