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Troy vs. Georgia State Preview

Can the Trojans get back on track?

NCAA Football: Troy at Louisiana State
Can Brandon Silvers and this Troy passing attack find their swagger?
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: Saturday, October 21st, 2:00 PM ET

TV: ESPN3

Streaming: WatchESPN.com

Announcers: Matt Stewart (play-by-play) and Wayne Gandy (analyst)

Location: Georgia State Stadium (23,000)

Series: Troy leads 3-1

Odds: Troy (-7.5) 49 total


Troy Outlook

After a week of hype, the Trojans came crashing down to earth as Troy was punked in their backyard by South Alabama. The rushing game was totally shutdown and their experienced passing attack could not get off the ground against the Jags. After a brutal performance, we should see a motivated football squad come Saturday afternoon.

This Troy offense, with literally all of its skill talent returning from last fall, is only averaging 21.3 points per game. Who saw that coming? This is down nearly two touchdowns from last season and the passing game is a huge reason why. S&P+ has this pass offense ranked 103rd in the country and that really is flabbergasting. Brandon Silvers is only averaging 6.6 yards per attempt and is on pace to finish the season with four touchdowns and six interceptions. This is hard to comprehend. The Trojans are completing over 60% of their passes and averaging 253.2 passing yards per game, but the big plays have just not been there.

Deondre Douglas, Emanuel Thompson, and Damion Willis are all really good receivers but they just are not getting enough opportunities. Neither is averaging more than 13 yards per catch and that tells you everything you need to know about the struggles of this offense. Willis has shown to have the ability to stretch the defense and I expect you’ll see this Troy offense take multiple vertical shots on Saturday.

NCAA Football: Troy at Boise State
Troy needs to get Jamarius Henderson touches.
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Chunn is expected to play on Saturday after leaving the South Alabama game with a leg laceration. Chunn received 18 stitches in his leg but the Trojans will have their best offensive weapon suited up. With MegaChunn nursing this injury, I’d look for Troy to get Jamarius Henderson more touches. The Memphis transfer is averaging 7.7 yards per carry and has the big play capability this offense desperately needs.

The reason Troy has been winning football games this season has been because of their defense which is the best in the Sun Belt. Coordinator Vic Koenning is doing an excellent job as the Trojans have yet to allow more than 27 points this season. Opponents are averaging less than 100 yards on the ground against Troy and 221.8 yards per game in the air. Troy is holding opponents to a 38% conversion rate on third down and this group has produced 10 takeaways.

The secondary leads the way as safety Cedarius Rookard leads the squad in tackles, while corner Blace Brown and safety Kris Weatherspoon each have two interceptions.

The special teams group has actually played worse than the offense as the Trojans have only hit four field goals on 10 attempts and have missed two extra points. Punter Tyler Sumpter has been good, but Marcus Jones has lost two fumbles on punt returns. If this group doesn’t get its issues fixed it’s going to cause Troy a loss again this season.


Georgia State Outlook

Quietly, the Panthers have won three in a row and hold a 2-0 record in conference play. On Saturday, they’ll be playing in downtown Atlanta for the first time since August. Shawn Elliott is making a case for Sun Belt coach of the year honors as he and the Georgia State program will be looking for their first victory in Georgia State Stadium this Saturday.

Georgia State v Penn State
Can Conner Manning and this passing game continue to roll against a good Troy secondary?
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After a brutal start in their first two games, Travis Trickett’s offense has found its rhythm in the last three weeks as the Panthers are averaging 34 points per game in their three-game winning streak. The biggest reason for this has been the passing game. Conner Manning is completing nearly 70% of his passes and is averaging 8.6 yards per attempt. Manning has thrown for at least 250 yards in each win and has tossed for six scores on the season.

The main reason for this offensive explosion has been due to sophomore wide receiver Penny Hart. The sophomore from Buford, Georgia has 42 receptions, 555 yards, and five touchdowns in just five games. Hart is proving to be one of the best wideouts in the Group of Five and he is a workhorse. Hart has received 58 targets and that is 39 more than the next closest GSU receiver.

The rushing game remains a struggle, but the Panthers are staying committed to it. The Panthers have attempted at least 40 runs in four consecutive games and it’s obvious that Shawn Elliott and Travis Trickett want to run the football. After being shutdown by Charlotte and Coastal Carolina, the commitment finally paid off against ULM as the Panthers ran for 224 yards in the road victory. Trickett has had to get creative by getting wide receivers involved on reverses, but this balance is key in helping protect Manning. The ground game is not very effective but this staff is starting to build an offensive identity.

The defense is giving up a lot of yards as opponents are averaging 6.3 yards per play but coordinator Nate Fuqua has this group playing hard. The rush defense has been pretty strong against Group of Five competition and that is something to build on moving forward.

Safety Bryan Williams leads the team in tackles, but defensive linemen Marterious Allen and Julien Laurent have been the story. The duo has combined for 9.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. Freshman Dontae Wilson has flashed some great pass rushing potential and senior linebacker Trey Payne is very dependable. This group is getting better each week.

Special teams have been an issue all season for the Panthers as opponents are having their way in the return game. Brandon Wright has struggled with field goals but he hit two big ones last week against ULM. Wright also stepped in at punter and did a good job against the Warhawks. Getting Glenn Smith back should give the GSU kick return game some live.


Prediction

This really is a big game.

Troy rolls into Atlanta in an obvious bounce back spot and it’s a must win if the Trojans are going to stay in the Sun Belt title hunt. With Chunn hobbled, Troy’s passing game really needs to step up.

Georgia State is now 2-0 in the Sun Belt and with a win against Troy they would become a legitimate contender in the conference championship race. With a remaining home game against Appalachian State, the Panthers would control their destiny with a victory on Saturday afternoon.

This seems like a very favorable spot for Troy as they’ve had a long week to stew on that performance against South Alabama and that offense should be pretty embarrassed. Much like the New Mexico State game in September, I believe you’ll see Brandon Silvers and this passing game come alive on the road in front of a rowdy home crowd.

Georgia State’s best weapon is Penny Hart and the passing game. However, they’ll be facing a dynamic secondary who will be able to slow down the super sophomore, and force Conner Manning into a couple of turnovers. Trojans get a must needed win.

Troy 27, Georgia State 14