1. The Braves return 15 starters from a team that finished 10-3 and won the SWAC championship, their first league title since 1994. They were picked to win the SWAC Eastern Division.
Alcorn State is led by quarterback John Gibbs Jr., a fourth-year starter who was the SWAC offensive player of the year last season. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 208 pounds, Gibbs threw for 190 yards per game and ran for a team-high 77 yards per game.
“The Gibbs kid at quarterback’s a really good player,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “Very athletic.”
Gibbs has attracted NFL attention. His position coach is Fred McNair, the older brother of late NFL star Steve McNair. Both starred at Alcorn State.
Linebacker Damion Watkins was second on the team last year in tackles and had 10.5 tackles for loss.
Alcorn was No. 5 in the country last season in rushing yards per game at the FCS level (285.2 yards per game) and No. 2 in scoring per game (44 points per game). The Braves had a 62-38 run-pass ratio.
Anthony Williams was third in the country in punt returns at 17.5 yards per return.
2. According to the website footballgeography.com, a SWAC team has not defeated an FBS team since 1985. One comparison explains it rather succinctly. In 2013-14, Alcorn State’s athletic department, which supports 13 varsity teams (counting track and cross country as one sport) spent $6.1 million, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Tech, which also has 13 teams, spent $55.5 million.
The Alcorn State will receive $375,000 for playing Tech.
3. Alcorn State coach Jay Hopson has a 23-13 record in his three seasons at the school. The team was 12-30 in the four seasons prior to his arrival. Hopson is the first non-black coach in the history of the SWAC, which was founded in 1920. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports wrote about Hopson and Alcorn State last December.
4. Alcorn State, founded in 1871, is located in southwest Mississippi, a few miles from the Mississippi River. Civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who helped integrate the University of Mississippi, played football there. Alex Haley, author of Roots and the co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, attended his freshman year there. It’s also the oldest public historically black land-grant institution in the U.S.
Enrollment is about 4,000. The school’s name is pronounced all-corn, not al-corn.