Troy (2-0) at Arkansas State (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Thursday, September 12, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bank Stadium (30,406) -- Jonesboro, Arkansas. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Troy 2-0, Arkansas State 1-0. Away Record: Troy 0-0, Arkansas State 0-1. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, Arkansas State 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 0-0, Arkansas State 0-0. Series Record: Arkansas State leads, 6-5.
GAME NOTES: A pair of contenders for the Sun Belt Conference crown will square off on Thursday night at Liberty Bank Stadium when the Troy Trojans run into the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
Troy has been able to enjoy homefield advantage in each of its first two games and has used that edge to post victories in each contest. The first victory came on a 30-yard field goal in overtime from Will Scott that lifted the Trojans to a 34-31 win over UAB. The second came much easier as the Trojans rolled to a 66-7 victory over FCS foe Savannah State. The Trojans have not gone 2-0 to start a season since 2008.
On the other side, the Red Wolves went up against their head coach from last season, but lost to Gus Malzahn in his new home at Auburn, 38-9. The loss evens the Red Wolves' record at 1-1 after they stomped FCS foe Arkansas-Pine Bluff, 62-11, in the season's opening weekend.
Last season the Red Wolves traveled to Troy to face the Trojans and came away with a 41-34 victory in one of the more entertaining games of the Sun Belt schedule. The Red Wolves now hold a narrow 6-5 edge on the Trojans in the all- time series.
Well known for their spread offensive attack under Larry Blakeney, the Trojans executed to perfection against Savannah State. The 66 points the Trojans scored were the most in a game since 1995. Through the first two games of the season Troy is ranked second in the conference in total offense (514.0 ypg).
Corey Robinson has been stellar leading the offense and has thrown for 499 yards and five touchdowns already this season and has yet to be intercepted. Robinson completed a stunning 17-of-19 pass attempts for four touchdowns against the second-tier Tigers though he split time with backup Dallas Tidwell once the game got out of hand.
Eric Thomas has established himself as the go-to receiver as his 135 yards receiving and four touchdowns are by the far the most on the team. Chandler Worthy (eight receptions, 80 yards) and Bryan Holmes (seven receptions, 83 yards, TD) have been the other primary pass catchers.
Though the passing game is the focus, the Trojans have been able to run the ball fairly well. Deon Anthony (120 yards) and Jordan Chunn (113 yards) are the main options for a team averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
Obviously aided by the matchup with Savannah State, Troy is currently leading the Sun Belt in total defense through two games. The Trojans have let up an average of 300 yards per contest. Of course the 447 the team gave up to UAB is much more likely to be an indication of the level at which Troy will produce as opposed to the 153 yards allowed to the Tigers.
Femi Odaibo leads the team with nine tackles, all solo efforts, but he has not made any negative plays. Ethan Davis has been strong both in bringing ball carriers down behind the line (2.0 TFL) and in coverage as he has four pass breakups, which leads the team. If there is one area the Trojans need improvement on it's in forcing turnovers as they have just a single fumble recovery in the first two games.
Offense should be plentiful on Thursday. Arkansas State is the only team ranked above Troy in total offense in the Sun Belt Conference (547 ypg). Even though the Red Wolves scored just nine points against Auburn, they still managed to record 422 yards of total offense.
Unlike Troy, the Red Wolves' gameplan is predicted on the run as they lead the Sun Belt in rushing yards (659) by a wide margin. David Oku has been the primary ball-carrier with 32 totes for 172 yards and two scores, all team- highs. Adam Kennedy is also a threat to run the ball out of the quarterback position. Kennedy scampered for a team-high 74 yards against Auburn, while throwing for 272 yards on 29-of-41 passing. In total through the first two games, Kennedy has completed 38-of-53 pass attempts for 421 yards, with a single touchdown.
Julian Jones (nine receptions, 74 yards, TD) and Darion Griswold (six receptions, 60 yards) have been the best options at receiver, while Oku (six receptions, 70 yards) has been valuable out of the backfield.
Arkansas State's defensive numbers are also tough to read as the Red Wolves have faced an FCS foe they dominated and an SEC foe they struggled with. Between the two games the Red Wolves have surrendered an average of 320.5 yards of total offense per game. However the Red Wolves let up 468 yards to Auburn.
Chris Humes has been the defensive leader for the Red Wolves. Humes has a team-high 13.5 tackles, including a pair for loss. His 12 solo stops are five more than the next highest total on the team. Qushaun Lee (10.5 tackles) and Ryan Carrethers (10.5 tackles) have also reached the double-digit tackle mark already. Arkansas State also hasn't created many turnovers with just a single fumble recovery to its name.
Offense should be plentiful in this matchup. Both of these teams play at a high pace and have the skill at quarterback to keep their units humming. On the road Troy may stumble once or twice, which should be enough for Arkansas State to pull out a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Arkansas State 42, Troy 36
09/11 10:41:15 ET