When Alabama State begins Southwestern Athletic Conference play Saturday against Mississippi Valley State, the concern for ASU coach Reggie Barlow will be as much about the man on the opposing sideline as about the opposing team.
On paper, the Hornets (1-1, 0-0) would appear to have a distinct advantage over MVSU (1-1, 0-0). The Delta Devils went 2-9 last year - their seventh consecutive losing season - and have dropped four in a row to ASU.
But none of those MVSU teams were led by Rick Comegy, who is in his first year as the Delta Devils' head coach. Comegy went 90-26 in 10 seasons at Tuskegee then spent the past eight years at Jackson State, where he compiled a 55-35 record and took JSU to the SWAC championship game four times.
"Most of the guys who have been around our program know who coach Comegy is, and we've always had a great deal of respect for him," Barlow said. "His teams are always a tough group. They play well, run the ball well, and they're always physical on defense and aggressive. I know he has taken that mentality to Mississippi Valley."
ASU bounced back from a 51-20 season-opening loss to Sam Houston to post a 27-21 upset of Tennessee State, which was ranked No. 14 in the FCS. Running back Malcolm Cyrus led the Hornets with 170 yards rushing and 86 yards receiving, including a 70-yard touchdown catch.
Najee Bright returned a blocked field goal for a score and made two interceptions.
"Now the preseason is over and it's time (to play) a SWAC game," Barlow said. "With the parity that is within our conference, it will be a tough game."
Samford vs. Stillman, 6:30 p.m.
Samford coach Pat Sullivan is expected to be in attendance for the Bulldogs' home opener against Stillman after missing the team's trip to TCU two weeks ago because of a health issue.
Sullivan had cervical fusion surgery in April and suffered a setback over the summer. Doctors advised him not to make the flight to TCU for the season-opener, which Samford lost 48-14.
"I'm doing well and improving every day," Sullivan said earlier this week. "I will be coaching (Thursday) both on the field and, at times, from the press box."
Stillman (0-1) began the season with a 44-20 loss to West Alabama.
North Alabama at Mississippi College, 7 p.m.
It is finally game week for North Alabama. The Lions travel to Mississippi College (0-1) for their latest season-opener in 39 years.
This will be the Lions' first game against Mississippi College since 1995, which was the Choctaws last season as members of the Gulf South Conference. After 18 years in Division III, Mississippi College made the move back to Division II and the GSC this season.
The Choctaws (0-1) lost to Bellhaven 32-14 in their season-opener. They are coached by John Bland, who took the University of the Cumberlands to the NAIA national championship game last year.
Miles vs. West Georgia, 6 p.m.
Miles (1-0) will attempt to maintain the momentum from a 30-6 season-opening victory over Shaw.
Three Miles players earned Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference player of the week awards from that game: linebacker Rodrick Holloman (12 tackles, a forced fumble and a two-point score off a blocked PAT), running back Jonathan Clark (212 yards rushing) and offensive tackle Aderius Hood.
This game marks the first return to Alabama for West Georgia coach Will Hall, who was West Alabama's head coach last season.
Tuskegee vs. Albany State, 2 p.m. in Phenix City
This longtime SIAC rivalry takes on additional importance this year as both teams are coming off double-digit losses in their season-openers. Tuskegee was beaten by Alabama A&M 30-17, while Albany State lost to Valdosta State 38-10.
"I was really confident going into the game, but I think we were a little bit too young," Tuskegee coach Willie Slater said. "Overall we just didn't play very well."
West Alabama vs. Shaw, 6 p.m.
The West Alabama Lions (1-0) will play their first game of the season as a top-25 team when they meet Shaw (0-1).
UWA is No. 25 in this week's American Football Coaches Association Division II poll under new head coach Brent Gilliland.
All content copyright ©2014 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.