Troy (2-2) at South Alabama (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (76,100) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: Sun Belt Network, CSS. Home Record: Troy 0-2, South Alabama 1-1 Away Record: Troy 2-0, South Alabama 0-2. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, South Alabama 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 1-0, South Alabama 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: South Alabama will make its debut in Sun Belt Conference play when the Jaguars host the Troy Trojans at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday.
This will be the third game in conference play for Troy which dispatched North Texas 14-7 last weekend to move to 1-1 in league action. The Trojans lost to conference foe Louisiana in their other conference matchup during week two of the campaign. Last season Troy went just 2-6 in league play and have not had a winning record in conference play since the 2010 season when the Trojans went 6-2 and were co-champions of the Sun Belt.
It comes with little surprise that South Alabama has not ripped off wins in its first four games as the Jaguars are making the transition from the FCS to the FBS level this season. South Alabama's only win this season was a 9-3 win over FCS opponent Nicholls. The Jaguars finished out their final season in the FCS with a 6-4 overall record.
This is the first ever meeting between these programs.
Troy's record matches up with the team's scoring output this season as the Trojans have scored an almost as much (101) as they have allowed this season (103). However Troy has produced yards at a very high level with the team ranking third in the Sun Belt at 498.8 ypg.
The key to the Trojan offense is the passing game with the squad ranking at the top of the league in passing yards (1,342). Corey Robinson has been the man running the show from under center completing 66.7 percent of his passes for 1,266 yards but only six scores and four interceptions. Robinson is the leading passer in the Sun Belt this season and the only one to have thrown for more than 1,000 yards through the first four weeks.
Three different receivers have at least 20 catches for Troy, led by Chip Reeves, who has 26 receptions for 361 yards and a pair of scores. He is the leading receiver in the Sun Belt. Eric Thomas (24 receptions, 169 yards) and running back Shawn Southward (20 receptions, 135 yards) have also been effective pass-catchers.
Southward is also the team's leading rusher with 442 yards and five touchdowns on 78 carries. Even though his team is not a prolific rushing squad, Southward is still the top rusher in the Sun Belt and the only one averaging more than 100 yards per game (107.5).
Troy is in the middle of the conference in terms of scoring defense, surrendering 35.8 points per game. The teams 431.8 yards per game also has it near the middle in terms of total defense with the unit ranked seventh in the Sun Belt. The squad has been particularly impressive in keeping teams from scoring touchdowns in the red zone, with opponents only doing so in 5-of-12 trips.
Brynden Trawick is the leading tackler with 35 takedowns, while Brannon Bryan (30) has also reached the 30-tackle plateau. As a team the defense does not create a great deal of pressure with only a pair of sacks, which has led to only four forced turnovers.
Adjusting to the FBS level has been difficult for South Alabama, especially on offense. The Jaguars are the fifth worst offense in the nation in terms of scoring (14.3 ppg) and the team is second to last in the Sun Belt in total offense (312 ypg).
Like Troy, South Alabama has been a more pass-heavy team with the 838 total passing yards more than doubling the Jaguars' output on the ground (410). In fact, South Alabama is the worst rushing team in the Sun Belt heading into this contest.
Lacking a strong run game has put a great deal of pressure on quarterback C.J. Bennett, who has struggled, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 521 yards and three scores to match his three interceptions. Ross Metheny (28- for-49, 317 yards, TD, 2 INTs) has also seen time under center.
The leaders at the skill positions are Demetre Baker, who had a team-high 232 rushing yards this season, while Bryant Lavender (13 receptions, 122 yards) leads a receiving corps that has four different receivers with double-digit receptions on the year.
For all the struggles the offense has had, the South Alabama defense has actually been relatively competitive this season. The Jaguars are allowing only 24.3 points and 314 yards per game. Both of those marks are good enough for second in the conference. Keeping teams off the scoreboard has been a strength, as South Alabama has only allowed four red zone touchdowns in 13 attempts.
Jake Johnson has been the leader on defense with team-highs in tackles (40) and tackles for loss (5.5). Enrqe Williams has also piled up the tackles this season (34), while Pat Moore (3.5 sacks) and Alex Page (3.0 sacks) have been effective in the pass rush.
The Jaguars' defense will be tested in this game by a Troy offense that has been able to get up and down the field on most teams. If South Alabama wants to stay in this game it will need to create pressure and slow the Troy passing game. Even if the Jaguars are able to do so, the team's offense has not proved it can score enough to keep up with even a slowed-down Troy offense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Troy 31, South Alabama 21
09/26 10:36:45 ET