Start Time: Wednesday, October 11th, 8:00 PM ET
Announcers: Kevin Negandhi (play-by-play) and Rocky Boiman (analyst)
Location: Veterans Memorial Stadium
Series: Troy leads 3-2
Odds: Troy (-16.5) 49.5 total
South Alabama Outlook
In the debut of new offensive coordinator Richard Owens, the Jags posted 333 total yards and entered the fourth quarter against Louisiana Tech trailing by one. The Jags had to settle for three field goals, but South consistently moved the football for the first time against FBS competition this season.
Xavier Johnson has finally got cookin’ the last two games as the senior is averaging over seven yards per carry in the losses to Idaho and Louisiana Tech. Johnson went over 100 yards for the first time this season against Idaho and is also a valuable weapon in the kick return game.
After the senior tailback is where it gets dicey for this offense as the Jags are still looking for consistent playmakers.
Cole Garvin returned to the starting lineup behind center against Louisiana Tech, but South just isn’t getting good play from the quarterback position. Neither Dallas Davis or Garvin is completing better than 55% of their passes and the two have combined to throw five touchdowns and four interceptions. If their play doesn’t improve, it’s going to be a long year for Joey Jones and his staff.
The receiving corps in Mobile have a nice trio in Sa’Mory Collier, Sam Harris, and Jamarius Way. Each player is averaging over 13 yards per catch and have double-digit receptions. You would like for these guys to become more involved in the offense, but South Alabama must get better play from the quarterback for that to happen. Coming into Wednesday off of a long week, I believe Owens will have some wrinkles in the gameplan to get these guys some touches.
The defense hasn’t played as well as expected to start the season, but they are not getting much help from the offense. Jeremy Reaves is one of the best safeties in all of college football and he will be taken in the draft this coming spring. The senior has five tackles for loss, six pass break-ups, and two forced fumbles as well as leading the team in tackles. He may be the best defensive player in the Sun Belt.
Finessé Middleton has given the Jags a consistent pass rush as he’s recorded 3.5 sacks. Defensive tackle Tyree Turner is the best player not named Reaves and the sophomore has 17 tackles and three sacks to start the season.
The strength of this squad has been with the special teams as punter Corliss Waitman has been one of the best in the country. Gavin Patterson has gone 9-for-11 on field goals and Xavier Johnson is an excellent return man. South Alabama is always a threat to steal points with their kicking game.
Troy has been the talk of the college football world for over a week as the Trojans have been receiving hype for about 10 days after the victory at Tiger Stadium. Now we get to see if Neal Brown’s squad can perform with hype as they return home to Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Jordan Chunn has been the best player for the Trojans in 2017 and Brown believed he was the best player on the field when Troy knocked off LSU. The bruising senior tailback has 91 carries for 460 yards and six touchdowns on the season as Troy quietly has one of the best rushing offenses in the country. Jamarius Henderson remains a nice sidekick to Chunn as the transfer is averaging eight yards per carry and has scored three touchdowns.
The passing game, meanwhile, is off to a very slow start as the Trojans are having a hard time finding explosive plays in the air. Brandon Silvers entered the season with high expectations, but the senior quarterback has not been great to start the season. Silvers has only thrown two touchdowns and we’ll see in this passing game can get ramped up in the last two months of the season.
Deondre Douglas and Emanuel Thompson pace the passing game as both receivers have recorded at least 20 receptions. Junior college transfer Damion Willis has been a pleasant surprise while Chunn has recorded 17 receptions out of the backfield. This is a very balanced receiving group and if Silvers can get hot this collection of talent could be in for a monster back half of the season.
The defense has been outstanding to start the season and this group put the clamps on a talented LSU squad for most of the game in their last appearance. The secondary leads the way as five of the top seven tacklers play in the defensive backfield. Safeties Cedarius Rookard and Kris Weatherspoon are a great tandem while Blace Brown has two interceptions and a forced fumble on the year. Pass rush remains a concern for Troy.
Unlike South Alabama, the special teams have been really poor for Troy to start the season but this group did play fairly well against LSU. Tyler Sumpter has been very solid as a freshman punter while the field goal game has been rocky. Freshman corner Marcus Jones has been outstanding as a kick returner averaging over 25 yards a return. It’s only a matter of time until he takes one back for six.
These two rivals will be meeting for the sixth time and it appears that Troy is head and shoulders above the young football program at South Alabama for the first time.
The Jags enter this contest with a lot of question marks and it is now very likely that they are going to start the year 1-5. It will be essential for South to force turnovers and find someway to have success against Troy’s defense early. The Jags will need consistent quarterback play and to find someway to be creative in how they distribute the ball to their perimeter weapons.
Troy, however, must prove they can put together back-to-back impressive performances. This is a team that has been hyped up for over a week and now will have to put it on the field when everyone is playing attention. The Trojans will need Brandon Silvers to get heated up and for their defense to continue their solid play.
The biggest advantage South Alabama has on Wednesday is in the special teams department. If an upset happens it’ll be because of big plays made in the kicking game. I think the Jags jump on the Trojans early, but in the end Troy just has too much talent and will bring home the hardware for the second consecutive year.
Prediction: Troy 27, South Alabama 18