Dollar General Bowl Report: Troy Trojans vs Buffalo Bulls
The Dollar General Bowl features two conference contenders fighting for redemption.
Buffalo and Troy have each fielded football teams for more than a century. Yet, when the two teams take the turf in Mobile on December 22 for the Dollar General Bowl, it will be their first meeting ever. Even though one program plays in the tundra of the MAC, and the other in the humid Sun Belt, both programs bear striking similarities.
And both teams are looking to eradicate a bad taste in their mouths.
When Last These Titans Played Football
Troy arrived to the last game of the regular season atop the Sun Belt East and controlling its own destiny. However, Neal Brown’s squad – with their starting QB out for the season – found themselves playing Appalachian State, the conference’s ultimate champion. The Mountaineers dominated the entire game, and the Trojans limped back to Troy with a 21-10 loss.
As sad as that was for Troy, Buffalo’s last attempt at football is even more tragic. Having played their way to the MAC championship, the Bulls had a 19-point second half lead over Northern Illinois – only to lose by one point at game’s end. Brutal!
With both teams coming of excellent seasons and soul-sucking losses, a victory at the Dollar General Bowl may be the soothing salve that redeems the season.
Brothers by different conferences
Troy and Buffalo aren’t exactly twins, but they share some interesting DNA. Both are pretty good at bringing the D: Troy ranks 28th in total defense, Buffalo 31st. Both rank around the middle of the pack for offense (Buffalo 52nd, Troy 79th.) And both have a season win over a struggling Power Five opponent (Troy over Nebraska, Buffalo over Rutgers).
The similarities continue on an individual scale. Troy’s lead running back, BJ Smith (1,079 yards, 12 TDs) is comparable to Bulls’ lead runner, Jaret Patterson (946 yards, 13 TDs). The quarterbacks are also more of the same, with neither Troy’s Sawyer Smith nor Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson being much of a run threat, but both are capable of 300 yards passing. Heck, both have long TD passes of 75 yards.
The Trojans aren’t the same without Barker
Before getting injured during in Week 6, junior quarterback Kaleb Barker was having an incredibly insane season behind center. In his last three games, he completed 80%, 82% and 90% of his passes (he finished the season completing 73%). He could run, too, posting 111 yards on Georgia State before tearing his ACL.
Sophomore Sawyer Smith isn’t a bad replacement. It’s just that, with Barker, the Trojans were scoring 37 points per game. Without Barker, Troy is only scoring 23. The Smith-led offense only managed 12 against Texas State and 16 against FBS newbie Liberty. Buffalo averages 35 per contest, which means “Agent” Smith will have to be sharp to keep the Trojans in play.
Buffalo is enjoying one helluva turnaround
Last season, Lance Liepold’s team finished 6-6, an improvement from a 2-10 season in 2016. Still, the leap from .500 to 10-3 is pretty astonishing considering most predicted another mediocre season from the Bulls.
How did they come within one point of winning the MAC Championship?
Buffalo has one of the most well-balanced offenses in the MAC ranking top three in the conference for both passing and rushing. Senior wide receiver Anthony Johnson (944 yards, 11 TDs) and junior K.L Osborne (835 yards, 6 TDs) are an unstoppable combo, while defensive end Chuck Harris has given the defense enough lift with 7 QB sacks.
What’s Gonna Hap’n, Cap’n?
Mobile is an excellent bowl host, and no matter how moldy and asbestos-y Ladd-Peebles Stadium is, it’s still has an old-school, two-fisted feel that should compliment both team’s hard nosed style. Fans will be treated to quite the show.
Given how even-steven both teams appear to be, it comes down to intangibles. Troy and Neal Brown will have what basically amounts to a home field advantage plus a few seasons of excellence beneath their belts. Look for that to be the deciding factor in a fairly low scoring game.
Troy meets Buffalo at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Saturday, 6:00 PM for the Dollar General Bowl. The game can be viewed on ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports.
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.