South Alabama (2-2) at Troy (2-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Veterans Memorial Stadium (30,000) -- Troy, Alabama. Television: ESPN3.com, Sun Belt Network, CSS. Home Record: USA 1-1, Troy 2-0. Away Record: USA 1-1, Troy 0-3. Neutral Record: USA 0-0, Troy 0-0. Conference Record: USA 1-0, Troy 0-1. Series Record: Troy leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Troy Trojans will attempt to stay unbeaten at Veterans Memorial Stadium this season as they take on the South Alabama Jaguars in a Sun Belt Conference showdown on Saturday afternoon.
In South Alabama's inaugural FBS season in 2012 it won just two games, but it has already matched that total through four contests this year with a road win over Tulane (41-39) and a strong conference victory against Western Kentucky (31-24). The Jaguars' modest two-game win streak came to an end last weekend as they dropped a hard-fought battle to Tennessee, 31-24.
Troy's season got off to an outstanding start, winning its first two games against UAB (34-31) and Savannah State (66-3), but its recent road trip was not kind as it dropped three consecutive matchups. The Trojans most recently fell in a non-conference bout against Duke last Saturday, 38-31. They have enjoyed a nice home-field advantage, winning four of their last five at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
In the first-ever matchup between these two programs on Sept. 29, 2012, Troy defeated South Alabama in Mobile, 31-10.
The Jaguars rank in the middle of the Sun Belt in scoring (29.2 ppg) and total offense (401.5 ppg), which is a marked improvement from 2012 (18.5 ppg, 333.4 ypg).
Ross Metheny has completed nearly 61 percent of his pass attempts for 829 yards and four touchdowns, but he has also tossed four interceptions, two of which came last week against Tennessee. The signal caller has made an impact outside the pocket as well with 166 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
Jay Jones earns the most backfield work, and while he has just one touchdown, he has amassed 241 yards on 5.9 yards per carry.
Jereme Jones is Metheny's most trusted target when it comes to moving the chains through the air, having logged 17 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdowns, while Wes Saxton (15 receptions, 225 yards) and Shavarez Smith (14 receptions, 264 yards TD) act as the deep threats.
Defensively, South Alabama has not played as well as it had hoped, allowing 29.0 ppg and 399.5 ppg, but both numbers are good enough for third in the conference.
The Jags picked off seven passes in the first month of the season, with Tyrell Pearson recording a pair. Enrique Williams (34 tackles, sack, FF), Qudarius Ford (32 tackles, INT), Maleki Harris (18 tackles, 2.5 TFL, INT) and Montell Garner (16 tackles INT, fumble recovery) are making strong early cases for all-conference consideration.
Troy has made a name for itself in recent years as one of the Sun Belt's most potent offenses, and it has been much of the same in 2013 as it scores 34.4 ppg while leading the league with 468.0 ypg.
Despite throwing five interceptions through the first five games, Corey Robinson is nonetheless off to an outstanding start, throwing for 1,329 yards and 10 touchdowns, while his .738 completion percentage is the highest in the nation among quarterbacks with at least 100 pass attempts. The senior is already the SBC's all-time passing leader (11,587 yards), and he needs just six more touchdowns to surpass Rusty Smith's league record of 76.
Deon Anthony is used sparingly under center as a change-of-pace guy. He is 13- of-21 for 183 yards and a touchdown through the air while acting as the team's leading rusher (249 yards, two TDs).
At running back, neither Brandon Burks (203 yards) nor Jordan Chunn (169 yards) average more than 4.1 yards per carry, although Chunn has a nose for the end zone with five scores. Burks is also a viable safety valve in the passing game with 19 receptions.
Eric Thomas has caught 26 passes for 351 yards, both of which rank him in the top-three in the conference, and his seven touchdown receptions are tied for third-most nationally. Bryan Holmes has also benefited from Robinson's precision with 21 catches for 294 yards and two scores.
While the Trojans offense has soared, the defense hasn't held up its end of the bargain, surrendering 35.0 ppg and 439.6 ypg.
Tyler Roberts is one of the league's top pass rushers with 4.5 TFL and 3.0 sacks, while Camren Hudson leads the unit with 30 stops.
South Alabama is one of the Sun Belt's most improved teams as it showed last week in fighting tooth and nail in a hostile SEC environment, and it has plenty of defensive playmakers to slow down Troy's aerial attack. It's likely to be a high-scoring affair, but the Trojans have defended their home field well recently and their veteran quarterback will find a way to pull this one out down the stretch.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Troy 35, South Alabama 34
10/02 10:36:45 ET