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 NEW ORLEANS (AP) -The late Eddie Robinson, father of the Bayou Classic, would have taken pride in the high-stakes environment surrounding this year's edition of the nationally televised rivalry game between Grambling State and Southern.
Grambling (9-1, 6-0 Southwestern Athletic Conference), can clinch the SWAC Western Division with a victory on Saturday over its nemesis from Baton Rouge and advance to play Jackson State in the conference championship in Birmingham on Dec. 13.
But Southern (6-4, 5-1) isn't out of it yet, and Prairie View most certainly will be watching in neighboring Texas. Prairie View beat Southern earlier this season and Grambling beat Prairie View. So a Southern victory creates a three-way tie for the division between Grambling, Southern and Prairie View (9-1, 6-1).
en the two remaining schools would then decide who heads to Birmingham.
Second-year Grambling coach Rod Broadway regards the coin flip possibility as so fickle he doesn't even want to consider it as a fallback in the case of a loss.
``We're in a one-game season,'' Broadway said. ``It's a do-or-die situation for us. It's pretty basic as to what we have to do and it's win over Southern.''
This is the 35th Bayou Classic, held annually in the Louisiana Superdome on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and the second since the April 2007 death of Robinson, who coached Grambling for 57 years. The game highlights a holiday weekend of booster-sponsored galas and other events such as stepping contests and the ``battle of the bands'' featuring Southern's ``Human Jukebox'' and Grambling's Tiger Marching Band.
Robinson is widely credited with developing the ``classic'' concept, having recognized how Grambling's national following offered it the chance to meet competitors around the country in large, off-campus stadiums to capitalize on the fan base in urban areas. Many historically black colleges rely on such ``classic'' games now to generate revenue for their athletic programs.
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The games often are emotional, back-and-forth, unpredictable affairs. Southern coach Pete Richardson has led the Jaguars to a 12-3 record against Grambling, sometimes winning even when the Tigers were the only ones with postseason credentials. That was the case last year when Southern took a 22-13 victory over a Grambling squad that already had clinched the SWAC Western Division.
``I'm excited about this game, this year ... because there's a great deal at stake in this football game,'' Richardson said. ``I think our players understand the magnitude of what they've put themselves in.''
This year's game matches teams with different styles. Southern tops the SWAC in total offense and passing, led by quarterback Bryant Lee, a dual threat who has 2,498 yards and 19 touchdowns passing as well as 510 yards and six TDs rushing.
Grambling quarterback Greg Dillon averages only 99 yards passing, but he and running back Cornelius Walker have combined for nearly 1,200 yards rushing this season. And while Dillon doesn't pass often, he makes the throws he needs to, completing 55 percent for 14 touchdowns.
Grambling also has one of the best defenses in the SWAC, ranking third in yards allowed with 261 and second in points allowed with 13.4.
``Last year was my first opportunity to be involved in this. I thought it was a great event, except for the outcome,'' Broadway said. ``I have a lot of respect for coach Richardson and the job he's done over at Southern. We're looking forward to coming down and competing, and hopefully, we'll be able to play well this year.''

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