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Road to the Celebration Bowl

North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State face off in black college national championship

In the Celebration Bowl on ABC this Saturday from Atlanta

The best of the best face-off Saturday in what is considered the national championship of black college football. North Carolina A&T will meet Alcorn State at noon in the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta. The game will be broadcast on ABC.

It’s a rematch of last season’s bowl game, won by N.C. A&T 24-22, and it’s the third time these two teams have played in the five-year history of the bowl game. This season, N.C. A&T has one of the most potent running attacks in the FCS, while Alcorn State’s defense led FCS in interceptions and turnovers.

  • When: Saturday
  • Game time: Noon on ABC
  • Where: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta

The N.C. A&T Aggies, representing the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC), won the inaugural game in 2015, 41-34 over Alcorn State. Thanks to its 2017 Celebration Bowl victory over Grambling State, N.C. A&T has three black college football titles in the last 10 years.

Alcorn State (9-2) has been the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champion in four of the last six years. It has won 13 SWAC titles and five black college football titles, including in 2014. Alcorn State is also known for quarterback Steve “Air” McNair, the 1994 Heisman Trophy finalist and former NFL quarterback with the Tennessee Titans. McNair’s older brother, Fred, is the Braves’ head coach today, and has coached them to two consecutive Celebration Bowls.

For fans of historically black college bands, halftime performances will feature the Blue and Gold Marching Machine from N.C. A&T, the No. 1 band in the final ESPN/The Undefeated Band Rankings this season, and Alcorn State’s Sounds of Dyn-O-mite Marching Band.

Top players for N.C. A&T

North Carolina A&T’s Jah-Maine Martin (30) breaks away from Duke’s Tre Hornbuckle (59) during the second half of a college football game this season.

Karl B. DeBlaker/AP Photo

  • Running back Jah-Maine Martin, the FCS leader in rushing yards per carry with more than 1,400 yards this season. He’s a finalist for Black College Football Player of the Year.
  • Wide receiver Elijah Bell, the school’s all-time leader in receiving touchdowns.
  • Defensive back Franklin McCain III, defensive lineman Jermaine McDaniel, linebacker Justin Cates.

Top players for Alcorn State

Alcorn State quarterback Felix Harper (2) carries the ball against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets during the first half at Bobby Dodd Stadium last season.

Adam Hagy/USA TODAY Sports

  • Quarterback Felix Harper, who threw for 29 touchdowns and 2,387 passing yards this season.
  • Linebacker Solomon Muhammad, all-conference linebacker who led the team in tackles and sacks.
  • Running backs De’Shawn Waller and Niko Duffey, who combined to rush for more than 1,300 yards this season.

John X. Miller is the senior HBCU editor for Andscape. He's a father, jazz aficionado and die-hard UNC basketball fan.