It's a familiar rivalry in a new classic setting.
On Saturday, the Morehouse College Maroon Tigers will travel to RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., to take on the Howard Bison in the inaugural AT&T Nation's Football Classic. Both schools, from conferences of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, have a great deal of pageantry and tradition.
Howard, from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference of the FCS, holds a 21-10-2 series lead. The Bison are coming off a disappointing 1-10 season a year ago and suffered a 41-9 thrashing to FBS opponent Eastern Michigan this past Sunday. It was a disappointing debut for new head coach Gary Harrell at his alma mater, albeit against superior competition.
In what many view as a rebuilding team in 2011, the Bison have a lot of young talent. Freshman quarterback Greg McGhee, who has good size at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, looked mature beyond his years in his first game, completing 15-of-27 attempts for 105 yards. He displayed good accuracy, but the offense stalled a lot because of the lack of a running game and downfield throws.
Defensively, the Bison feature linebacker Keith Pough. Although the Bison were beaten thoroughly at Eastern Michigan, the redshirt junior collected 14 tackles, including one sack and four tackles for loss.
Howard struggled against the run a week ago, but coming down in competition should be a great equalizer. The Bison's defensive line features redshirt senior end Sackie Kerkulah, who, like Pough, made the MEAC preseason first team.
Morehouse, from the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, finished 8-3 and reached the Division II playoff for the first time last year.
The Maroon Tigers come into the game off a 47-9 rout of rival Miles College at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala., Sunday. Coach Rich Freeman's squad dominated the action from the start and amassed 427 yards of total offense with a balanced attack.
The Maroon Tigers will try to establish the running game early and take pressure off quarterback Byron Ingram. Running back David Carter has returned from a 1,400-yard season and is one of the top running backs among HBCU schools.
Morehouse placed 11 players on the All-SIAC preseason team and was picked third in the East Division of the conference's preseason poll.
Prediction: This stands be an outstanding game. Howard has the edge in talent, but Morehouse has an edge in experience and coaching. If Howard can protect its young QB and find big plays in the passing game, it has a chance to win the first meeting in the series since 1997. But ... Morehouse 28, Howard 16.