These are dark days in the land of Troy, Alabama. An 0-4 start for a team who dominated the Sun Belt only a few years ago has the natives restless. Program builder Larry Blakeney, on the job since before most of his players were born, is on the hot seat and needs to find the win column.
The Trojans still have a ray of hope in the conference schedule, which begins this weekend. Up first is a tough test: A road game against the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks, who sit at 2-1 with a win over Wake Forest of the ACC.
Start Time: 7:00 p.m. ET
TV: None, unless you strap your laptop to the flatscreen
Radio: Listen to the Troy broadcast on these stations, or the ULM broadcast here.
Records: Troy (0-4, 0-0 Sun Belt). ULM (2-1, 1-0 Sun Belt)
Betting Odds: ULM -13. Over/Under: 52.5
Troy Outlook: Bleak. Not much has gone right this season. Troy has reached No. 3 and No. 2 in the country -- on ESPN's and CBS Sports' respective lists of worst college football teams, not to mention another week at the bottom of the Sun Belt Power Rankings. The Trojans followed a 38-35 loss to Abilene Christian with a 66-0 thrashing at the hands of Georgia last week and they're one of seven teams nationally still without a win.
The offense is 123rd in the FBS with an average of 15.5 points scored per game. The defense is allowing 46.5 points per game, good for 127th in the country. As if we needed another reason to feel bad, ULM is coming off a bye week.
But there's no reason to think Troy can't win this game. Not that it has any real bearing but the point spread alone tells you Vegas thinks it could be close.
Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers is a Freshman, which is good in and of itself in building for the future, and he might return this week after missing the Georgia game with a concussion. Silvers boats the Sun Belt's fifth-highest quarterback rating at 130.6, one point higher and he'd have the third-highest. Silvers has also completed two-thirds of his passes for 509 yards without an interception. Throw in three rushing touchdowns and the kid hasn't looked half bad.
His backup, Dontreal Pruitt, led his team to a JUCO national title last year and some Troy fans would rather see him start in any case. Against Georgia, Pruitt led the Trojan offense inside the Georgia red zone on the opening drive and had a decent day overall, going 16-of-27 for 158 yards. His 6.6 yards per attempt is a respectable number.
On defense, Femi Odaibo has hauled in two interceptions for Troy so far. Ironically, the starters should be well-rested after both teams flooded the field with substitutes for much of last week's game. Hey, we'll take what we can at this point.
Yes, Troy can make it out with a "W." With the game in the Bayou State, let's turn to a classic football film for some inspiration.
The Opponent: Don't be intimidated by the week 1 win over Wake Forest. Yes that's a P5 team, but it's also Wake Forest. The Warhawks followed up by scraping by Idaho 38-31 the next week. The Vandals are another team still looking for its first win of the year. The 31-0 loss to LSU might be the most telling game as ULM finally faced a decent opponent.
On offense, coach Todd Berry's squad isn't faring much better than Troy, averaging 18.3 points per game. But defense is another story with ULM giving up a relatively low 24 points a contest.
Quarterback Pete Thomas has a 106.3 rating (lower than both of Troy's top two QBs) and is only completing 55 percent of his passes. Top running back Centarius Donald has 252 yards rushing on the year, averaging 4.5 per carry with three touchdowns. ULM could also suffer from overconfidence if they get too focused on next week's game with defending Sun Belt champion Arkansas State.
If you're going, don't forget to the stop by the Duck Dynasty trailer. The school actually has some sort of marketing agreement with local celebrities the Robertson clan.
We're LIVE with Willie Robertson! #camoout pic.twitter.com/fKakm27Yfm— KNOE 8 News (@KNOE8) August 28, 2014
Prediction: It's tempting to say Troy gets in the win column this week, or at least covers the spread. The team has to be desperate to turn it around and win one for coach Blakeney.
But there is too much going for ULM. The bye week, home field advantage, the superior defense and, of course, the two wins they've already got. Take ULM to win and cover and hope for the best. If Troy does lose, the good news is they're off next week before taking on a very beatable New Mexico State team.