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Prairie View, Grambling ready for annual State Fair Classic

(STATS) - Playing at the legendary Cotton Bowl stadium amid the pageantry of the State Fair Classic is something coach Willie Simmons knows his Prairie View A&M team can handle.

It's the Panthers' opponent Saturday in Dallas that once again has him concerned.

Not only has Grambling State won the last three meetings between these SWAC West Division rivals, but the Tigers (4-1, 1-0) are riding a 19-game league winning streak. Prairie View is 22-4 against SWAC opponents since Oct. 4, 2014, with two of the defeats coming to Grambling teams that totaled 106 points in those matchups.

"They've been a thorn in our side the past few years," Simmons said. "We're going to have to play harder than them. We're going to have to play smarter than them.

"Even though it's early in the season, it has profound implications as to what happens throughout the season."

Though knocking off Grambling remains a tall order, Prairie View (2-2, 2-0) has built some momentum by outscoring conference foes Alabama State and Jackson State - both winless - 72-9 and forcing eight turnovers in the process.

"The defense continues to play at an extremely high level," said Simmons, whose squad is plus-5 in turnover differential. "Opportunistic football."

Grambling, however, has been even better in that department, forcing 13 turnovers - 10 in the last two games - while committing just two.

"That's always important, that's always the key," Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs said. "The team that possesses the football likely wins."

While Grambling boasts perhaps the league's best all-around quarterback in senior Devante Kincade, who threw for a touchdown and ran for two against the Panthers last season, Prairie View has some quality under center in Lavell McCullers. The sophomore has thrown three TDs in the last two weeks, has yet to be picked off in 109 attempts and earned SWAC Newcomer of the Week honors after throwing for 190 yards and rushing for 68 in last weekend's win over Jackson State.

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COMFORTABLE ENVIRONMENT

Following a rough nonconference slate in which Alabama A&M was outscored 125-7 in losses to UAB, Vanderbilt and South Alabama, the Bulldogs have welcomed conference play by opening with two straight wins for the first time since going 5-0 in 2012.

"Hopefully we can dot our I's and cross our T's and repeat the effort this week," said coach James Spady, whose team visits Southern on Saturday night.

The Bulldogs have scored 57 points in victories over Texas Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff with freshman quarterback Aqeel Glass going 48 of 80 for 628 yards in those games.

"We're thrilled with the way (Glass) is performing right now," Spady said. "Keep in mind, this is an 18-year-old freshman. ... I'm very proud of him, but he's got a lot of getting better to do. And so do we all."

Alabama A&M looks to avoid a fifth straight defeat against Southern (2-3, 0-1), which snapped a three-game slide with a victory last weekend over Division II Fort Valley State.

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THIS AND THAT

Despite that loss to Alabama A&M, UAPB (2-3, 1-1) has already doubled its overall win total from last season. ... Mississippi Valley State freshman quarterback Christopher Fowler ranks second in the SWAC with 188.5 passing yards per game, but over 106 attempts, he has yet to throw a touchdown. Fowler has been intercepted three times. ... Entering Thursday's matchup with Alcorn State (3-2, 1-0), Alabama State (0-4, 0-1) has recorded 27 points this season with two of its four touchdowns scored by the defense.

Updated October 5, 2017

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