South Alabama (1-4, 0-1) at Troy (4-1, 1-0)
Spread: Troy -17
Series: Troy 3-2
Date: Wednesday, October 11
Time/TV: 7:00 CT ESPN2
The third edition of the Battle for the Belt is upon us as October football hits its beautiful stride in Alabama. The eyes of those starved for midweek football will be on the Trojans of Troy hosting the South Alabama Jaguars on Wednesday night. Though this contest pits two programs heading in opposite directions, the in-state rivalry has been played closely in each of the last two seasons.
Troy quickly garnered the attention of the nation when it took down LSU and will be looking to capitalize on that success. The Trojans were in a similar spot last season when they took Clemson to the brink before re-emerging later in the season as a ranked team. The limelight proved too much, though, and Troy was promptly dominated at home three days after receiving the ranking.
South Alabama is off to a rough start thanks to a brutal early season schedule. This game, however, looms large for head coach Joey Jones in his final contract year. A marquee win on Wednesday may be enough to build momentum and earn another contract. On the other hand, a consecutive loss in the biggest game of the season could be the nail in Jones’ coffin.
Troy running back Jordan Chunn is coming off the best two game stretch of his career. After rushing for 110 yards against Akron, Chunn gashed the LSU defense for 191 yards, a career high. Quarterback Brandon Silvers has just two touchdown passes this year but is completing passes at a more efficient clip than last season.
He has a number of targets to throw to and has completed a pass to 14 different receivers. Five receivers have 14 or more receptions. Troy’s seemingly endless supply of weapons have been able to pick up yardage thus far, but mistakes have kept multiple scores off the board. The Trojans are averaging over 100 more yards per game than the Jaguars yet are nearly tied with South in scoring.
Troy is 122nd in the country in penalties, have converted on just 50 percent of its field goal attempts and turned the ball over seven times. The Trojans have a season average of 107.04 yards per six points while South’s YP6P is 100.92.
The Trojan defense has been the driving force, though, fielding a stifling run defense. Troy leads the Sun Belt by a wide margin with just 108.8 rushing yards allowed per game. South is second at 129 yards per game.
On offense, South has struggled to find any consistency at quarterback. Cole Garvin returned last week after missing the previous two weeks due to injury. Garvin completed just 46.7 percent of his passes against Louisiana Tech and tossed two interceptions. The Jaguars have talent at wide receiver with Jamarius Way and Sam Harris but a lack of sound quarterback play has limited their production.
Star running back Xavier Johnson has seen his numbers stunted in the pass-first offense. Johnson is averaging 6.1 yards per carry but has just 57 rushing attempts this year.
While the run defense has been a strong suit for South, the Jaguars are getting lit up through the air. South is allowing just under 300 passing yards a game despite the play of star defensive back Jeremy Reaves.
Fans have gotten into the spirit of the rivalry once again with plenty of shots on twitter.
Raise your hand if you’re gonna win the Battle of The Belt #SouthHateWeek pic.twitter.com/kAFmPonvbN
— Neal 4 Prez (@danielsamac) October 9, 2017
Best to come from Troy: DeMarcus Ware
Best to come from South: I-65 to get the hell out of there. #SouthHateWeek #SouthHateWeekAndAHalf
— Scoπ (@scottdshelton) October 3, 2017
— ?Boo-ryce Baggett (@BCBaggs) October 6, 2017
Only one #troyhateweek tweet was put here because once I searched through twitter I found that South fans and students are pretty awful at the whole #hateweek thing. (Honestly it took 30 seconds of scrolling to reach last year’s tweets while the #southhateweek tweets are endless).
Troy has had a week and a half to soak in the hype and turn its focus to its arch rival. The Trojans are favored by 17 in this one but Troy hasn’t shown the ability to put up a lot of points this year. South Alabama will struggle offensively even more, though, without a true identity. Troy 24 South Alabama 10