2018 Celebration Bowl Game Breakdown

2018 Celebration Bowl
North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State at Atlanta
North Carolina A&T needed a lot of help to even make the Celebration Bowl. Dodging a werewolf-like bullet losing to Morgan State, which didn’t count in the MEAC standings, the Aggies lost weeks later at home to Florida A&M. Going into the final week of the regular season, a Florida A&M victory over Bethune-Cookman would have clinched the deal for the Rattlers. Hold on, not so fast. A late pick-six sealed the deal in the other direction. A&T leans heavily on their #2 ranked defense in the FCS. Defensive lineman Darryl Johnson plays a large role in that with 10.5 sacks on the season. That makes for a lot of havoc. Timadre Abram and Franklin McCain III are a legit shutdown combo in the back. The offense has had a rough season, but quarterback Lamar Raynard is good enough throwing the ball, with his 18-5 TD-INT ratio, to keep defenses honest and totally focusing on running back Marquell Cartwright.
Alcorn State is not to be outdone defensively, at least by much, as they rank #6 overall in the FCS. And they have their own version of havoc creators in Trey Whittington (9 sacks) and Sterling Shippy (8). Quarterback Noah Johnson’s passing is very similar in efficiency but a little more results oriented yardage-wise. The big difference is that Johnson has also rushed for just short of 1,000 yards this season. This is a supplement to running backs De’Shawn Waller (1,048 yards) and P.J. Simmons (729). This ground attack leaves the Braves in possession of the ball over 33 minutes per game. That keeps the defense even fresher and more dynamic.
This is a really tough game to call. Alcorn State lost two of their three games to FBS opponents. And one of those, they only lost by ten to New Mexico State, 52-42. Overall though, their wins in the Southwestern Athletic are probably weaker than the victories afforded to North Carolina A&T in the Mid-Eastern. Not only that, the Aggies’ two biggest games this season, the kickoff season game versus Jacksonville State and at FBS East Carolina, they won. Not to mention winning everything down the stretch, after putting their backs against the wall with the Florida A&M loss. Statistically, most of these signs point toward Alcorn State. But this is a big game situation, with extra time to prepare. And these are the situations that A&T thrives in.
Prediction: North Carolina A&T 21, Alcorn State 17