Sun Belt Showdown: Troy Trojans vs. New Mexico State Aggies
The Gods of Week 3 have granted Sun Belt fans a surprisingly meaty intra-conference matchup with two potent offenses clashing in Las Cruces. But defense might be what wins the evening.
A question for the Sun Belt heading into the season was, “Who will challenge the Sun Belt Big 3,” a triumvirate comprised of Arkansas State, Appalachian State and Troy. Personally, the New Mexico State Aggies and their paper-thin defense didn’t cross my mind. But after Tyler Rogers nearly upended Arizona State and then bested New Mexico for a second straight year, it’s time to recognize the Aggies as a true challenger to the Sun Belt Establishment
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 16th, 7:00PM ON ESPN3 @ Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
New Mexico State is playing Arena League offense
After two weeks of play, the Aggies’ Tyler Rogers ranks fifth in the nation among QBs for passing yards (799). On the whole, New Mexico State ranks 20th nationally in total offense, generating 524 yards per contest – and that’s with outstanding RB Larry Rose III being held to less than 100 yards in both games.
Rogers leads the Sun Belt in both passing yards (799) and touchdowns (7) without padding his numbers against an FCS opponent. Senior receiver Jaleel Scott (6-6 215) has emerged as a monster, notching 149 yards and two scores against Arizona State, and following up with a 99 yard, 1 score encore. The Sun Belt may not have a more potent trio right now than Rogers, Rose and Smith.
Troy still ain’t bad, tho
To say the Trojans laid a big poop sandwich in its opener with Boise State is only half correct. The offense definitely dropped a deuce. But Troy’s defense was once again one of the nation’s best. Currently ranked 19th, Troy limited the Broncos to 24 points (about half of what Washington State surrendered the next week). Troy’s defense also brings the pressure, recording 4 sacks and 12 TFLs against Boise State. After two games, the Trojans have 7 sacks, second in the Sun Belt. (Guess who leads with 8? Yup, New Mexico State.)
Say what you will about Brandon Silvers 139 yard, no score performance in Boise. The TD passes will come. Meanwhile, RB Jordan Chunn recorded 3 TDs against Alabama (State) in Week 2, and it’s only a matter of time before wide receivers Deondre Douglas and Emmanuel Thompson starting acting like Deondre Douglas and Emmanuel Thompson. In fact, that transformation is likely to happen Saturday night.
Would an Aggies win over Troy create a 4-team Sun Belt Elite?
Of course. But to do that, the Aggies would have to vastly improve a pass defense that’s giving up 287 yards per contest. New Mexico State does a good job pressuring the passer, but Silvers benefits from working behind one of the Sun Belt’s beefiest and most experienced offensive lines.
Is Troy a better team than Arizona State and New Mexico? After two games, one with an FCS punching bag, it’s hard to say. But if Troy comes out as flat as they did against Boise, and if the Aggies offense continues to make up for the faults of the secondary, the Aggies could make the Sun Belt intriguing.
Troy can exchange offensive blows with New Mexico State all night. The team that manages to force a few more stops than the other is going to win this game.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.