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Road to Saturday: Despite the records, the State Fair Classic is still a must-watch affair

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(AP)

The Texas-Oklahoma game is usually the centerpiece of the Texas State Fair, but there's another game that draws just as many fans and just as much attention to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

The State Fair Classic game between Grambling and Prairie View A&M is traditionally one of the biggest games between two historically black universities because of the history of the two schools. However, since both programs are winless this season — Prairie View A&M is 0-5 and Grambling is 0-4 — the draw to the game this season might be the halftime show.

"It's bigger than a football game," Prairie View A&M coach Heishma Northern said. "It's an event."

The contest between the bands is just as intense as the play on the field. In fact, the halftime show for this game is actually longer than a typical game to allow both bands to perform elaborate and highly entertaining routines. More often than not, fans will show up for the first half and leave after the band performances conclude and the bands often draw more cheers than the game.

But don't let that sour you on the game. Historically black colleges rarely get a platform like this, so the game itself -- regardless of the records -- is a big deal for the members of the Grambling and Prairie View communities. And the game actually holds a special place for Grambling coach Doug Williams, the former Super Bowl MVP with the Washington Redskins who actually took his first collegiate snap in the State Fair Classic and threw his first touchdown pass against Prairie View A&M.

"My career actually started here in Dallas," Williams said. "And having coached at Grambling for eight years, it's always been a game that we look forward to because it's such a big part of not only Grambling, but historic black colleges, Prairie View and for the alumni… We have more students who travel to this game in Dallas than we have when we're on campus."

This State Fair Classic, which has actually been in existence since 1925, but has featured Prairie View A&M and Grambling since 1992, is usually a one-sided affair. Grambling, which has won 14 SWAC championships and 23 Black College titles, has only lost once to Prairie View — 35-32 in 2009 — and these games are rarely close.

This is the first year both teams have entered this contest winless, but at least one will get in the win column by the end of the day.

"I think when you come to this game on Saturday, you're going to see two teams fighting to get out of there with that one victory," Williams said. "In my mind, I think it boils down to just getting a taste of what a victory is all about. Once they do that, I think they'll learn."

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