BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — James Spady had never lived in Alabama before he was hired to take over Alabama A&M's football program last December. But once he arrived, it didn't take long for him to understand that the most important game on the Bulldogs' schedule is the annual Magic City Classic against Alabama State.
"I have heard about the Classic since the moment I got off the plane in Huntsville," Spady said. "I know this is a special game that means a lot to our players and fans."
Kickoff for the 73rd annual Magic City Classic is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Legion Field. Alabama State has won three of the past four games in the series, including a 31-7 victory last season.
While Spady is new to the series, Saturday's game will mark the 14th time that ASU coach Reggie Barlow has either played or coached in the Magic City Classic.
"You know it's a big game when you don't even say the 'Magic City' part, you just say 'The Classic,' and everyone knows what you're talking about," Barlow said. "It's always a fun game to be a part of. We know we're going to get Alabama A&M's best and they know they're going to get our best."
Beyond the traditional importance, this game is crucial to ASU in the Southwestern Athletic Conference standings. The Hornets (4-3, 3-2 SWAC) trail East Division-leading Acorn State by one game and have already lost the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Braves.
As for the Bulldogs (2-5, 1-3), they simply want to win a game after losing four of their past five. In the most recent loss, 35-34 to Southern, A&M blew a 34-14 lead and gave up the game-winning touchdown with 51 seconds remaining.
"We're close. We're right around the corner from being a really good team," Spady said. "But we have to start walking if we're going to get around that corner."
Samford at Furman, 12:30 p.m.
Samford (3-3, 2-2 Southern Conference) needs a victory in order to remain in contention for the league championship. The Bulldogs lost to Wofford 24-20 last week after giving up a 15-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that consumed half the fourth quarter. Samford now trails Chattanooga and Western Carolina by 1½ games in the standings.
Furman (2-5, 1-1) is on a five-game losing streak. The Paladins have averaged only 14.4 points per game during that span.
Tuskegee vs. Kentucky St., 1 p.m.
Tuskegee (5-2, 4-0 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) is on a four-game winning streak, during which the Golden Tigers have averaged 47.3 points per game. Kentucky State (2-5, 1-3) has dropped five of six and has averaged only 14.6 points per game in the losses.
Miles at Lane, 2 p.m.
Miles (4-3, 3-1 SIAC) has won three consecutive games since starting the season 1-3. Lane (1-5, 1-3) has dropped three in a row by an average score of 44-6.
Jacksonville State vs. Tennessee Tech, 3 p.m.
Jacksonville State will attempt to remain the only undefeated team in the Ohio Valley Conference against a Tennessee Tech team that is close to also being unbeaten in league play.
Tech's two conference losses have been by a combined total of 10 points. The Golden Eagles (3-4, 2-2 OVC) beat Eastern Kentucky 39-31 last week.
JSU (5-1, 3-0), which was off last week, hasn't lost since the season opener against Michigan State.
North Alabama vs. West Georgia, 6 p.m.
North Alabama can clinch at least a tie for the Gulf South Conference championship by winning its next two games.
Ranked third in Division II, UNA (6-0, 3-0 GSC) leads West Georgia (6-1, 2-1) and Delta State by one game in the loss column. The Lions travel to Delta State next week, meaning victories in both games will give them at least a two-game lead with two games to play.
"It's a good place to be, but there are still so many more games to be played," UNA coach Bobby Wallace said. "We have got to be ready to play every week. If you let up, anything can happen."
West Alabama vs. Delta State, 6 p.m.
West Alabama (4-3, 1-2 GSC) faces a Delta State team that is coming off its first loss of the season. The Statesmen (5-1, 3-1) committed four turnovers in losing 24-16 to West Georgia.
The Tigers snapped a two-game losing streak last week with a 55-10 victory over Shorter. Kyle Caldwell completed 21 of 25 passes for 245 yards and four touchdowns. He now holds the UWA record for career touchdown passes with 63.
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