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Stan Becton | NCAA.com | September 19, 2022

Undefeated start boosts North Carolina Central in HBCU football Week 4 power rankings

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

Impressive wins carried three new teams into the top five of Week 4's HBCU football power rankings.

These will be done weekly throughout the regular season, as I sort 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.

The Road to Atlanta: Week 4 HBCU Football Power Rankings

Biggest movers in Week 4
Spots Moved Team
+6 Hampton
+5 Texas Southern
+3 Alcorn State, Morgan State
-4 Southern
-8 Alabama A&M

1. Jackson State | SWAC | 3-0 (2-0) | Prev: 1

Although Jackson State led Grambling State 21-17 at halftime, three turnovers and the tight game led to a visibly and audibly frustrated coach Deion Sanders.

What Coach Prime said in the locker room to his team worked as Jackson State outscored Grambling State 45-7 in the second half. That's now two dominant SWAC wins by a 49-point average margin of victory.

RECAP: Here's what you may have missed in Week 3 of HBCU football

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

North Carolina Central is the highest-ranked MEAC team after defeating New Hampshire 45-27. By some accounts — not the FCS Coaches Poll — the Eagles beat a ranked team, adding another notch to their undefeated start. Quarterback Davius Richard appears to have taken the next leap after rushing for the most yards (140) of any Eagle quarterback in 23 years. 

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

South Carolina State had a bye in Week 3, but still dropped a spot in this week's power rankings. This is not a drop because of anything the Bulldogs did or didn't do, but rather a drop based on what North Carolina Central has done.

4. Alcorn State | SWAC | 1-2 (0-0) | Prev: 7

Alcorn State became the first SWAC team to ever defeat McNeese after a 30-19 win that the Braves controlled throughout. That's a standout non-conference win before the Braves enter HBCU conference play. Alcorn State's losses are to an FBS team and a four-point loss to a then-10th ranked Stephen F. Austin, showing that the Braves can compete at a high level.

PAST RANKINGS: Preseason | Week 2 | Week 3

5. Hampton | CAA | 3-0 (0-0) | Prev: 11

Hampton has completed its 2022 games against HBCU opponents undefeated with two wins over FCS HBCUs. With CAA play on the horizon, the Pirates can remain high in the rankings if they can surprise in their new conference.

6. Tennessee State | OVC | 0-3 (0-0) | Prev: 5

Tennessee State lost to FBS opponent Middle Tennessee State and is winless, but the Tigers remained sixth because none of the other top 10 teams did enough to surpass them.

7. Prairie View A&M | SWAC | 1-2 (1-0) | Prev: 6

Prairie View A&M has lost two straight games since defeating Texas Southern to open the season. However, that season-opening season win is enough to keep the Panthers over the next team on this list, since both teams have a common opponent.

8. Southern | SWAC | 1-2 (0-1) | Prev: 4

I don't think anyone predicted Southern not scoring a point against Texas Southern, but that's exactly what happened in Week 3. Such a loss drops the Jaguars four spots in the rankings. Southern has yet to live up to preseason expectations, with its only win coming against an NAIA program this year.

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9. Florida A&M | SWAC | 1-2 (0-1) | Prev: 9

Florida A&M was on a bye this week. No team did enough to knock the Rattlers from the top 10.

10. Alabama State | SWAC | 2-1 (0-0) | Prev: 10

Alabama State was on a bye this week. No team did enough to knock the Hornets from the top 10.

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

11. Delaware State | MEAC | 2-1 (0-0) | Prev: 14

Delaware State is 2-1, but neither win has come against an FCS opponent. The quality of wins is what's keeping the Hornets out of the top 10.

12. Grambling State | SWAC | 1-2 (0-1) | Prev: 12

Grambling State played tough in the first half against Jackson State, but ran out of gas in the second, leading to a blowout. The Tigers showed enough fight that they stand pat in the power rankings.

13. Texas Southern | SWAC | 1-2 (1-1) | Prev: 18

Texas Southern picked up a huge win with its shutout of Southern. The win is impressive but a Week 1 loss to Prairie View A&M keeps the Tigers from rising any higher.

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14. North Carolina A&T | Big South | 0-3 (0-0) | Prev: 13

Another loss for North Carolina A&T, this time to Duke. However, hope isn't lost for the Aggies with South Carolina State coming to town this week.  A win in Week 4 could revitalize North Carolina A&T's season.

15. Arkansas-Pine Bluff | SWAC | 2-1 (0-0) | Prev: 16

Arkansas-Pine Bluff lost to Oklahoma State in Week 3, a top-10 FBS team. The Golden Lions will finally play an FCS opponent in Week 4, giving a better gauge of how good this team can be.

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16. Alabama A&M | SWAC | 0-3 (0-0) | Prev: 8

Alabama A&M played its first FCS opponent and only scored three points, proving that it wasn't the FBS opponents that were causing problems with the offense. The Bulldogs lost last year's all-time great quarterback Aqeel Glass and the numbers prove it. Alabama A&M has yet to throw a passing touchdown, thrown seven interceptions, and only completed 46 percent of its passes.

17. Norfolk State | MEAC | 0-3 (0-0) | Prev: 15

Like Alabama State, Norfolk State is struggling without its all-conference quarterback from last year. In the loss to Hampton, Norfolk State's defense held on as long as it could, but the Spartan offense couldn't get anything going in the second half. The Spartans must figure out their quarterback situation quickly as MEAC play will be here before you know it.

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

18. Morgan State | MEAC | 1-2 (0-0) | Prev: 21

Morgan State picked up an impressive win, defeating a Sacred Heart team that won the last two NEC titles. It's the first win of the Damon Wilson era in Baltimore and the Bears are trending upward.

19. Bethune-Cookman | SWAC | 0-2 (0-0) | Prev: 17

Bethune-Cookman had a bye in Week 3.

20. Howard | MEAC | 1-3 (0-0) | Prev: 20

Howard picked up its first win of 2022 in the inaugural HBCU New York Football Classic. While the final score of 31-0 looks good, the game was scoreless entering halftime. Howard's offense has shown flashes of potential but has yet to put it together for a complete game.

🏆: HBCU football championship history

21. Mississippi Valley State | SWAC | 0-3 (0-0) | Prev: 19

A strong second half does not hide Mississippi Valley State's six straight scoreless quarters. Throw in a loss to a Division II school, and you have the Delta Devils at the bottom of the power rankings. With Jackson State up next, things won't get any easier.

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