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
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
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