Jackson State football vs. NC Central: Celebration Bowl score prediction, scouting report

It does not get any bigger in the HBCU sports sphere than Saturday. At stake: the Black national football championship as Jackson State and North Carolina Central play in the Cricket Celebration Bowl.

In the MEAC, no one saw North Carolina Central (9-2) landing in the championship game. Jackson State was untouched last year in the Southwestern Athletic Conference and this year, in coach Deion Sanders' third and final season, no one has touched them as they are undefeated at 12-0.

For Jackson State, this season has been about making history. In an upset loss last season in this game, the team came in on a high and did not expect to lose. This season, Sanders' mindset went from wanting to win, to instilling a dominating mindset. This game is more about making a statement win than redemption from last season's loss.

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The teams had one common opponent in 2022, and both teams played Campbell a week apart. The Camels lost to the Tigers 22-14 in a tough, physical game in Mississippi. The next week, they played NC Central and destroyed them 48-18.

Here's what to know about the matchup.

NC Central's defense will break

It is hard to say that, considering the Eagles have defensive back Khalil Baker, who was named an FCS first-team All-American. He is the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year, intercepted four passes and is third on the team in tackles with 38.

But that is not where they struggle defensively. In the Campbell game, they gave up over 300 yards on the ground and 563 total yards of offense as Campbell scored on six of its first seven possessions. The Eagles can be run on. Jackson State will run the ball at the front seven on the opening drive of the game, and then come out and throwing to receivers Dallas Daniels and Shane Hooks.

Jackson State's defense will shut down the Dome

Don't expect a letdown from the defense that has carried the team all season. The defense has shut opposing teams down and kept the Tigers in games until the offense could get untracked. The defense has the capabilities to score, too.

The front seven is strong, giving up less than 100 yards per game on the ground. Once JSU defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman figures out what a team is doing, he will bring a blitzer and play man-to-man across the board and dare an offense to beat him on one-on-one matchups on the backend. This defense truly has been dominating on every sense of the word. Look for JSU to stop the run and make the Eagles one dimensional.

Everything for the Eagles starts and ends with quarterback Davius Richard, who leads the team in rushing with 792 yards and is a capable passer, throwing for 2,486 yards and 24 TDs. The thing is, he will throw picks – he has 10 interceptions on the season.

Look for a dominating performance all around

Make no mistake about it, this is Sanders' last game at Jackson State, and he is going to have his team dominate.

This is game in which the Tigers put it all together. Every side of the ball will be on point. Look for JSU quarterback Shedeur Sanders to have his best game of the season before heading to Colorado. This game could get ugly quick. NC Central cannot withstand the power, speed and force that Jackson State will bring in their last game of the season.

Score prediction

Jackson State 63, NC Central 10: This is the last dance for Sanders at the FCS level, and he is going to want to dominate the Eagles in a way that is embarrassing. Look for the coronation to begin before halftime. The Eagles will run into a buzz saw unlike they anything they have seen this year. Look for JSU to be even more impressive with a healthy Travis Hunter, and to put up more points than they did against Florida A&M, which was a 59-3 victory on Sept.4 in the Orange Blossom Classic at the Hard Rock Stadium.

This article originally appeared on Mississippi Clarion Ledger: Jackson State football vs. NC Central: Score prediction, scout report