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Stan Becton | | September 14, 2023

Tennessee State joins the top 10 of Week 3's HBCU football power rankings

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After HBCU teams had close calls with FBS opponents and intense rivalry games, Week 3 of college football is here. That means it's time for a fresh set of HBCU football power rankings from NCAA Digital's Stan Becton.

These will be done weekly throughout the regular season, sorting each HBCU 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.

The Road to Atlanta: Week 3 HBCU football power rankings

1. North Carolina Central | MEAC | 2-0 | Prev: 1

Winston-Salem State? Check. North Carolina A&T? Check. 

North Carolina Central has held teams scoreless in five out of eight quarters, picking up two rivalry wins before a trip to Los Angeles against a ranked FBS opponent, No. 24 UCLA.

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2. Florida A&M | SWAC | 1-1 | Prev: 2

Florida A&M fought hard against South Florida but ultimately lost to the FBS team. The Rattlers will have some positive takeaways from that loss, but they shouldn't sleep on DII opponent West Florida in Week 3.

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3. Morgan State | MEAC | 1-1 | Prev: 4

Morgan State lost to FBS Akron by three points. Morgan State's offense allowed 14 points with an interception and fumble returned for a touchdown. The Bears have to figure out the offense, but that defense is legit.

4. Jackson State | SWAC | 2-1 | Prev: 5

Jackson State bounced back with a dominant win over Southern in the Boombox Classic. Defensive Tackle Devonta Davis had 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss, leading a team with six sacks and 11 tackles. Jackson State is the clear second-best team in the SWAC.

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5. Howard | MEAC | 1-1 | Prev: 6

Last year, Howard beat Morehouse without scoring in the first half. In 2023, Howard scored 44 points on Morehouse in the first half en route to a 65-19 win. Now the Bison will get their first chance to prove themselves against an FCS opponent, facing rival Hampton in Week 3.

6. Tennessee State | Big South-OVC | 1-1 | Prev: 13

Tennessee State bounced back from a loss to a now-top-10 Notre Dame team by taking down Arkansas-Pine Bluff in the Southern Heritage Classic. That's the first of two HBCU opponents the Tigers play this year.

7. Alcorn State | SWAC | 0-2 | Prev: 9

Alcorn State lost to Stephen F. Austin, which received three votes in the latest FCS Coaches Poll. The Braves are 0-2 after a difficult schedule, but they get McNeese up next.

8. Prairie View A&M | SWAC | 1-1 | Prev: 10

Prairie View A&M stays behind Alcorn State, just like last week. Abilene Christian is a worse team right now than Stephen F. Austin, so there's nothing to move up the Panthers.


9. North Carolina A&T | CAA | 0-2 | Prev: 7

North Carolina A&T is 0-2 after losing to North Carolina Central. The Aggies open conference play next week, needing to find their offensive rhythm after not scoring in three of four quarters in Week 2.

10. Hampton | CAA | 1-1 | Prev: 11

Hampton couldn't win its second-straight Battle of the Bay matchup over Norfolk State. That's a bad loss after the Spartans lost to a DII opponent a week prior. However, the Pirates rose in the rankings after the loss because of Alabama State and Southern's losses.

11. Texas Southern | SWAC | 0-2 | Prev: 12

Texas Southern got blasted by Toledo out of the FBS in Week 2. However, FBS losses don't have too big of an impact on these rankings.

12. Alabama State | SWAC | 1-1 | Prev: 3

Alabama State lost to DII opponent Miles. The Hornets dropped nine spots this week, with a season-opening win over Southern keeping them from falling further.

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13. Alabama A&M | SWAC | 1-1 | Prev: 14

Alabama A&M dropped 51 points on Lane from the DII level. That offensive explosion has the Bulldogs trending upward entering a key battle against Southern.

14. Bethune-Cookman | SWAC | 1-1 | Prev: 15

Bethune-Cookman picked up its first win of the season over Savannah State. It was a nice win over a DII opponent in between two FBS opponents.

15. Southern | SWAC | 0-2 | Prev: 8

Southern is 0-2 after losing to Alabama State and Jackson State. The Alabama State loss looks worse after the Hornets lost to a DII team, and the Jaguar offensive line struggled against Jackson State. This isn't the start Southern expected.

16. Grambling State | SWAC | 0-2 | Prev: 16

Grambling State is 0-2 with a loss to Hampton and FBS-ranked LSU. A ranked FBS loss isn't enough to drop Grambling State in this week's rankings.

17. Arkansas-Pine Bluff | SWAC | 0-2 | Prev: 17

Arkansas-Pine Bluff is 0-2, but the Golden Lions haven't lost to a DII opponent. That's why they rank above the next team in these rankings, even without a win.

18. Norfolk State | MEAC | 1-1 | Prev: 21

Norfolk State defeated Hampton, but a loss to a DII opponent to open the season keeps the Spartans near the bottom of the rankings. 

19. South Carolina State | MEAC | 0-3 | Prev: 18

South Carolina State has the worst record in FCS HBCU football entering Week 3, but the Bulldogs haven't lost to a DII school, so they stay above the final two spots.

RELATED: How Jackson State defeated South Carolina State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge

20. Mississippi Valley State | SWAC | 0-1 | Prev: 20

Mississippi Valley State had a bye last week and stays put in this week's rankings at No. 20 after losing to a DII opponent to open the season.

21. Delaware State | MEAC | 0-2 | Prev: 19

Delaware State followed a season-opening loss to a DII opponent with a loss to an FBS opponent in Week 2. Since they've lost two games to Mississippi Valley State's one, the Hornets have fallen to the bottom of the rankings.

🏆: HBCU football championship history


Week 3 HBCU Power Rankings
Rank Team
1 North Carolina Central
2 Florida A&M
3 Morgan State
4 Jackson State
5 Howard
6 Tennessee State
7 Alcorn State
8 Prairie View A&M
9 North Carolina A&T
10 Hampton
11 Texas Southern
12 Alabama State
13 Alabama A&M
14 Bethune-Cookman
15 Southern
16 Grambling State
17 Arkansas-Pine Bluff
18 Norfolk State
19 South Carolina State
20 Mississippi Valley State
21 Delaware State

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