It was only five months ago that Alabama A&M defeated South Carolina State 31-7 in Orangeburg.
The Bulldogs of Huntsville, Ala., went on to finish the spring season 5-0, claimed their first Southwestern Athletic Conference title in 15 years and first-ever Black College National Championship.
Despite the recent meeting with S.C. State, head coach Connell Maynor expects a much different team visiting Louis Crews Stadium this Saturday for the season-opener.
During Tuesday's press conference, he pointed out the difference in North Carolina Central, which had less players during the spring season compared to the team that defeated Alcorn State in the MEAC/SWAC Challenge this past weekend.
"We don't know for sure who they have on their roster," Maynor said Tuesday. "Look at North Carolina Central. I think they said they have 42 freshmen and 20 transfers, so that's (62) guys. So that's a totally different roster.
"I don't know if South Carolina State went as much to do that. But they might have 20 new guys ... So you've just to prepare for the schemes that they do on defense. They have the same defensive coordinator. They've got the same offensive coordinator. So, we know what they're going to do offensively and defensively. That's what we've got to prepare for -- the schemes and not the players."
Maynor said his team will have a more healthy respect for his MEAC opponent as compared to Alcorn State with North Carolina Central. Maynor, who signed a four-year extrension back in April, expects another battle from a Buddy Pough-coached team.
The two head coaches have a history dating back to Maynor's time at Hampton University. His record is 2-3 all-time against Pough.
"They're going to be well-coached," he said. "They're going to be disciplined. They're going to fly around, especially that defense. They always have NFL prospects on that defense."
While Saturday's game is billed as the Louis Crews Classic, Maynor sees this contest as another "MEAC/SWAC Challenge." Alabama A&M is the defending SWAC champion, while S.C. State was picked to win the MEAC this season.
"They are from the MEAC and we are from the SWAC and it is an official game because they are keeping score," he said. "So, we've got to try to get those numbers back up a little bit for the SWAC."
Alabama A&M's offense returns preseason All-American selections quarterback Aqeel Glass, wide receiver Abdul-Fatai Ibrahim and offensive lineman Jonathan Williams.
Glass was the 2020 Deacon Jones Award winner as the Black College Football Player of the Year, throwing for 1,355 yards and 16 touchdowns to lead the Bulldogs to their first undefeated season in 53 years. He did throw three interceptions in the win over S.C. State, all by Decobie Durant, before finishing with 272 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Ibrahim had 24 catches for 338 yards and three touchdowns in four games, including six catches for 81 yards and a score against South Carolina State last year. Williams anchored an offensive line that led the nation in Red Zone offense.
Maynor cautions not to overlook his team's defense, which he believes will play with a "chip on their shoulder" given the attention placed on the offense.
"Any time you've got a high-powered offense, the defense always gets overlooked," he said. "Even Alabama's defense gets overlooked because of their offense as good as that defense looks. It's just part of it when you've got a good offense."
Kickoff for Saturday's game is 7 p.m. ET.
Alabama A&M is No. 1 in the both the Boxtorow HBCU media and coaches polls.
The A&M Bulldogs garnered 10 first place votes with the coaches and 10 with the media. S.C. State is fourth with the coaches and sixth with the media.
The coaches have North Carolina A&T second and Florida A&M third, with Arkansas-Pine Bluff fifth. The media have the same teams second and third with Arkansas-Pine Bluff fourth and Southern fifth.