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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | September 5, 2022

HBCU football power rankings: Shedeur Sanders leads Jackson State to No. 1 after Week 1

FCS football season preview: Players to watch, potential upsets and more

HBCU is back into the full swing of things. That means we have our first power rankings of the 2022 regular season.

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

Check out the rankings below.

1. Jackson State | SWAC | 1-0 (1-0) | Prev: 1

Jackson State put HBCUs, the FCS and college football fans everywhere on notice with its 59-3 rout of Florida A&M on national TV. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders was nearly perfect through the air and set a new Jackson State single-game passing touchdown record behind a revamped offensive line. The Tigers remain in the top spot.

THEE: How No. 17 Jackson State dominated Florida A&M in the Orange Blossom Classic

2. South Carolina State | MEAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 3

As you'll notice throughout this week and future week's rankings, FBS losses won't hurt an HBCU team's power ranking unless it fails to put up a fight. While South Carolina State lost 56-10, a third-quarter touchdown from quarterback Corey Fields to wide receiver Shaq Davis could be a preview of an elite tandem in 2022.

3. North Carolina Central | MEAC | 1-0 (0-0) | Prev: 8

North Carolina Central jumps five spots in Week 1's power rankings after finally ending its losing streak to rival North Carolina A&T. Having a returning quarterback clearly worked in North Carolina Central's favor as Davius Richard accounted for all four Eagle touchdowns. The Eagles have now won four straight games dating back to last season.

2022 HBCU: Follow everything that happens in the 2022 HBCU football season

4. Alcorn State | SWAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 6

Thanks to three teams falling from the top five, Alcorn State rises two spots to No. 4. The Braves put up a strong fight against the then-No. 10 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, leading in the fourth quarter. Alcorn State also appears to have found a two-headed monster in its backfield as Jarveon Howard and Niko Duffey look like a great 1-2 punch.

5. Southern | SWAC | 1-0 (0-0) | Prev: 7

Southern put up 86 points — yes, you read that right — in Week 1, but it was against an NAIA opponent. Despite the quality of competition, such a high-scoring effort remains impressive enough to hold off the next two teams on this list. 

6. Tennessee State | OVC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 9

After nearly knocking off a perennial FCS power in No. 12 Eastern Washington, Tennessee State rises three spots in this week's rankings. Quarterback Draylen Ellis showed he's a true dual-threat and he, along with running back Devon Starling, create a rushing attack that should give teams challenges throughout the year.

CLASSICS: Here's every 2022 HBCU football classic in the FCS

7. Alabama A&M | SWAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 4

Earlier, I said, "FBS losses won't hurt an HBCU team's power ranking unless it fails to put up a fight". Alabama A&M scored zero points against UAB, which is enough for it to drop three spots in this week's power rankings. As the Bulldogs went scoreless, teams 3-6 showed flashes of potential — even in losses. After Week 1, I still have questions about the future of Alabama A&M's offense without former quarterback Aqeel Glass.

8. North Carolina A&T | Big South | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 5

North Carolina A&T falls from the top five after losing the Aggie-Eagle Classic. The Aggies still have a chance to live up to the preseason hype when it reaches conference play, but with defending national champion North Dakota State up next on the schedule, things could get worse before they get better in Greensboro.

PAST RANKINGS: Preseason

9. Prairie View A&M | SWAC | 1-0 (1-0) | Prev: 10

The defending SWAC West champions began the season by defeating their rival in the Labor Day Classic. Prairie View A&M moves up one spot thanks to another team falling, but I can't move the Panthers up any higher since they completed more passes to the opposing team than they did to their own receivers.

10. Florida A&M | SWAC | 0-2 (0-1) | Prev: 2

"Fight back!" That might be what you heard on Sunday afternoon if you were sitting next to a Florida A&M fan who was watching the 59-3 loss. It was an "embarrassing" defeat according to head coach Willie Simmons. So embarrassing, that Florida A&M drops eight spots in the power rankings.

11. Alabama State | SWAC | 2-0 (0-0) | Prev: 15

Alabama State has the best record of any FCS HBCU football program thanks to its Week 0 and Week 1 wins. The Hornets beat Howard in Week 0 in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge, overcoming the adversity of three weather delays. In Week 1, Alabama State faced adversity yet again as quarterback Dematrius Davis left the game in the first quarter with an injury. The Hornets still won that game, despite six turnovers. Alabama State will need to clean that up as it faces tougher competition down the road.

SWARM: Click or tap here to see how Alabama State won the 2022 MEAC/SWAC Challenge

12. Delaware State | MEAC | 1-0 (0-0) | Prev: 12

Delaware State played well in Week 1, shutting out Division II HBCU opponent Lincoln (PA) 34-0. It was a solid showing that keeps it consistent in the rankings. When considering Lincoln only has won three games since 2016, I'll take it with a grain of salt.

13. Norfolk State | MEAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 11

Why did I drop Norfolk State even though its loss came to an FBS opponent? Because the Spartans didn't score a touchdown and barely gained over 100 offensive yards. Also, the two teams at 11 and 12 played well enough to knock Norfolk State from its spot. However, the FBS loss still wasn't enough to drop Norfolk State below the next team in my rankings.

14. Hampton | CAA | 1-0 (0-0) | Prev: 14

Hampton defeated Howard, its first of two FBS HBCU opponents it will play in 2022. Unfortunately, that win wasn't enough to bump the Pirates up from their previous position in the power rankings. The teams ahead of Hampton didn't do enough to fall below the Pirates, nor did Hampton — thanks to allowing a late fourth-quarter rally — do enough to move past said teams.

CAN'T MISS: 6 HBCU football game-day atmospheres that you need to experience

15. Bethune-Cookman | SWAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 17

We now enter a string of 0-1 teams. Bethune-Cookman leads the pack because it scored 13 points on a ranked FBS team.

16. Grambling State | SWAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 13

In Grambling State's first game of the Hue Jackson era, it racked up 15 penalties while only scoring three points. The Tigers lost to an FBS opponent in Arkansas State so that keeps them from dropping any more than three spots. Grambling State fell more from what other teams did to move past it rather than what it didn't do.

17. Mississippi Valley State | SWAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 18

Mississippi Valley State lost to FCS opponent Tarleton State in a game where the offensive line struggled. However, the Delta Devils moved up one spot thanks to another team falling.

18. Texas Southern | SWAC | 0-1 (0-1) | Prev: 19

Texas Southern lost to Prairie View A&M in yet another Labor Day Classic. The Tigers did nothing to surpass another team in the rankings, but they moved up with another team falling below.

MEAC VS SWAC: 16 of the best MEAC/SWAC Challenge moments

19. Arkansas-Pine Bluff | SWAC | 1-0 (0-0) | Prev: 20

"But they won!" That's the first thing you probably think when you see Arkansas-Pine Bluff ranked 19th this week. All wins aren't the same, especially when it takes a fourth-quarter stop to beat a Division II team that didn't finish above .500 in its own conference in 2021. 

20. Howard | MEAC | 0-2 (0-0) | Prev: 16

Howard drops four spots in Week 1's power rankings as the Bison have the worst record in all of FCS HBCU football. However, Howard still showed enough fight in its two losses to keep it out of last place. The Bison showed signs of life late, scoring 22 fourth-quarter points behind four passing touchdowns from quarterback Quinton Williams — two went to 6’7’’ tight end Christian Carter.

21. Morgan State | MEAC | 0-1 (0-0) | Prev: 21

Morgan State lost to FBS opponent Georgia Southern. Despite a solid first-half showing, the Bears' second-half performance keeps them at the bottom of this week's power rankings.

🏆: HBCU football championship history

Biggest risers

  • North Carolina Central: +5
  • Alabama State: +4
  • Tennessee State: +3

Biggest fallers

  • Florida A&M: -8
  • Howard: -4
  • North Carolina A&T: -3
     

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