Western Kentucky (4-1) at Troy (3-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, October 11, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Veterans Memorial Stadium (30,000) -- Troy, Alabama. Television: ESPN U. Home Record: WKU 2-0, Troy 0-2. Away Record: WKU 2-1, Troy 3-0. Neutral Record: WKU 0-0, Troy 0-0. Conference Record: WKU 1-0, Troy 2-1. Series Record: Troy leads, 8-1-1.
GAME NOTES: A pair of teams coming off a bye week try to stay perfect in Sun Belt Conference play when the Troy Trojans play host to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Thursday night.
Western Kentucky has gotten off to a blazing start, winning four of its first five games with its only loss coming against defending national champion Alabama (35-0). It is just the third Sun Belt Conference team to start a season 4-1 or better. The Hilltoppers have been one of the strongest mid-major programs over the past calendar year. Dating back to Oct. 6, 2011, they have gone 11-2, with their only two losses coming to Alabama and LSU, both of whom where ranked No. 1 at the time the game was played. They have also won eight straight games against conference opponents.
Troy is also off to a solid start, as it is coming off back-to-back road wins in conference over North Texas (14-7) and South Alabama (31-10). Playing in Veterans Memorial Stadium has not been an advantage for Troy this season however, as it has lost both of its home games to Louisiana (37-24) and nationally-ranked Mississippi State (30-24).
The Trojans have a commanding advantage in the all-time series with WKU, 8-1-1, although the Hilltoppers posted their first win over Troy last year in convincing fashion, 41-18.
Western Kentucky is coming off its lowest-scoring output of the season against a team not named Alabama, but the offense caught fire at the right time, scoring all of its points after halftime in its latest win over Arkansas State (26-13).
The biggest reason the Hilltoppers score nearly 30 ppg is because of its dynamic running back duo. Antonio Andrew has been featured the most, netting 542 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 91 carries, although he is arguably just as effective as a receiver (19 receptions, 235 yards, TD). Leon Allen has also shown explosion out of the backfield with 279 yards and a pair of scores.
Kawaun Jakes has been effective, completing more than 68 percent of his passes (69-of-101) for 824 yards with eight touchdowns to just three interceptions, but he had to leave the Arkansas State game early due to injury. If he is unable to go in this matchup, James Mauro will start under center (12-of-18, 172 yards, two TDs, INT).
Jack Doyle is the team's busiest receiver with 22 catches for 203 yards but he has yet to catch a touchdown pass. Willie McNeal has just seven catches for 91 yards, but he leads the receiving corps with three scores.
The Hilltoppers' defensive play is as big a reason as any for their early success, as they are holding foes to 21.2 ppg and fewer than 300 ypg.
Quanterus Smith leads the conference with 9.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, and Jonathan Dowling has a league-high four interceptions.
Troy's offense has been moving the ball at will, but its high total yardage output (498 ypg) has yet to result in dominating results on the scoreboard (26.4 ppg).
Corey Robinson is Troy's all-time leading passer, but he is coming off one of the worst performances of his career against South Alabama, completing 15- of-24 passes for 223 yards with three interceptions and no touchdowns. Despite a strong completion percentage (.662) and an impressive yardage total (1,489), he has just six touchdowns paired with seven picks.
Chip Reeves is one of the SBC's most productive receivers as he leads the team in catches (29), yards (428) and receiving touchdowns (two). Eric Thomas (247 yards) and Shawn Southward (148 yards) both have 23 or more receptions, and Chandler Worthy is second on the team with 276 yards on just 18 catches.
Both a running and receiving threat, Southward is used in a similar manner as Andrews is for WKU, as he is also Troy's primary rusher with 95 carries for 516 yards and five touchdowns.
The Trojans aren't traditionally known for their strong defense, but they have allowed just 17 total points over the past two games.
Brynden Trawick has a team-high 44 tackles and also has one of the unit's three interceptions.
Troy has played very well this season, even in its losses, and its home crowd will surely be out in full force to try and help their beloved team claim its first victory in the state of Alabama this season. However, WKU has been firing on all cylinders, and even if Jakes is unable to suit up, the Hilltoppers have too much fire power for the Trojans to try and slow down.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Kentucky 38, Troy 31
10/10 10:35:05 ET