If you took a gander at the results for the South Alabama Jaguars this season, you’d get a sense that “playing to your competition” is a real thing. Maybe it is. If so, it will be interesting to see what happens on Thursday night Mobile when the Jags welcome the Troy Trojans. This isn’t as cool as midweek Fun Belt action, but it’ll have to do. Troy is a hefty road favorite for this week’s matchup as South Alabama searches for its first conference win of the season.
Troy vs. South Alabama College Football Preview
Date/Time: Thursday October 20, 7:30 p.m. ET
College Football Betting Odds from 5Dimes
College Football Betting Favorite: Troy -9.5
The only sharp action we’ve seen on this game early in the week has come on the under, which makes some sense, as South Alabama is 4-2 to the under and Troy has played three straight below the total. Troy is a 5-1 team with a 4-2 ATS record on the season so far. South Alabama is just 3-3 straight up and 2-4 against the spread, but their two spread victories came in outright upset wins over Mississippi State and San Diego State. The one time USA was favored this season, they narrowly beat Nicholls State at home as 17-point chalk. Troy is just 2-2 ATS in a favorite role this season.
It seems like Neal Brown’s offense is starting to click. Troy has racked up 39.2 points per game and over 460 yards per effort so far this season. The Trojans scored 36 points per game over their final six games last season, so the former Texas Tech and Kentucky offensive coordinator has that side humming right along. Brandon Silvers has 14 touchdown passes and over 1,400 yards through the air. Jordan Chunn has 673 yards on the ground and five rushing touchdowns. Troy has averaged five yards per carry this season. To be fair, outside of Clemson, Troy has played Austin Peay, Southern Miss, New Mexico State, Idaho, and Georgia State. Those are all teams have down years.
That’s another reason why the defense has played so well. There were signs of this coming, though. Troy allowed just 391 yards per game last season, but over 28 points per contest. This season, Troy has allowed 383 yards per game, but only 19.7 points. That does include that game against Clemson, in which Troy was close to pulling an enormous upset as a 34.5-point dog. The Trojans haven’t seen many good offenses otherwise and South Alabama doesn’t really fit the bill either. Troy’s 17 takeaways, including 14 interceptions, rank among the league’s best in that category. Only Memphis has forced more turnovers.
South Alabama Jaguars:
The task for South Alabama is not an easy one. Neither Dallas Davis nor Cole Garvin has been able to lead this offense to the promised land, although Garvin did have a big hand in the upset win over San Diego State. The Jaguars have run for just 2.9 yards per carry this season. Only one starter returned on the offensive line, so that has really stunted the run game. Both quarterbacks could see time this week, since Garvin was pulled from last week’s game against Arkansas State after going 3-of-12 for 48 yards. He was also sacked four times. It seems like Troy could feast defensively here in this game.
Given the lack of offensive production, it’s kind of amazing what South Alabama has been able to do on defense. They’ve faced a ton of run-heavy teams, so some of their numbers are skewed in that regard. They’ve only allowed 143 passing yards per game, but 220 rushing yards per game. They’ve faced the Georgia Southern triple-option, the run-heavy San Diego State Aztecs, and a similar scheme from Louisiana-Lafayette. The Jaguars will face arguably the most balanced offense that they have seen so far this season.
College Football Free Pick: Troy Trojans -9.5
Troy’s balance and tempo are going to be a lot for South Alabama to handle. Troy has averaged 78 plays per game this season and South Alabama has faced an average of 65 offensive plays against through six games. The Trojans have a lot of ways to move the football and an improved defense that has thrived on taking the football away. That could create some very short fields against a tired defense.
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