It’s a battle of the Tigers on FCS Saturday when Jackson State heads to Louisiana to take on Grambling at 1 p.m. ET.
This will be the first game since November 2019 for Grambling, while Jackson State is 1-0 after winning its spring opener in a 53-0 beatdown of Edward Waters, a Division II school.
If you’re betting online on this Southwestern Athletic Conference game, the host Grambling has opened as a 10½-point favorite, with an over-under set at 50½ points.
Jackson State: All About Prime Time
Jackson State, a historically black college, gained name recognition when NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders paused his media career to become the head coach of the program, making major college football news. This move is a sign of things to come, an investment in a big name in the hopes that Jackson State can bring in bigger recruits with dreams of playing in the NFL.
The team finished 4-8 in 2019 and hasn’t had a winning record since 2013. The blowout win to start the year was a good start, and Jackson State is right on the bubble of being ranked, receiving 22 votes in the latest poll.
As tends to be the case, we shouldn’t glean too much from a win over a Division II school. It was a dominant effort. The defense only allowed 104 total yards of offense, while Jackson State’s offense did as it pleased.
Quarterback Jalon Jones led the way, completing 17-of-19 passes for 163 yards and three touchdowns, tacking on an additional 39 rushing yards and a score with his legs.
While the competition was subpar, it did show the depth and playmakers the Tigers have. Running back Kymani Clarke ran for 92 yards and two scores, while wide receivers Warren Newman and Daylen Baldwin each surpassed 70 receiving yards and found paydirt.
Jackson State has lost five consecutive matchups with Grambling, getting outscored 214-118 in the process, but it will look to beat the college football odds with a win in this one.
Grambling: Steady SWAC Presence
Grambling is coming off a 6-5 season in 2019 and making its spring opening at home this weekend. The record was good for second in the SWAC, continuing its streak of not finishing worse than second since 2014.
Quarterback Geremy Hickbottom is back for his senior season, offering the experience and leadership that could help Grambling win the SWAC title once again. Last season, the dual-threat Hickbottom completed 60% of his passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for another 668 yards and six scores.
Elsewhere on the offense, the biggest returning name is likely offensive lineman Kyree Wade-McLeod, who was named Preseason All-Conference.
The identity of these Tigers last year was their defense, allowing a conference-best 22.4 points per game to the opposition. The defense is led by defensive back Kenan Fontenot, the other All-Conference member of this team. Fontenot was a part of a defensive backfield in 2019 that picked off the quarterback 17 times in just 11 games.
Jackson State quarterback Jalon Jones threw six interceptions in limited action a season ago; his ball-security will be a story to watch against this ball-hawking secondary.
Grambling has had Jackson State’s number for years now. While Sanders is a big name and, if dedicated, could turn this program around, it won’t happen overnight.
Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said it best earlier this week: “We’re not playing Deion Sanders; we’re playing Jackson State.”
Don’t get caught up in the story of Sanders. Here’s wishing him well, but the pick for Saturday is Grambling. When you do your college football betting this weekend, take the host to cover the 10½-point spread.