Start Time: Thursday, November 2nd, 9:15 PM ET
Announcers: Mark Neely (play-by-play) and Jay Walker (analyst)
Location: Veterans Memorial Stadium (30,000)
Series: Troy leads 3-1
Odds: Troy (-18) 51 total
Entering their last season playing football at the FBS level, the Vandals were hopeful to make it to a bowl in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history. However, as they enter November with a 3-5 record a postseason appearance may not be in the cards this December.
The Vandals lost a lot off of last year’s offense that led the way to a nine-win season, but they returned a very experienced backfield. Matt Linehan is an NFL prospect at quarterback while running backs Aaron Duckworth and Isaiah Saunders were both very good in 2016. This three were suppose to be the strength of the team.
The trio has gone through their fair share of ups and downs and that has led to the offense in Moscow regressing.
Linehan, the four-year starter, hasn’t had a great year as the Vandals were totally rebuilding at wide receiver and tight end. However, he’s really turned it on the last three weeks as he’s thrown for seven touchdowns and zero interceptions. In last week’s win over ULM, Linehan put together his best performance of the season as he threw for over 300 yards for the first time this season. Senior receivers Alfonso Onunwor and Jacob Sannon receive nearly 60% of Linehan’s targets.
With the pass game rebuilding, the Idaho rushing attack was expected to be a strength as both Duckworth and Saunders rushed for over 600 yards last season. However, this ground game has taken an unexpected negative dip this fall.
The Vandals have yet to run for more than 200 yards in a game this year as they are averaging 3.7 yards per carry. As expected, Duckworth and Saunders lead the way for this rushing attack but they are just not having great years. Duckworth has been, by far the more productive back, as he has 739 yards on 130 carries for a 5.7 yards per carry. The senior from Florida needs more touches.
On the other side of the football, Idaho is giving up over 30 points per game and nearly six yards per play. This group has made improvements from last year but it has not been a big enough stride to pick up the slack for a struggling offense.
The run defense has been strong as opponents are averaging 165.4 yards per carry and the Vandals are limiting foes to 4.3 yards per attempt. Opponents have had more success through the air as Idaho is giving up over eight yards per attempt and has allowed 15 touchdown passes.
The linebacker group in Moscow may be the best in the Group of Five as Kaden Elliss, Ed Hall, and Tony Lashley are all good football players. Elliss is the best of the bunch as he’s produced 10 tackles for loss, four sacks, as well as being used on offense at receiver. Defensive end Aikeem Coleman anchors the front and the Sun Belt newcomer of the year in 2016 has 8.5 tackles for loss and three sacks.
Cade Coffey has stepped up as a freshman and has been solid as both a kicker and a punter. Coffey is 10-for-12 on field goal attempts and is averaging 46.5 yards per punt as well as connecting for touchbacks on nearly half of his kickoffs.
The Trojans are back at home after a workman like performance against Georgia Southern last week. ESPN will be in town once again and the Trojans will look to deliver this time around.
For the third time this season, senior Brandon Silvers threw for less than 200 yards in the 38-16 conference win. Silvers only completed 50% of his pass attempts but did connect for two touchdown passes in the victory of Georgia Southern. For the year, Silvers now has six touchdowns scores, but will need to play at a higher level the Trojans are going to win out in Sun Belt play.
Jordan Chunn missed his second consecutive game, but Josh Anderson and Jamarius Henderson picked up the slack. The running back duo combined for 173 yards on 19 carries as this rushing attack continues to produce at an effective rate. The Trojans have scored 19 touchdowns on the ground this season as they are averaging 5.3 yards per carry as a team.
In the last two games, true freshman Tray Eafford has emerged as a legit weapon at receiver. Eafford had three grabs for 53 yards and a score against Georgia Southern. Deondre Douglas and Emanuel Thompson remain the top targets for Silvers.
You could make the case that Troy’s defense is the best in the Group of Five as Vic Koenning has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the country this season. The Trojans are only giving up 17.3 points per game as they’ve played well at each level. Opponents are averaging 4.7 yards per play and it all starts with the run defense as Troy is only giving up 2.9 yards per carry. Tron Folsom is quietly putting together a very good season as the sophomore linebacker has 35 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss. The Georgia native along with fellow linebacker Sam Lebbie have been tremendous in run support.
Tyler Sumpter continued his strong play against Georgia Southern as the punter turned kicker is perfect on extra points and field goals. Sumpter remains a solid punter in the meantime. This special teams unit, however, still has weaknesses as fumbles have become a huge issue on punt returns.
On paper, this is a very good matchup for the Trojans and it appears Idaho’s defense is going to have a very difficult time stopping this Troy offense. As long as Neal Brown’s squad takes care of the football and finishes drives when they get into Idaho territory, this one could get ugly.
It’s going to be very hard for Idaho to establish the run on this Troy defense. For the Vandals to have a shot, Matt Linehan is going to have be dialed in and the senior will need to throw for over 300 yards. The Vandals will have to win the turnover battle.
I just find it hard to believe this Troy team will lose multiple home games this season. With ESPN back in town, I believe we’ll see the Trojans put up one of their best efforts of the season as they win big on Thursday night.
Troy 34, Idaho 13