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Stan Becton | | December 18, 2021

The final HBCU football power rankings for the 2021 season

Celebration Bowl MVP Shaq Davis discusses South Carolina State's victory over Jackson State

The 2021 HBCU football season is over and it's time to take a look at the final HBCU football power rankings from NCAA Digital's Stan Becton.

The rankings were done weekly throughout the regular season, sorting each HBCU football team at the FCS level based on their performances this season. Nicknamed The Road to Atlanta, the weekly power rankings led up to the annual meeting of HBCU football's two best teams at this year's Celebration Bowl held in Atlanta, GA.

MORE HBCU FOOTBALL: See all that's happened in the 2021 HBCU Football season

See the final power rankings below.

The final HBCU football power rankings for the 2021 season

1. Florida A&M | SWAC | 9-3

After much debate, Florida A&M gets the top spot in the final power rankings of the season. The Rattlers finished the season with a loss in the FCS playoffs after winning eight straight games to get there. 

Florida A&M played well against the other two teams in consideration for the top spot, Jackson State and South Carolina State; the Rattlers lost by just one point to Jackson State and blew out South Carolina State by 23 points, leading 27-0 through three quarters. It was a close call, but Florida A&M takes first in the season-ending power rankings.

2. South Carolina State | MEAC | 7-5 

The 2021 South Carolina State Bulldogs made history, bringing the first Celebration Bowl championship trophy back to Orangeburg. The Bulldogs pulled off the upset of the year, routing SWAC champion Jackson State.

2021 Celebration Bowl: How South Carolina State upset Jackson State in blowout fashion

3. Jackson State | SWAC | 12-2

After going undefeated against all FCS opponents entering the Celebration Bowl, Jackson State suffered its first loss in three months to end the season. Despite the loss, the Tigers — led by Eddie Robinson Award winner Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders, Jerry Rice Award winner Shedeur Sanders and a top defense in the FCS — accomplished a lot this season. Throw in the groundbreaking work on the recruiting trail, and Jackson State’s future remains bright.

TOP PLAYS: Here are the top-five plays from Shedeur Sanders' freshman year

4. Alabama A&M | SWAC | 7-3 

To start the season, Alabama A&M and quarterback Aqeel Glass looked like the dominant spring 2021 SWAC championship team. The Bulldogs looked the same to end the season too. However, a three-game losing streak in October shattered any dream of a repeat championship run. 

5. North Carolina Central | MEAC | 6-5

As the MEAC’s second-place team, North Carolina Central finished the season on a three-game winning streak. The Eagles lost by just three points to South Carolina State and beat Alcorn State in the season-opening MEAC/SWAC Challenge.

6. Alcorn State | SWAC | 6-5 

Alcorn State had an up and down season, going 1-3 in its last four games. However, quarterback Felix Harper and running back Niko Duffey kept the Braves in every game this season.

7. Prairie View A&M | SWAC | 7-5 

SWAC West champion Prairie View A&M lost its final four games to close the season. While one defeat came against FBS opponent Texas A&M, the Panthers struggled to find success as the season progressed.

8. Norfolk State | MEAC | 6-5

Three straight losses to end the season give Norfolk State a lackluster finish to a talented season. The Spartans had arguably the top offense in HBCU football led by quarterback Juwan Carter in 2021.

ALL-HBCU: The top players, by position, in the 2021 HBCU football season

9. Hampton | Big South | 5-6

Hampton finished 2-1 against FCS HBCU opponents this year, including a blowout victory over North Carolina A&T. Wide receiver Jadakis Bonds was a force against all opponents.

10. North Carolina A&T | Big South | 5-6 

North Carolina A&T struggled in its first year in the Big South. However, the Aggies hold wins over North Carolina Central and South Carolina State. Those wins keep North Carolina A&T on the edge of the top-10 to end the season.

11. Delaware State | MEAC | 5-6 

Delaware State showed promise this season despite the losing record. The Hornets have a star in safety Esaias Guthrie.

12. Tennessee State | Ohio Valley | 5-6

Entering November, Tennessee State had a chance to move into first place in the OVC. Instead, the Tigers lost their final three games. However, a four-game winning streak in the middle of the season gives rookie head coach Eddie George something to build upon next year.

13. Southern | SWAC | 4-7

At some points this season, Southern looked like a team that could compete for a SWAC championship. At other points, it looked like it had no chance. This inconsistency puts the Jaguars 13th in the final power rankings.

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14. Mississippi Valley State | SWAC | 3-7 

Mississippi Valley State had its best season since 2012 by winning three games. That was enough to earn head coach Vincent Dancy a contract extension through 2023.

15. Grambling State | SWAC | 4-7 

Grambling State fired its coach midseason and things went downhill from there. The Tigers redshirted quarterback Noah Bodden midseason despite solid play from the true freshman. Now former NFL coach Hue Jackson takes over, looking to right the ship.

16. Alabama State | SWAC | 5-6

Alabama State finished 5-6, but two of its wins were against Division II opponents. The Hornets will have a new head coach entering next year.

17. Texas Southern | SWAC | 3-9

Texas Southern finished the season 3-9 but might’ve found its quarterback of the future in Andrew Body.

THE BEST: Here are the greatest individual seasons in HBCU football history 

18. Bethune-Cookman | SWAC | 2-9 

Bethune-Cookman defeated Alcorn State and Grambling State to win two of its final three games. Unfortunately, the one-loss over the span was in the Florida Classic against rival Florida A&M.

19. Howard | MEAC | 3-8

Howard’s season did not end as planned, but it holds a win over NEC champion and FCS playoff team Sacred Heart. The Bison played many of the top MEAC teams close, but they will need to learn how to close games in the future.

20. Arkansas-Pine Bluff | SWAC | 2-9

Arkansas-Pine Bluff lost seven straight games in the middle of the season before picking up a win against Grambling State. It was a rough season after winning the SWAC West in the spring.

21. Morgan State | MEAC | 2-9

Morgan State won two of its final three games to end the season, but with only one HBCU win, it sits at the bottom of the 2021 season-ending power rankings.

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