The 2017 Celebration Bowl will feature the top two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) football teams in the country.
The previous two winners of the bowl game—MEAC champions North Carolina A&T State University (2015) and SWAC champions Grambling State University (2016) will face off at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Dec. 16 at noon.
Both teams will bring high-scoring offences to this game. The North Carolina A&T Aggies (11-0) average 36.4 points and 429.5 yards per game led by quarter Lamar Raynard. The red shirt junior has thrown for 2,707 yards (246.1 average per game) on 186 completions out of 285 attempts. He has 26 touchdowns passes and five interceptions. He also rushed for 168 yards this season and scored three touchdowns.
Raynard will have a few weapons around him, including team-leading running back Marquell Cartwright. The red shirt junior rushed for 1,080 yards this season on 224 attempts and scored 13 touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Elijah Bell will try to find open spots in the Grambling defense. Bell led the receiving core in catches (54) yards (858) and touchdowns (11) this season.
The Grambling State Tigers (11-1) led the SWAC in scoring with 32.7 points per game and was fourth in total offense with 369.9. Senior quarterback Devante Kincade led the offense with 2,947 total yards—2,632 passing and 315 rushing. He has thrown 21 touchdowns and was only picked off three times. He has six rushing touchdowns on the season.
Kincade will try to spread the ball around like he has done all season. Four receivers have 20 or more receptions for 300-plus yards—Darrell Clark (41 catches, 489 yards), Martez Carter (30 catches, 354 yards) Quintin Guice (26 catches, 357 yards) and Calief Samon (25 catches, 345 yards).
The Tigers will also lean on Carter to run the ball well. The senior running back has rushed for 842 yards this season on 161 attempts and scored 10 touchdowns.
Grambling is also bringing the second scoring defense in the SWAC to the Celebration Bowl. The Tigers gave allowed an average of 20.4 points a game this season.
Senior linebacker De’Arius Christmas led the defense this season with 79 total tackles (42 solo) and 14.5 tackles for a loss. Junior defensive lineman La’Allan Clark leads the team in sacks with 7.5.
For the Aggies, the defense has allowed only 12.3 points this season. Senior linebacker Jeremy Taylor leads the defense with 65 total tackles (46 solo) and five interceptions.
The Celebration Bowl will air on ESPN.
Photo credit: TheCelebrationBowl.com