Start Time: Saturday, September 30th, 7PM ET
Announcers: Clay Matvick (play-by-play) and Kirk Morrison (analyst)
Location: Tiger Stadium
Series: LSU leads 2-0
Odds: LSU (-20.5) 48.5 total
The Trojans will head on the road with a 3-1 record as it’s been a somewhat slow start to the season in Neal Brown’s third year. The offense was ugly in the opener against Boise State but has slowly picked up the pace in each game while the defense has been a constant for this squad all season.
The Trojans have been very efficient on offense as they’ve been able to move the chains consistently, but they are not producing splash plays and are not finishing drives when they get into the red zone. This shows up when you look at the stat line of quarterback Brandon Silvers as he’s thrown for over a thousand yards on the season but only has two touchdown passes. This is something that must improve if the Trojans are going to claim a conference title.
Jordan Chunn has improved his rushing total in each game so far this season and it’s starting to become clear that the senior is headed for a monster season. Chunn has been a huge part of the passing game this year as he’s reeled in 15 receptions for 131 yards to go along with 299 rushing yards. Jamarius Henderson has been a solid backup option to Chunn and this may be the best rushing offense in the Sun Belt.
After a slow start, junior Deondre Douglas is beginning to emerge as the top target for this Troy passing game as he’s pulled in 14 receptions for 193 yards in the last two games. Last year’s leading receiver Emanuel Thompson is off to a slow start as he’s only averaging around eight yards per reception and junior college transfer Damion Willis has bit hit or miss to start the season. This passing game still has a ton of potential but at this point Troy will be looking for a consistent big play threat to emerge.
The defense has just been outstanding to start the season as S&P+ as them as a top 50 unit. The Trojans have been solid against both the rush and the pass as they’re getting a balanced effort from each level.
The only weakness shown to this point in the season has been Troy’s inability to rush the passer as outside of linebacker Zo Bridges there has not been much of a threat off the edge.
Part of Troy’s inability to finish drives and put points on the board has been issues in the kicking game. On the season, Troy has only hit three of six field goals and has already missed two extra points in just four games. This is a huge concern and eventually it’s going to cost the Trojans a victory. Troy has gotten nearly nothing in the return department and this has been one of those worst special teams units in the FBS.
It’s been a rocky start to Ed Orgeron’s tenure as the head man at LSU as the Tigers have really not looked good all season. After getting demolished in Starkville by Mississippi State, the Tigers returned home and looked very sluggish against Syracuse. Will we see back-to-back mediocre performances at home?
Former Purdue transfer Danny Etling is the guy behind center for new offensive coordinator Matt Canada and so far the passing game has been able to produce some big plays. Etling has only thrown three touchdowns but is averaging over eight yards per attempt.
By far the number one target for the passing attack has been DJ Chark. The senior leads the team with 23 targets and is averaging over 19 yards per catch. Expect Canada to dial up multiple deep shots for Chark on Saturday. Russell Gage is another solid receiver outside as LSU always has plenty of talent on the perimeter.
Canada also uses Chark and Gage in the rushing attack as both will get carries on jet sweeps. But this attack goes as junior Derrius Guice goes. The junior is off to a bit of a slow start in 2017 as he and the rest of the LSU rush attack are having a hard time breaking off big runs. Guice has been slowed by some nagging injuries as he’s collected 314 yards on 65 carries.
The surprise of the rushing attack has been senior Darrel Williams who has put up 251 yards on 44 carries. The Marrero, Louisiana native has scored five touchdowns on the year and he’s been really solid for an offense that desperately needed a second option to emerge at running back.
Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is regarded as one of the best defensive minds in college football and this Tigers defense kind of got rocked the last two weeks. Both Mississippi State and Syracuse were able to move the ball consistently against Aranda’s group and there are some issues that need to be worked out.
The LSU rush defense has started to flash some holes as they were exposed by Nick Fitzgerald and Mississippi State who rolled up 285 rushing yards against the Tigers. LSU is playing a lot of young guys in the front seven.
Four of the top six tacklers for the Tigers are underclassmen and sophomore linebacker Devin White has been the best player on the defense to this point in the season. White has 3.5 tackles for loss and has been all over the field for the Bayou Bengals.
LSU has two outstanding corners in Donte Jackson and Kevin Toliver II. The two may be the best cover duo in the country and they should give Troy headaches all night. But freshman corner Andraez Williams has been a pleasant surprise as he’s recorded three interceptions and has five pass break-ups. This secondary is loaded every season.
Speaking of bad special teams, LSU’s unit is right there with Troy in the bottom of the FBS. The Tigers are three of six on field goals this season and two punters have been used as they are looking for answers. DJ Chark is a dynamic punt returner but LSU has gotten nothing from the kick return game to this point in the season.
If Troy had played better in their first four games they would be a trendy upset pick to knock off the powerful SEC West program. However, this experienced Troy offense still has issues they are working out and a stacked LSU secondary should make it a long night for Brandon Silvers and this passing attack.
Expect the Troy defense to keep this LSU offense in check most of the night, but in the end the depth for the Tigers will take over. Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams both break off big runs in the fourth quarter as LSU pulls away late.
Prediction: LSU 31, Troy 13