Game Time: Saturday, November 18, 2017, 1 p.m. ET
Location: Aggie Stadium, Greensboro, North Carolina
Where To Watch: ESPN3/WatchESPN
Betting Odds: North Carolina A&T - 15.5, O/U 45.5
Odds via sportsbooks monitored by GamblersPalace.com
It’s been a season for the ages for the North Carolina A&T Aggies. North Carolina A&T is 10-0 and has already grabbed the conference’s spot in the Celebration Bowl against a SWAC opponent by virtue of its unblemished record. Now, the Aggies are looking to finish the regular season at 11-0 and win the conference outright, but first they have to get past the North Carolina Central Eagles.
You can’t help but wonder how North Carolina A&T would have fared in the FCS playoffs. This is one of just two undefeated teams in the country and the Aggies have been impressive throughout the year. They knocked off an FBS opponent in Charlotte and only allowed one FCS team to stay within single digits of them all year.
Reasons to Like North Carolina A&T
The Aggies have shown that last year’s success wasn’t just the result of having a superstar in Tarik Cohen. This is one of the most balanced offenses in the country and they have an impressive defense to boot.
North Carolina A&T has a chance to have a 3000-yard passer and a 1000-yard rusher this season. Lamar Raynard has been amazing through the air, passing for 2,554 yards with 25 touchdowns against just five interceptions. He is right on pace to finish north of 3,000 yards if he hits his averages in the next two games.
Marquell Cartwright has been fabulous on the ground too. Despite carrying the ball over 200 times this season, he has fumbled the ball just once. He has already surpassed 1,000 yards and proved to be a more than capable replacement for Cohen.
Additionally, this defense has been superb at stopping the run. North Carolina A&T has given up just 2.6 yards per carry on the ground this season and opponents haven’t been able to move the ball through the air well either.
Reasons Not to Like North Carolina A&T
This offense has been so good it feels like nitpicking to point out any flaws. However, the team does not use Cartwright as a receiving threat at all and that’s something the Eagles may key on. He has caught just two passes for a total of one yard this season.
On a more concerning note, the Aggies haven’t played too many good teams, and did show some weaknesses against Bethune-Cookman and Charlotte. Charlotte was able to run the ball very well against this defense, grinding out 5.8 yards per carry against the front. As for Bethune-Cookman, it was able to put the clamps on this offense, except for a few big plays.
Reasons to like North Carolina Central
You always have to feel good when you’re getting double digits in a rivalry game, especially when its the team that has dominated the rivalry as of late. NC Central has won the last three meetings between these two schools and the senior class will be extra motivated to finish up without a loss to its arch-rival.
Dual-threat quarterback Chauncey Caldwell has been a treat to watch as a freshman. Caldwell has proven to be pretty effective and will be a player to keep an eye on next season. At 6’3, 225 pounds, he can be a punishing runner.
This defense is pretty good too. Although the Eagles are probably a notch below NC A&T, this has still been a solid unit. Only two FCS opponents have topped 20 points against them all year long.
Reasons Not to Like North Carolina Central
The Eagles just seem to be a little bit worse than the Aggies in all the key areas. The running game has been good, but not as good as the Aggies has been, and Caldwell is not the refined passer that Raynard is.
Additionally, the Eagles have just one win over a team with a winning record this season and got housed by Duke when they played in the season opener. They also suffered an embarrassing home loss to Norfolk State that helped keep them out of contention for the MEAC.
This is going to be a very good game and you are going to see a lot of emotion with the Aggies trying to win their first outright title since 2005. I think that NC A&T will cap off its season with a win and move to 11-0, but it will be closer than Vegas thinks.
Final Score: North Carolina A&T 24, North Carolina Central 14