by: Knox Bardeen
Only one game separates Troy and South Alabama in the overall standings, but these two football programs are extremely different.
The South Alabama Jaguars (1-3, 0-0 Sun Belt) host their first-ever Sun Belt In-Conference foe Saturday when the Troy Trojans (2-2, 1-1 Sun Belt) arrive at Ladd-Peebles Stadium for a 3:30 p.m. ET kickoff. The game will be broadcast on CSS with Tom Dore calling the game and Cole Cubelic providing color commentary. Barbara Jordan will be on the sideline reporting.
South Alabama is in its fourth season with a football program, and its first as a member of the Sun Belt Conference. The Jaguars have a combined 24-7 record under head coach Joey Jones, but sit at 1-3 in 2012 after losing their last two games against major-conferenceopponentsNorth Carolina State and Mississippi State,respectively.
Troy beat North Texas last week, 14-7, scoring two unanswered touchdowns after North Texas jumped out to a 7-0 lead.
Saturday's contest will feature Troy's powerful offense against a stout defense from South Alabama. Troy ranks 10th in the country through the air, averaging 335.5 yards per game, and 20th in total offense with 498.8 yards per game. South Alabama isn't shown on the national statistical rankings because of their provisional status, but allow just 192 yards through the air, on average, and give up 314 yards of total offense per game.
This will be the first time these in-state football programs have met.
Here are some things to watch for:
Even though this is considered a Sun Belt Conference game, South Alabama cannot win the conference title as they are in a two-year transition phase into FBS play.
South Alabama is 20-2 at home since 2009 and will play at Ladd-Peebles Stadium just this once in a four-game span. Saturday's game is sandwiched with road trips to Raleigh N.C. and Starkville, Miss. over the last two weeks, then travel to Jonesboro Ark. next week to play Arkansas State.
South Alabama is particularly tough on third down, allowing opponents just a 28.1 percent success rate. Troy is converting half of its third-down plays in 2012.
Junior linebacker Enrique Williams notched a career-high 12 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss for South Alabama last week against Mississippi State. He's part of the reason why the Jags are tough to gain yardage on.
Troy running back Shawn Southward and quarterback Corey Robinson lead the Sun BeltConferencein rushing yards and passing yards, respectively.
Trojans wide receiver Chip Reeves is one of just 16 players in the country with two or more 50-plus yard catches this year.
Even though the Trojans have only reached the 35-point plateau once in 2012, their overall record under head coach Larry Blakeney when the team scores at least 35 points is 67-4. If Troy puts up a bunch of points, it usually wins.
Robinson is ranked seventh in the country with 29.5 completions per game on average. Look for Troy to attack through the air on Saturday.
by: Knox Bardeen