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Stan Becton | | February 27, 2023

The final HBCU football power rankings for the 2022 season

NC Central's Davius Richard and Khalil Baker break down winning school's first Celebration Bowl

The 2022 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.

These rankings have been 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.

All previous rankings are from before the final regular season week (Week 12).

See the final power rankings below.

The Road to Atlanta: The Final 2022 HBCU Football Power Rankings

1. North Carolina Central | MEAC | 10-2 (4-1) | Prev: 3

Your 2022 Celebration Bowl champion and the No. 1 team in the final HBCU football power rankings is North Carolina Central. The Eagles held off Jackson State in overtime in an all-time classic HBCU football game. Quarterback Davius Richard, DB Khalil Baker and the North Carolina Central offensive line led the way for the Eagles all season, leading to a magical season.

CHAMPIONS: How North Carolina Central won the 2022 Celebration Bowl

2. Jackson State | SWAC | 12-1 (9-0) | Prev: 1

In the words of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, "it don't mean a thing without a ring." In Jackson State coach Deion "Coach Prime" Sanders' last game at JSU before he heads to Colorado, the Tigers fell short in the Celebration Bowl for the second year in a row.

MORE: Deion Sanders named head football coach at Colorado

Jackson State was undefeated during the regular season and off to its best start in program history after its second straight SWAC championship, but none of that can feel as sweet without a Celebration Bowl win. Nonetheless, the Tigers had one of the most talented teams in HBCU football and 12 wins is still 12 wins.

2022 HBCU: Everything that happened in the 2022 HBCU football season

3. Florida A&M | SWAC | 9-2 (7-1) | Prev: 2

Florida A&M finished the season 9-2, losing only to an FBS divisional champion in North Carolina and SWAC champion Jackson State. The Rattlers missed out on the FCS playoffs despite their regular season success as one of the first four teams out. Without an additional postseason win, there's no way Florida A&M can make any claims to be atop the HBCU football world in 2022. That said, a third-place finish for a non-conference champion isn't bad at all.

STRIKE AGAIN: How Florida A&M topped 2021's season-ending power rankings

4. North Carolina A&T | Big South | 7-4 (4-1) | Prev: 4

North Carolina A&T finishes the season ranked fourth in the final HBCU football power rankings. The Aggies rose in the rankings after winning seven straight games following an 0-3 start. Yet, North Carolina A&T ended the season with a loss to Gardner-Webb, missing out on the Big South title and an FCS playoff berth. Everyone soon learned how good that Gardner-Webb team was after they won an FCS playoff game. 

North Carolina A&T's only FCS losses came to the MEAC champion, an FCS national championship game participant and a second round FCS playoff team. That gives the Aggies a better resume than Southern and keeps them ahead in the rankings.

ALL-HBCU: Here are the top HBCU football players, by position, from the 2022 season

5. Southern | SWAC | 7-5 (5-3) | Prev: 6

Southern finished the season with a loss in the SWAC Championship game, its second to Jackson State in 2022. However, Southern did win the SWAC West with a win over Grambling State in the Bayou Classic to hit the seven-win mark. Although the Jaguars couldn't beat any of my top-five teams this year, they only had one other FCS loss to Texas Southern. Southern finishes as the fifth-best team in FCS HBCU football.

Grambling State-Southern football: Memorable moments, all-time history of the Bayou Classic

6. Alabama State | SWAC | 6-5 (4-4) | Prev: 5

In Eddie Robinson Jr.'s first year as a head coach at any level, he led Alabama State to No. 6 in the final power rankings. Alabama State's defense finished second in the SWAC in points per game and is trending in the right direction. The Hornets also hold a head-to-head win over the next team in the rankings after winning the MEAC/SWAC challenge to open the season.

SWARM: Recapping the 2022 MEAC/SWAC Challenge

7. Howard | MEAC | 5-6 (4-1) | Prev: 9

Howard ends the season as the seventh-best HBCU football team in the FCS. The Bison finished the season with a share of the MEAC title, their first since 1993. Howard lost only one conference game, finishing with a 4-1 record.

Yet, I'm sure some are questioning: "Why is Howard with a losing record ranked over Prairie View A&M with a winning record?"

Well, both teams have five FCS losses. Also, Howard ended the season by winning four of its last five games. The Bison finished the season stronger and a conference title gives them the edge needed in the final power rankings.

🏆: HBCU football championship history

8. Prairie View A&M | SWAC | 6-5 (5-3) | Prev: 7

Prairie View A&M controlled its destiny entering the final regular season week. The Panthers folded under pressure, losing to Mississippi Valley State and missing out on the SWAC West title. Prairie View ended the season losing two of its last three games. A poor end to the season lands Prairie View A&M at No. 8.

MORE: How HBCU coaches with pro football experience performed in 2022

9. Texas Southern | SWAC | 5-6 (4-4)| Prev: 8

While Texas Southern finished with a losing record overall in 2022, a 4-4 record in SWAC play is a sign of improvement for the program. The Tigers ended the season with a stunning collapse to Alabama A&M, missing out on a shot at the SWAC West title, but the 2022 season was a success in the bigger picture. The future is bright at Texas Southern, especially with quarterback Andrew Body returning as likely the best quarterback in the SWAC.

10. Alcorn State | SWAC | 5-6 (4-4) | Prev: 11

Alcorn State ended its season with a loss in the Soul Bowl, but a late surge in the SWAC West gets the Braves the final spot in the top 10. Alcorn State won two of its last three games to remain in contention for a SWAC championship game berth until the final week. A solid finish plus a non-conference win over McNeese gets the Braves the nod over Alabama A&M.

PAST RANKINGS: Preseason | Wk 2 | Wk 3 | Wk 4 | Wk 5 | Wk 6 | Wk 7 | Wk 8 | Wk 9 | Wk 10 | Wk 11 | Wk 12

11. Alabama A&M | SWAC | 4-7 (4-4) | Prev: 14

Alabama A&M started the season 0-4 with a struggling offense. Those struggles remained throughout the year, despite glimpses of life at points during the season. Nonetheless, the Bulldogs rise three spots in the final power rankings after closing the season with an impressive comeback effort to defeat Texas Southern.

12. Hampton | CAA | 4-7 (1-7) | Prev: 12

It was a rough start for Hampton in the CAA, finishing 1-7. Hampton played much better against HBCUs in 2022, finishing the season 3-0 in that category. Two of those wins came against FCS opponents Howard and Norfolk State. Both of Hampton's FCS HBCU opponents hold wins over Morgan State, which gives the Pirates a higher ranking thanks to common opponents.

13. Morgan State | MEAC | 4-7 (2-3) | Prev: 10

Morgan State finished 2-3 in the MEAC in head coach Damon Wilson's first season. At times this year, the Bears looked like they were progressing faster than anyone expected, but ultimately leveled out by season's end. Still, a third-place finish in the MEAC is a positive start to the Damon Wilson era. When it comes to Morgan State's final ranking, a convincing head-to-head win over Delaware State earns the Bears No. 13.

🐐: Here are the greatest individual seasons in HBCU football history

14. Delaware State | MEAC | 5-6 (2-3) | Prev: 13

Delaware State finished the season 5-6, but beat only three FCS teams. Another win came over an 0-11 Robert Morris team. The Hornets did finish 2-3 in the MEAC, but that was below expectations as Delaware State fired head coach Rod Milstead after the season. 

15. Grambling State | SWAC | 3-8 (2-6) | Prev: 15

Grambling State won three games in Hue Jackson's first year as head coach. That's fewer wins than the season before Jackson arrived. However, the Tigers went 2-2 in their last four games, landing the Tigers inside the top 15 of the rankings.

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

16. Tennessee State | OVC | 4-7 (2-3) | Prev: 17

Tennessee State finished the season 4-7, but one of its losses came to a Division II school at home. That limits the four-win Tigers from rising any higher in the final rankings.

2022 Games: Revisit the 2022 Orange Blossom Classic

17. South Carolina State | MEAC | 3-8 (1-4) | Prev: 16

After winning the 2021 Celebration Bowl, South Carolina State finished last in the MEAC at 1-4. However, wins over Bethune-Cookman, and more importantly, North Carolina Central, land the Bulldogs at No. 17.

18. Bethune-Cookman | SWAC | 2-9 (2-6) | Prev: 18

Bethune-Cookman lost its final four games and fired head coach Terry Sims at the end of the season. The Wildcats finished the season ranked 18th because of a head-to-head win over Mississippi Valley State.

Bethune-Cookman-Florida A&M football: Memorable moments, all-time history of the Florida Classic

19. Mississippi Valley State | SWAC | 2-9 (2-6) | Prev: 19

Mississippi Valley State closed the season with wins in two of its final three games. The Delta Devils shook up the SWAC West race with their win over Prairie View A&M, preventing them from holding the bottom spot in the rankings.

20. Norfolk State | MEAC | 2-9 (2-3) | Prev: 20

Norfolk State closed the season with a win over South Carolina State. That prevented the Spartans from finishing last in the MEAC and prevents them from finishing last in the 2022 HBCU power rankings.

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

21. Arkansas-Pine Bluff | SWAC | 3-9 (1-7) | Prev: 21

Arkansas-Pine Bluff closed the season with a win over Alabama State on Thanksgiving to stop an eight-game losing streak. However, the Golden Lions only have one FCS win this season, the fewest of any FCS HBCU. 

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