Larry Blakeney admitted to tearing up before last week's game against Idaho, the reason being it was his final road game. If that occasion commanded tears of emotion, Saturday should bring tidal waves.
Start Time: 12:30 P.M. ET
Location: Veterans Memorial Stadium, Troy, Alabama
Streaming: ESPN3.com/WatchESPN App
Records: Troy (3-8, 3-4 Sun Belt) UL (7-4, 6-1)
Live Stats: Check
Betting Line: UL -10.5/ Total of 56.5
Troy Outlook: As Troy spiraled downward over the last four years, many fans were calling for Blakeney's ouster. But when word came back in October he'd be leaving, the news was bittersweet at best.
Blakeney was to Troy what Bobby Bowden was to Florida State: A program builder, a man who stayed for years and years when it seemed a bigger job would lure him away, a coach who meant so much to his school the football field is named for him. The recent win/loss suggests time was right for Blakeney to move on. That doesn't diminish in any way the things he's done for Troy.
To recap: Coached the school from Division II to the FBS, won five straight conference titles and beat the likes of Mississippi State, Missouri and Oklahoma State on the way.
As for the game, it's not one Troy is expected to win and will likely be the final loss in a 3-9 season. One thing I love about football is the outcome of the game almost always takes precedent over frilly stuff like records and retirements. Baseball is about statistics, basketball focuses on individual players. Football is about wins and losses.
Well, this game might be the exception to the rule. Troy doesn't have much left to play for in any case. And for a school at this level of football, where conventional wisdom holds any good coach leaves for a better offer, 24 years truly is amazing.
Louisiana-Lafayette Outlook: The Cajuns surely have respect for Blakeney's accomplishments. That said, they've got bigger fish to fry. UL still can split the Sun Belt championship with a win and a Georgia Southern loss. And since ULM has promised to beat the conference's top team this weekend, who knows what could happen over in Statesboro. There's also the bowl pecking order to consider, although that's more or less a foregone conclusion.
The Cajuns are fresh off a stunning 35-16 loss to Appalachian State. And while that looks like a shocker, the Mountaineers suddenly are the Sun Belt's hottest team. But UL can wrap up an 8-4 record, 7-1 in conference, if it beats the Trojans, with a shot at a ninth win in the bowl game.
Quarterback Terrance Broadway runs the show for UL. He's thrown for 1,931 yards and 12 touchdowns this year with a 123.2 quarterback rating. On top of that, Broadway is the Cajuns' third-leading rusher with 556 yards and two touchdowns. Saturday is his last regular-season game with the team.
Louisiana is pretty balanced between the run and the pass. They've got 2,125 yards through the air and 2,397 on the ground. Leading rusher Elijah McGuire will pass 1,000 yards on the season so long as he picks up at least four during the game. Alonzo Harris isn't too far behind with 651 yards and the pair combine for 19 scores.
The Cajuns give up 424 yards a game and six yards per play, which is about average. Although App running back Marcus Cox smoked UL last weekend, Troy doesn't have that kind of ground game.
Prediction: It's tempting to say Troy rides the emotion of the moment to a win. Lord knows the players want to send Blakeney out on a high note, especially with how poorly this year has gone.
Unfortunately, I see things going the other way. It's likely more of a distraction making it hard to focus on the game at hand. Troy also has nothing to play for, and Larry Blakeney's farewell really is more important for the Trojans than this contest.
UL has more on the line, not to mention it's simply a better team. I see them winning and covering 10.5, and think the total stays under 56.5