Four games into the season, the Troy Trojans sit at 1-3, with their single win coming against the FCS Charleston Southern Buccaneers. First-year head coach Neal Brown has to be shaking his head, with many Trojan fans trying to figure out what is going on.
But honestly, Troy's early season struggles were predictable. With NC State and Wisconsin as two of Troy's first three opponents, two losses after week five was almost inevitable. The real question comes after the loss to in-state rival South Alabama, to whom the Trojans had no business losing.
Next the Trojans head to Starkville, Mississippi to take on SEC opponent Mississippi State. The Bulldogs opened as a massive 31.5-point favorite, a number that has since been knocked down a point to 30.5.
Yes, Mississippi State is one of college football's bigger names and the Bulldogs have the benefit of playing in the SEC, but is a THIRTY POINT SPREAD really justified?
Troy does not possess the pedigree the Mississippi State Bulldogs do, but there is no way a 30.5-point spread is justified. The Trojans played the Wisconsin Badgers extremely tough on the road earlier in the year, and while the Trojans have shot themselves in the foot in every one of their losses, they have shown signs of improvement with each game.
On the flip side, Mississippi State has not looked very impressive to this point. The Bulldogs lost last week to the Texas A&M Aggies, and barely escaped with a win against a very weak Auburn Tigers team the week before.
Troy comes into Saturday's matchup with a critical advantage, one that could turn the tides of the game. With one of the nation's premiere talents in quarterback Dak Prescott, the Bulldog offense is largely centered around the passing attack. Through five games, Prescott already has 176 passing attempts.
On the other side of things, the Troy Trojans' defense has been excellent against the pass. Through four games, they have allowed an opponent to break the 200 passing yard mark just once. Now, that in no way says that the Trojans have any shot of completely shutting down the Mississippi State passing attack, but it does give Troy fans hope that they can at least keep the Bulldogs from scoring at will.
The Troy offense has been extremely up and down all year long, so it is impossible to predict how well they will do on any given weekend, no matter how good the opponent is. We could see 20 or so points against the Bulldogs this weekend, or we could see six. Regardless, the Trojan defense should be enough to keep the final margin within 30 points.
Also, history does not exactly hurt the Troy Trojans against Mississippi State. In 2001, Troy went on the road and knocked off the Bulldogs by a final of 21-7.
In 2002, Troy again faced off against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Down 11-8 with the chance to drive down the field to complete another upset, Troy turned the ball over to end any hope of back-to-back wins against MSU. Then in 2012, the Trojans welcomed the unbeaten Bulldogs to Troy and lost 30-24 in an extremely hard-fought game.
Given the semi-favorable matchup Troy has against a pass-heavy offense, the Trojans' history against Mississippi State, and the absolute ridiculousness of a 30+ point spread, I think it's fair to say the Trojans will easily cover this weekend.