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The 2022 Celebration Bowl was a thrilling game that many didn’t think would be as exciting as it was.
Coach Prime led his Jackson St. team into another Celebration Bowl appearance after back-to-back undefeated regular seasons (12-0) and another SWAC crown. All that eluded him was a Celebration Bowl title.
Last year, his first full season in Mississippi due to Covid, the Tigers strolled their way into the Celebration Bowl as the favorites. In the end, they were steamrolled by the 7-5 MEAC champion South Carolina State Bulldogs, 31-10.
While that game didn’t end the way Sanders had hoped, the results for Celebration Bowl organizers did as over 48,000 attended the 2021 game in Atlanta. That was an increase of almost 16,000 fans from the 2019 game (the 2020 game was canceled due to the pandemic).
The 2022 game was fueled by Deion’s presence and his previously announced head coaching move to Colorado.
The game was so exciting that NFL All-Pro JJ Watt chimed in about it.
So after the last-second TD pass by Shedeur Sanders in force overtime and the defensive stand by North Carolina Central to end the game, what did we learn from the 2022 Celebration Bowl?
- The Deion Sanders effect is undeniable- There’s no disputing what Sanders did for Jackson State, the city of Jackson, MS and HBCU football as a whole. He brought renewed attention to HBCUs and helped rejuvenate interest in HBCU football programs as viable destinations for players who might never have considered playing at these institutions before Sanders showed up. He re-energized a program in decline, brought in new revenue and ensured they could be watched nationally on TV and streaming platforms. And for the Celebration Bowl, Deion increased attendance from 2019 to 2021 and 2022 (32,968 to 48,653 and 49,670, respectively). The ratings followed suit, going from 1.23 and 1.8 million viewers in 2019 to 1.61 and 2.59 million viewers in 2021 (2022 ratings have not been released as of yet).
- Shedeur Sanders can play- Last year Shedeur had a great season, throwing for 3,231 yards with 30 TDs and 8 INTs. He had a completion percentage of 65.9% and a QB rating of 151.7. This season, Shedeur upped his game, amassing 3,732 yards passing with 40 TDs and 6 INTs. He also upped his completion percentage to 70.6% and his QB rating to 160.4. He led his team down the field to force overtime with a beautiful throw to the corner of the endzone and threw the potential game-winning TD in OT that was dropped. And it wasn’t that Shedeur couldn’t play, it was that a national audience could finally witness it for themselves.
- The MEAC dominates- Since the Celebration Bowl was founded in 2015, the MEAC has claimed six of the seven titles. Those titles include North Carolina A&T (4x), South Carolina St. (1x) and North Carolina Central (1x). The lone SWAC team to claim a title is Grambling St., which won it in 2016 with a 10-9 victory over North Carolina Central.
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