Sun Belt Showdown: South Alabama Jaguars vs Troy Trojans
The Jaguars roll into Troy a big, dysfunctional mess. Can Joey Jones get it together for a mid-week upset of the Trojans
Cats (1-4) and Soldiers (4-1), Wednesday, October 11, 7PM on ESPN2
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a Sun Belt Celebrity, but the Trojans of Troy fit the bill nicely, knocking off a Top 25 SEC team and basking in the national spotlight. You’d think that defeating a Top 25 program who then goes on to defeat another a Top 25 program would earn Troy more Top 25 consideration, but nope! Troy received zero votes in the AP Top 25, and only 10 notes in the Coaches Poll.
So who gets the honors? Navy (25), who hasn’t played a single P5 opponent, and whose best win is, I dunno, Tulsa?
UCF (22) has a P5 win. Over Maryland. Wow. Maryland.
USF (18) beat Illinois.
How are these AAC teams ranked, and Troy isn’t? The Trojans opened the season in Boise and fell to the Broncos 24-13. That’s not a bad loss. I guess if you’re Navy, and play nobody, a clean record outweighs a challenging schedule.
Somebody has to play quarterback for the Jaguars.
South Bama opened the season by naming Cole Garvin (6-1 205) the starting QB, usurping last year’s starter Dallas Davis (6-2 215). Garvin got banged up against the Oklahoma State buzzsaw, and Davis reclaimed the mantle. But after a miserable performance against Idaho (11/25 for 106 yards and a pick), Jones handed the playbook back to Garvin, who tossed a pair of picks to Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Neither quarterback is distinguishing himself for South Alabama. Both complete a little better than 50% of their passes and both have two picks on the season. Davis does seem to have more success with the long ball, but Jamarius Way (6-4 215) and his 18 receptions is really the only playmaker the Jags have at wideout. Davis/Garvin desperately miss TE Gerald Everett, but one of these guys needs to step up and deliver a massive game against Troy on Wednesday.
Troy is “physical” but…
That’s what we kept hearing from the national pundits – that Troy looked “more physical” against LSU. There’s no doubt that the Trojans feature a tremendous roster of athletes, from junior CB Blace Brown (6-0 186) to bruising RB Jordan Chunn (6-1 235).
But here’s the thing: starting QB Brandon Silvers (6-3 219) has already absorbed 9 sacks – two more sackings than all of last season. The offensive line has gifted players like Steven Rowzee and Deontae Crumitie, but the unit might be missing Antonio Garcia, who now keeps Tom Brady clean for the New England Patriots.
In any case, Silvers performance is clearly affected. The senior signal caller dialed up 23 TD passes in 2016. This season, he has only two (!), including zero against LSU. Silvers is being careful with the ball, only throwing two picks, and he’s completing 65% of his passes. But super-studs like Deondre Douglas and Emmanuel Thompson need a steady diet of TD passes – and they’re only eating one between them!
The Jags can win with Finesse (I’m so sorry)
Defensive end Finesse Middleton (6-1 240) is providing all the disruption for the Jaguars, contributing 3 sacks and 17 tackles. If Finesse can dump Silvers a few times and give the Jags an advantage on field position, maybe RB Xavier Johnson finds a couple holes in Troy’s super-stingy run defense.
The Final Word
This ancient, five-year-old rivalry is dubbed The Battle of the Belt, because the winner gets to keep a wrestling belt. But the Jags won’t need that belt, because Troy’s going to beat the pants off South Alabama on Wednesday Night.
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.