Offensive Player of the Week – Simon Heyward (WR, Savannah State). I give the Tigers a lot of grief for their pathetic play. Heyward did his best to get them a win catching seven passes for 220 yards and a touchdown. Alas, it wasn’t enough. Runner-ups: Damien Fleming (QB, Florida A&M), Travis Harvey (WR, Florida A&M WR).
Defensive Player of the Week – LeBrandon Richardson (DE, Bethune-Cookman). The Central Florida transfer recovered two fumbles, running one back 44 yards for a touchdown, and made nine tackles in a loss to Tennessee State. The effort jumps him to the top of my Defensive Player of the Year list, though it's a crowded leaderboard. Runner-ups: Brandon Davis (DT, FAMU) and John Wilson (DB, Savannah State).
Special Teams Player of the Week – Arthur Goforth (KR, North Carolina Central). Returned two punts for 72 yards to lead a weak crop of choices this week. Runner-ups Kory Kowalski (P, Bethune-Cookman) and Chase Varnedore (K, Florida A&M kicker).
MEAC awards at the one-third mark – Offensive Player of the Year (Damien Fleming, QB, FAMU), Defensive Player of the Year (LeBrandon Richardson, BCU, DE), Rookie of the Year (Brendon Riddick, RB, NSU), Coach of the Year (Kermit Blount, DSU).
MEAC Power Poll
1. Florida A&M (2-2 2-0) – The Rattlers lost by a field goal on the road against Tennessee State. Bethune-Cookman lost by a touchdown at home. Don’t love the Rattlers’ tight 24-22 win at Delaware State on Saturday, but Dover can be a weird atmosphere to play. I’d pick Bethune if the teams were playing this weekend, but for the moment, the Rattlers stand atop the poll because of their game against a common opponent. If there’s an area that sets the two teams apart in favor of FAMU, it’s the fact that the Rattlers have a set quarterback in Damien Fleming, while Bethune-Cookman seems to wing it every week. Previously 2.
2. Bethune-Cookman (2-2, 1-0) – The Wildcats and Spartans are rivals for slowest starters this year. This time, it finally cost Bethune-Cookman and the Wildcats fell 21-14 by a touchdown to Tennessee State, likely the top HBCU in the country so far. While Bethune’s weekly juggling act at quarterback are nothing new, this is the first time in Brian Jenkins’ three season he’s had to deal with major questions on the lines as well. Previously 1.
3. Howard (2-1, 1-0) – The Bison didn’t play Saturday, so they didn’t give me an excuse to drop them. I’m basing this on what teams have shown on the field, not my predicted finish. So while I expect Howard to fall at some point, at the moment they’ve hung tough with Rutgers, beaten NSU and beat Morehouse without 14 ineligible players. Previously 5.
4. Delaware State (1-3, 0-1) – The Hornets keep losing and I keep becoming more impressed. Crazy, right? Hanging in against Florida A&M is a major improvement for this bunch and comes on the heels of a 23-7 loss to Cincinnati. Like Howard, I struggle to imagine the Hornets staying here long-term, but DSU is probably the league's most improved team. Previously 7.
5. Norfolk State (2-2, 0-1) – Give the Spartans credit for this, they haven’t had to ask for a running clock this season. Ohio, which is getting Top 25 votes, beat the Spartans badly, 44-10, but NSU did keep things reasonable in the second half and, in hindsight, the Spartans didn’t get completely overwhelmed physically in the run game (allowing just 3.7 yards per carry), especially when the Bobcats dropped down the depth chart. The Spartans weren't nearly as good as Ohio and I couldn't have imagined leaving the game that I'd move NSU up this week, but Norfolk State wasn't man-handled as much as it was out-played. That can be fixed. South Carolina State comes off an even-more lopsided loss, so the team that is the toughest mentally is the team that wins this week and the one whose MEAC title hopes remain. Previously 6.
6. South Carolina State (1-3, 0-1) – Just like the Spartans, I can’t imagine the Bulldogs staying this low in the poll when the end of the season comes around. South Carolina rested running back Asheton Jordan and offensive lineman Sam Hammond against the Aggies, knowing the much more important game comes this week. The Bulldogs do have to rebound emotionally from the two worst losses in head coach Buddy Pough’s career back-to-back, this one a 70-14 loss to Texas A&M that included a running clock. The Bulldogs also couldn't hold up on the line against their FBS opponent surrendering 6.8 yards per rush. The team that doesn’t get down is the one that emerges with something to play for the rest of the season. Previously 3.
7. North Carolina A&T (2-1, 1-0) – The Aggies had the week off. Actually, they’ve had more like three weeks off, beating up on Division II teams the previous two weeks. The more I thought more the Aggies the less impressed I became. The teams ahead of them have proven then can beat decent teams. Call me when the Aggies do. We’ll find out more about A&T soon, starting this week against Morgan State, and I expect them to start climbing at that point. This week, though, put me on the A&T hatemail list. Previously 4.
8. Morgan State (1-2, 0-0) – Also got the week off to recover from a 66-6 loss to Akron. The Zips play in the same league as Ohio and aren’t supposed to be nearly as good. I think there's a huge drop-off from the top seven to Morgan State, but that's more top-level teams than the MEAC is used to. Should be a fun rest of the season. Previously 8.
9. Hampton (0-3, 0-1) – Head coach Donovan Rose is one of the nicest coaches I’ve had the opportunity to meet during my journalism career, but his group isn’t getting it done this year. The bye week helped the Pirates avoid a loss, but a ticked off Bethune team comes around weekend. Look for the Pirates to lose and the job vultures to continue swirling around Rose. Previously 9.
10. North Carolina Central (2-2, 1-0) – The Eagles get their lone MEAC win of the year by beating Savannah State last weekend. Quarterback Jordan Reid had a heck of an outing. Previously 10.
Savannah State (0-3, 0-1) – After beating NCCU for a surprising win last year, the Tigers lost the Bottom-feeder Bowl over the weekend. My Offensive Player of the Week gave his best. Previously 11.