Against the grain II

FAMU and JSU should not play in the OBC

Vaughn R. Wilson

The last two years, basically the SWAC title for football has been decided on Labor Day, for all practical purposes. 

FAMU and Jackson State played in the Orange Blossom Classic in 2021 and 2022 and both ended with the Rattlers losing and being on the outside looking in for the rest of the season.

Since he got to FAMU in 2018, Willie Simmons’ squads have been solid, never having a losing season after FAMU had about 10 years of losing seasons consecutively. The Rattlers have resurged and brought back the swag of the team, also winning two consecutive Florida Classic games against arch rival Bethune-Cookman University.

The identity of a Simmons-coached team is that they improve along the way. As the season goes on, the team appears to become stronger. The last two seasons, the Rattlers lost the first two games, then reeled off nine consecutive wins to close out the regular season.

By playing Jackson State at the beginning of the season, the best team overall the last two seasons of HBCU football, FAMU positioned itself from week one to be playing for the consolation prize.  There was no way JSU would lose two conference games. Meanwhile, the Rattlers closed out the last two seasons beating B-CU and looking like juggernauts.

The FAMU vs. JSU game should move back to the home-and-home arrangement. Hosting JSU in Tallahassee is a guaranteed sellout game and would bring great revenue to both FAMU and the City of Tallahassee.  It would also allow the Rattlers to have a home field advantage every other year.  With FAMU’s alumni traveling, every other year’s game at JSU would be packed to capacity as well.

Simmons has arguably his best team returning for 2023.  With several First Team All-SWAC and All-Americans returning, this could be the year for the Rattlers to break through in the SWAC, regardless of what any other school is doing.  With quarterback Jeremy Moussa having another year, along with his exciting receiver corps, a defense that returns Isaiah Major and a special teams squad that returns Jah’Marea Sheread, FAMU is loaded.

Just in case there are any reasons, like this year, that the team is not in full stride for the OBC, we need not have what has been the SWAC Eastern Division title game early on.  The Rattlers will have a much better chance to run the table in the SWAC, which I think should be a goal for the upcoming season, if the game against JSU is moved to later.

While coach Deion Sanders has moved on, coach TC Taylor returns a talented team at JSU.  Several more highly-rated athletes have committed and reinforced their commitment to play at JSU. To think JSU would drop off the map without Sanders is ridiculous. They will be good.  What FAMU needs to do is help itself and have that game slated for later in the season to ensure that the team is in top form and ready to take on the formidable opponent.

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