(STATS) – Not even a championship three-peat in the MEAC has North Carolina Central coach Jerry Mack sitting back and marveling over the Eagles’ success during his tenure.

“I’m extremely proud of what we’ve been accomplishing,” the fourth-year coach said, “but we still have not accomplished our No. 1 goal and that’s to win a black college national championship. And I think that’s the focus this upcoming year.”

To achieve their goal, the Eagles will not only have to win the MEAC title again – last year was their first outright crown after two shared titles – but they will have to beat the SWAC champion in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.

They were on the doorstep of their goal last December, but a 10-9 loss to Grambling State in the Celebration Bowl left them wanting more.

“I’m really proud of the guys that helped build this thing in the beginning year and, obviously, super proud of the guys that are on the football team now because they started this journey with me,” Mack, the MEAC’s 2016 coach of the year, said. “But we’ve still got one more goal and we’re not going to let down on those goals.”

N.C. Central was picked as the favorite in the MEAC’s preseason poll, but archrival North Carolina A&T, last year’s runner-up, returns its starting quarterback – unlike Central – and more starters overall. The Aggies are a tad motivated as well.

A&T has blown the opportunity to win an outright MEAC title each of the past three years by losing to Central in the regular-season finale. Last year’s result was the most decisive, 42-21.

“It starts with me, I’ve got to do a better job of getting our guys prepared,” A&T coach Rod Broadway said. “And our guys have to play better. It’s a team effort. You’ve got to give North Carolina Central credit; they’ve come a long way. Coach Mack’s done an outstanding job and built an outstanding program.”

Following is a team-by-team breakdown of the 2017 MEAC race and STATS’ predicted order of finish:

1. North Carolina A&T

2. North Carolina Central

3. South Carolina State

4. Bethune-Cookman

5. Morgan State

6. Hampton

7. Florida A&M

8. Norfolk State

9. Savannah State

10. Howard

11. Delaware State

Source: Fox Sports
2017 MEAC Season Preview

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