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Wayne Staats | NCAA.com | December 15, 2018

Alcorn State-North Carolina A&T: Celebration Bowl prediction, time, TV channel, preview

Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T play in the 2018 Celebration Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 15, at Atlanta. Below, find game time, TV channel, prediction and preview information.

The Aggies are playing for their second consecutive Celebration Bowl title and third in four years. Alcorn State is playing in it for the first time since 2015, when it lost to NC A&T, 41-34.

Alcorn State-North Carolina A&T: Celebration Bowl Time, TV channel

North Carolina A&T and Alcorn State play at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday, Dec. 15. The game is played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. It can be watched on ABC.

MORE: Alcorn State-North Carolina A&T score, live stats

Alcorn State-North Carolina A&T: Prediction, preview

NC A&T is back in the Celebration Bowl, trying to win for the third time in its four years.

The Aggies almost didn't make it back, however. NC A&T needed to beat North Carolina Central and have Florida A&M lose to rival Bethune-Cookman to win the MEAC. But that's what happened: NC A&T won 45-0 and the Rattlers lost, 33-19. The Aggies had earlier lost to Florida A&M during the regular season, 22-21.

North Carolina A&T, which also beat FBS East Carolina this season (28-23), ranks second in FCS in total defense at 254.3 yards per game. But Alcorn State will be a huge test, as the Braves average 475.2 offensive yards per game. NC A&T did well in the first game of the season, holding a Jacksonville State offense that ended up ranking No. 5 in total offense (497.3 ypg) to almost 100 yards lower than its season average. The Aggies also recovered three fumbles in the 20-17 win.

Alcorn State clinched its spot in the Celebration Bowl by defeating Southern in the SWAC Championship Game, 37-28. The Braves have two players who have combined for 2,008 rushing yards: RB De'Shawn Waller (1,048 yards) and QB Noah Johnson (960 yards). The Aggies have a 1,000-yard rusher of their own in RB Marquell Cartwright (1,048 yards). Cartwright was the Celebration Bowl Offensive MVP a year ago.

But this game will come down to the Aggies' defense against the Braves' offense. Alcorn State has a tough defense of its own, but that battle will be the difference. Alcorn State will try to keep MEAC Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Johnson in check.

Both teams are led by first-year head coaches: Sam Washington for NC A&T and Fred McNair for Alcorn State.

Alcorn State-North Carolina A&T: Stats, how they compare

North Carolina A&T Stat/Leader Alcorn State
9-2 (6-1 MEAC) Record (Conference) 9-3 (6-1 SWAC)
No. 11 FCS Coaches Poll Ranking NR
30.6 Points per game 33.5
13.5 Points allowed 21.3
369.5 Yards per game 475.2
182.2 Passing ypg 192.9
187.3 Rushing ypg 282.3
254.3 Yards allowed per game 288.7
181.6 Passing yards allowed 193.0
72.6 Rushing yards allowed 95.7
Lamar Raynard
1,630 yards (18 TDs, 5 INTs)
Passing yards Noah Johnson
2,079 yards (15 TDs, 8 INTs)
Marquell Cartwright
1,002 yards, 7 TDs
Rushing yards De'Shawn Waller
1,048 yards, 12 TDs
Zachary Leslie
557 yards, 8 TDs
Receiving yards Raidarious Anderson
502 yards, 3 TDs
Darryl Johnson
18.5 tfl, 10.5 sacks
Defensive leader Trey Whittington
14 tfl, 9 sacks

Celebration Bowl: Scores, history

The Celebration Bowl started in 2015, with North Carolina A&T winning two of the first three games.

Date MEAC Team Score SWAC team Series
Dec. 19, 2015 North Carolina A&T 41-34 A&T Alcorn State MEAC, 1-0
Dec. 17, 2016 North Carolina Central 10-9 Grambling State Grambling State Tied, 1-1
Dec. 16, 2017 North Carolina A&T 21-14 A&T Grambling State MEAC, 2-1
Dec. 15, 2018 North Carolina A&T TBD Alcorn State TBD

Alcorn State-North Carolina A&T: Score prediction

The Aggies have become a force in this game. It probably won't change this year, though Alcorn State has the offense to make NC A&T have to battle for four quarters.

NC A&T 24, Alcorn State 21