Troy (2-1) at Mississippi State (1-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 21, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Davis Wade Stadium (55,103) -- Starkville, Mississippi. Television: FSN-S, SunSports. Home Record: Troy 2-0, MSU 0-1. Away Record: Troy 0-1, MSU 0-2. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, MSU 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 0-1, MSU 0-1. Series Record: Mississippi State leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: With both squads attempting to bounce back from tough league losses, the Troy Trojans and Mississippi State Bulldogs do battle in Starkville on Saturday evening.
Troy's season got off to a promising start, beginning with a pair of home wins over UAB (34-31) and Savannah State (66-3). The Trojans opened up Sun Belt Conference action last Thursday night at two-time defending league champion Arkansas State, but while they hung tough, they ultimately fell on the wrong side of a 41-34 final.
Mississippi State, which spent the majority of the 2012 campaign ranked in the AP Top-25, is off to a disappointing start to the new campaign. Although the Bulldogs have a 51-7 victory over FCS foe Alcorn State under their belt, they have dropped a pair of more meaningful contests versus nationally-ranked Oklahoma State (21-3) and to Auburn in last week's SEC opener (24-20).
The Bulldogs have won two of the three meetings in the all-time series. In a tight battle last season in Troy, MSU escaped with a 30-24 victory.
The Trojans have made a name for themselves over the past few seasons as being one of the Sun Belt's top offensive clubs, and they have not disappointed through three games this season, putting up 44.7 ppg and 547.3 ypg.
Despite throwing three interceptions in last week's loss to Arkansas State, Corey Robinson is in the midst of an outstanding campaign, completing 75.5 percent of his passes for 870 yards and seven touchdowns. The senior signal caller is already the Sun Belt's all-time leader in passing yards (11,128) and completions (969), and he needs just nine more touchdowns to surpass Rusty Smith's record of 76.
The Trojans also give Deon Anthony plenty of snaps under center and he has responded by completing 10-of-13 passes for 146 yards and a touchdown. His dual-threat ability has also allowed him to lead the team in rushing (207 yards, two TDs).
Eric Thomas, Brandon Burks, Bryan Holmes and Chandler Worthy all have double- digit receptions, with Thomas leading the way in receiving yards (260) and touchdowns (five).
Jordan Chunn and Burks split carries in the backfield. The duo has combined for 228 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Troy's defense has played better than it has in recent years, holding opponents to a respectable 25.0 ypg and 377.7 ypg, although the unit has only forced two turnovers.
Camren Hudson has a team-best 16 tackles to go along with a pair of pass break-ups. Tyler Roberts (3.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks), Jadarius Garner (4.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks) and Antonio Gillespie (3.5 TFL, sack) have done a great job applying pressure at the point of attack.
Due to a few key injuries, Mississippi State's offense (24.7 ppg) has had trouble getting off the ground. The unit puts up a solid 434.7 ypg, but has been stalled numerous times by a lackluster 27 percent showing on third down.
Tyler Russell (10-of-16, 133 yards) missed last week's game and most of the Alcorn State contest with a concussion, and the timetable for his return remains murky. Dak Prescott has done an admirable job filling in with 476 passing yards, 162 rushing yards and five total touchdowns, but he has completed less than 54 percent of his passes.
After missing the Alcorn State game, LaDarius Perkins returned for the Auburn tilt but managed just 36 yards, and he is averaging only 3.6 ypc. Ashton Shumpert (100 yards, two TDs) has also been in the mix.
Fifteen different Bulldogs have caught a pass, with Jameon Lewis (10 reception, 152 yards, TD) and Robert Johnson (seven receptions, 128 yards) the top performers.
Luckily for Mississippi State, its defense has been strong enough to keep it competitive in each contest, holding teams to just 17.3 ppg and 351.3 ypg.
The high-impact unit has forced six turnovers, with Nickoe Whitley snatching a pair of interceptions while adding a blocked kick. Deontae Skinner also has a pick to go along with 19 tackles and a sack.
Mississippi State's impressive defense will be put to the test against a Troy offense than can move the ball up and down the field seemingly at will, and the Trojans' improved defensive unit might be able to contain the Bulldogs, especially if Russell cannot suit up. Still, MSU is a battle-tested team under Dan Mullen, having reached three consecutive bowls games, and it will find a way to outlast this non-conference foe at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Mississippi State 31, Troy 30
09/18 10:35:21 ET