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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 12 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Neyland Stadium (102,455) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: FSN. Home Record: Troy 1-3, Tennessee 2-2. Away Record: Troy 3-1, Tennessee 0-3. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, Tennessee 1-0. Conference Record: Troy 3-3, Tennessee 0-5. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Troy Trojans and the Tennessee Volunteers will step outside of conference on Saturday afternoon, as the two teams to do battle at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville.
Troy has struggled to break free from the middle of the pack in the Sun Belt Conference this season, sitting with a 4-4 record and a 3-3 league mark. The Trojans suffered a heartbreaking, last-second loss at the hands of Florida Atlantic last week (34-27), but that was their first road defeat of the season in four tries. After going 3-9 in 2011, they are looking to avoid their first pair of back-to-back losing seasons since 1988 and 1989.
Tennessee's season started off promising, winning three of its first four games, but the brutal SEC schedule has since gotten the best of it. The Volunteers have lost four games in a row to conference opponents, including a comeback attempt that fell short against South Carolina last week, 38-35. They will need to win three of their last four games to bowl eligible.
The two teams have never before met on the football field. Tennessee has found plenty success against current teams from the Sun Belt Conference, going 7-1, with its only loss coming to North Texas in 1975.
In terms of total offense, only ULM ranks higher than Troy in the Sun Belt (459.6 ypg), but all those yards has only amounted to 27.9 ppg, which ranks in the bottom half of the league.
After combining for more than 7,000 yards and 49 touchdowns in his first two years as the Trojans' starting quarterback, Corey Robinson has taken a step backwards in his senior season. He's still among the league leaders in passing yards (258 ypg), but he has thrown just eight touchdowns paired with eight interceptions. He's coming off his worst passing performance of the season last week in the loss to FAU, completing less than half his attempts (15- of-32).
While Robinson has struggled, running back Shawn Southward has stepped up, accounting for nearly 1,000 yards of total offense (692 rushing, 232 receiving) with seven touchdowns.
Chip Reeves (42 receptions, four TDs) has emerged this season as the top target in the receiving game, ranking second in the conference with 660 yards. Eric Thomas (38 receptions, 374 yards, four TDs) and Chandler Worthy (30 receptions, 354 yards, TD) round out a very strong receiving corps.
While allowing 26.9 ppg on defense doesn't seem particularly strong, it's good enough to rank second in the Sun Belt, but Troy's defense failed it late in the FAU game as it allowed the conference's worst offense to march down the field in the final two minutes to score the game-winning touchdown.
The unit doesn't put much pressure on the quarterback (10 sacks) and the secondary has only picked off four passes, but it is still among the conference leaders in takeaways thanks to 10 fumble recoveries. Safety Brynden Trawick (58 tackles, 4.5 TFL, INT) has been the team's top defensive performer.
Tennessee's struggles of late have been of no fault of the offense, which racks up nearly 35 ppg and 456 ypg thanks to one of the SEC's most prolific passers.
Tyler Bray carved up the great South Carolina defense last week to the tune of 368 yards and four touchdowns, his third game this season of at least 300 yards passing and four scores. The junior signal-caller is the conference's leader in yards (2,282) and touchdowns (20) and has only been sacked four times, but he's also thrown the most interceptions with 10.
Justin Hunter ranks in the top five in the conference in both catches (47) and yards (657) and has clearly become the go-to guy for Bray this season. Zach Rogers (391 yards, five TDs) is fresh off a career-best performance against South Carolina with six catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns.
With leading rusher Rajion Neal (500 yards, five TDs) sidelined with an ankle injury, Marlin Lane has taken over as the primary running back, although he's gained just 111 yards on 30 carries (3.7 ypc) over the past two weeks.
The Volunteers' defense (33.9 ppg) has failed them time and time again on their four-game losing streak, allowing 38 points or more in each defeat.
The increased workload for the defense has allowed A.J. Johnson to become one of the nation's leaders in tackles with 88, which is 24 more than the Vols' next-highest tackler Byron Moore. Moore has been a ball-hawk in the secondary as well with four interceptions, tied for fifth most in the country.
These two offenses are accustomed to putting up big numbers, and with both defenses playing poorly of late, there's sure to be plenty of scoring in this matchup. Tennessee has been tortured by a brutal SEC schedule, and it will surely be glad to face off against a mid-major team in its home building. Expect Bray and the Vols to outlast the Trojans.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 51, Troy 35
10/31 10:37:28 ET
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