Jackson State (7-4) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (9-2)
The Sports Network
By Tim McDonnell, FCS Assistant
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Dec. 8, 1:02 p.m. ET
FACTS & STATS: Event: SWAC Championship. Annual: 14th. Site: Legion Field (72,000) -- Birmingham, Ala. Surface: Artificial Turf. Television: ESPNU. Announcers: Joe Davis, Jay Walker. Home Record: Jackson State 3-1; Arkansas- Pine Bluff 3-1. Away Record: Jackson State 4-2; Arkansas-Pine Bluff 5-1. Neutral Record: Jackson State 0-1; Arkansas-Pine Bluff 1-0. Current Win/Loss Streak: Jackson State 5W; Arkansas-Pine Bluff 6W. Series Record: Jackson State (21-12). Last Meeting: Oct. 6, 2012 (Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 34-24 at Arkansas- Pine Bluff). Series Streak: The teams have split the last 10 meetings. Nicknames: Jackson State Tigers; Arkansas Pine Bluff Golden Lions. Sheridan Broadcasting Network Poll Rankings: Jackson State (6); Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2). Heritage Sports Radio Network Poll Rankings: Jackson State (9); Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2). Sports Network Rankings: Jackson State (NR); Arkansas- Pine Bluff (32). All-Time Records: Jackson State (421-252-16, since 1946); Arkansas-Pine Bluff (357-406-42). Head Coaches: Jackson State - Rick Comegy (6th year, 48-30 at Jackson State, 21st year, 156-81 Overall); Arkansas-Pine Bluff - Monte Coleman (5th year, 28-27 at Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Overall). Previous SWAC Championship Appearances: Jackson State 3 (1999, 2007-08); Arkansas Pine Bluff 1 (2006). SWAC Championship Record: Jackson State (1-2); Arkansas-Pine Bluff (0-1). All-Time SWAC Football Championships: Jackson State 16 (1961-62, 72-73, 75, 80-82, 85-88, 90, 95-96, 2007); Arkansas-Pine Bluff 1 (1966). SWAC Championship Division Record: Western Division owns a 10-3 record over the Eastern Division and has won the last four years. 2011 SWAC Championship Result: Grambling State def. Alabama A&M, 16-15.
GAME NOTES: Although the FCS playoffs take center stage this weekend, Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State still have a lot to play for, with the SWAC title up for grabs in Birmingham, Ala.
UAPB is making its first appearance in the championship game since 2006 and the Golden Lions have arguably been the most consistent SWAC team this season. Offensively, Arkansas-Pine Bluff is fairly balanced, averaging 204 rushing yards per game and 196 passing yards per game. Justin Billings (768 yards, five touchdowns) and Dennis Jenkins (539 yards, four touchdowns) offer a nice one-two combo for quarterback Ben Anderson, who leads the team and ranks second in the SWAC in total offense with 236 yards per game.
Jackson State's last SWAC title came in 2007 - the 16th in program history - and the Tigers earned a berth in the contest this season despite having a 2-4 record after a 34-24 loss versus Arkansas-Pine Bluff on Oct. 6.
JSU ranks second in the SWAC in total offense with 406 yards per game and sets the tone on the ground with running backs Rakeem Sims and Tommy Gooden, who have combined for 1,262 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns.
Wide receiver Rico Richardson was named the SWAC's offensive player of the year and has 56 receptions for 1,081 yards and 10 touchdowns in 11 games.
Jackson State and UAPB are led on defense by two outstanding pass rushers in Joseph LeBeau and Brandon Thurmond, respectively. Both have put up ridiculous numbers, while Thurmond has recorded 63 tackles, an FCS-high 15.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss, and LeBeau has registered 20.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks.
There should be a great crowd for this game in Birmingham, especially because both schools unexpectedly reached the title game this season. Expect a defensive battle, and for each team to try to establish the run game early on.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas-Pine Bluff 30, Jackson State 22.
12/05 15:03:25 ET