Troy (1-6) at South Alabama (4-2) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (33,471) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Troy 1-3, USA 1-2. Away Record: Troy 0-3, USA 3-0. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, USA 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 1-2, USA 3-1. Series Record: South Alabama leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first home win of the season, the South Alabama Jaguars will try to add to their total when they host the Troy Trojans in a Sun Belt Conference matchup at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Friday night.
It seems that Larry Blakeney's retirement announcement only gave the Trojans enough juice for one win. The Trojans earned their first and only victory of the season against New Mexico State on Oct. 11, just days after their long- time head coach revealed his plans to retire following the season. Last weekend did not go nearly as well, with the Trojans taking a 53-14 pounding from FBS newcomer Appalachian State. They are now just 1-6 overall, including a 1-2 mark in league play.
South Alabama pulled out a 30-27 victory over Georgia State last weekend, earning its third straight win, but first in three tries at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Despite the struggles at home, the Jaguars are right in the thick of the Sun Belt title chase, sporting a 3-1 record in conference play, as well as a 4-2 overall mark.
This is not exactly a time-honored conference rivalry, with just three all- time meetings between the two programs. The Jags claimed victory in the first two matchups, but Troy won last year's on a last-second touchdown pass from Corey Robinson to Eric Thomas.
In their win over New Mexico State, the Jaguars piled up a season-high 571 yards of total offense. They came crashing back down to Earth against Appalachian State, finishing with only 308 yards. On the season, they are averaging only 361.8 yards and 19.6 points per game, ranking better than only ULM in the conference in each category.
Brandon Silvers played one of his worst games of the season against the Mountaineers, finishing with an efficiency rating below 100 for the first time on the campaign. He completed 20-of-30 pass attempts, but was intercepted twice, while tallying a season-low 156 yards. In all, he has thrown for 1,146 yards, while completing 68.7 percent of his passes. However, he has only five touchdown passes, compared to three interceptions. Protection has also been an issue, with Troy's offensive line allowing 17 sacks.
The ground game has been rather hit-or-miss, with Brandon Burks the club's leading rusher. Burks tallied 42 yards and a score against Appalachian State, but he had 176 yards on 10 carries against New Mexico State. He has 332 yards and two scores on 54 attempts this season. Jordan Chunn had a negative rushing total against the Mountaineers, but he is still tied with Silvers for the team lead in rushing scores (four).
Chandler Worthy continues to be an intriguing offensive weapon for Blakeney's crew, both for his ability to make plays in the passing game as well as on special teams. Worthy leads the Trojans in receptions (27), receiving yards (320) and touchdown receptions (three). On top of that, he has amassed a league-leading 541 kickoff return yards, with returns for touchdowns in each of the last two games.
Obviously, the struggles of the offense are not the only thing holding Troy back. The Trojans have also had plenty of trouble on defense, allowing 40.7 points and 469.3 yards per game. They rank eighth and ninth in the Sun Belt in those categories, respectively.
In its recent win over Georgia State, South Alabama was just a tick above its normal offensive pace. The Jaguars tallied 447 yards of total offense and 30, upping their season averages to 407.7 yards and 23.8 points per game, ranking just ahead of Troy in each category among Sun Belt squads.
Brandon Bridge leads the team from under center. His ability to make plays through the air and on the ground is invaluable. Bridge has only completed 51.4 percent of his pass attempts for 1,174 yards, but he has twice as many touchdown passes (eight) as interceptions (four). He has also picked up 294 yards and three scores on the ground. Bridge was outstanding against Georgia State, finishing with 137 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to go with two passing scores.
Jay Jones is USA's leading rusher, with 393 yards and three touchdowns on 83 carries, while Kendall Houston (209 yards) and Xavier Johnson (188 yards) have slotted in at times as well. The trio combined for 184 yards against the Panthers, with each managing at least 55 yards.
Shavarez Smith is easily the most productive receiver on the roster, as he has snared 24 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns. Jereme Jones (14 recs., 155 yards) is second on the team in both catches and receiving yards.
South Alabama's less-than-potent offense has been complemented by a strong effort on defense. The Jaguars rank third in the Sun Belt in both total defense (379.2 ypg) and scoring defense (22.3 ppg). Theo Rich (6.0 sacks), Terrell Brigham (47 tackles, seven pass breakups) and Montell Garner (two INTs) are the real playmakers on the unit.
Right now South Alabama is the hotter team, with a winning streak and a bit more pressure to maintain its spot among the league's elite. The Jaguars should be able to continue to rebuild their home record, after all, their two losses at Ladd-Peebles came against conference-leading Georgia Southern and No. 1 Mississippi State. Troy has not exactly run in the same circles as those two programs this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 33, Troy 20Game Date and Time
Friday, October 24, 7:30 p.m. (ET)