Western Kentucky will look to get back on track Saturday in a homecoming tussle with the Men of Troy. The Trojans boast a record of 4-3 overall, with a 2-1 Sun Belt Conference record - they're currently on a two-game success streak with W's over South Alabama (34-33) and a road win at Georgia State (35-28).
You can expect Larry Blakeney's Trojan teams to come equipped with an explosive offense and this year's version is no different, they currently average 34.4 points per game and stuff that stat sheet with 486.9 total yards per contest.
Senior signal caller Corey Robinson once again leads the way for the Trojans, the "Bazooka from Paducah" is having his most accurate season thus far, spinning that pigskin at a 71.5% clip with 1,889 yards and 15 touchdowns. His favorite target is another senior, wide receiver Eric Thomas, who is in the midst of a career year with 37 grabs for 593 yards and 10 touchdowns thru seven games thus far.
Another offensive strategy you'll see from the Trojans Saturday will be the use of dual-threat quarterback Deon Anthony, who is the team's second leading rusher with 345 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and has also passed for 313 yards and three touchdowns. Definitely a change-of-pace quarterback, something Western Kentucky has seen before from another SBC team from Alabama earlier in the season.
Aside from Anthony, Troy's running game will consist of Brandon Burks (416 yards, 1 TD) and true freshman touchdown machine Jordan Chunn, who has rushed for 286 yards and 7 touchdowns on the season, promptly earning him the nickname "MegaChunn."
Expect the usual air-assault from Troy, averaging 327.7 passing yard per game compared to 159.1 rushing. Plenty of opportunities to make plays will be awaiting the Western Kentucky secondary on Saturday afternoon, the question is - will they be able to take advantage?
Speaking of opportunities, let's switch gears and take a look at Troy's defense, whose giving up 464.3 total yards per game this season. Their biggest weakness is defending the pass, opponents run rough-shot over their secondary collecting 323.4 passing yards per game and Troy's last line of defense has only collected three interceptions so far in 2013.
The ingredients are there for Petrino to open up the passing game and take some shots downfield.
While the secondary has been a struggle, Troy's defensive front seven can create it's fair share of pressure, collecting 15 total sacks so far this season which is already two more than they had all of last season.
Three players to watch along the defensive line are senior defensive tackle Antonio Gillespie (23 tackles, 6.5 tfl, 3 sacks) and sophomore defensive bookends Jadarius Garner (15 tackles, 6 tfl, 3 sacks) and Tyler Roberts (21 tackles, 4.5 tfl, 3 sacks).
The Trojans are a little more stingy against the run, allowing 140.9 yards per game. However, aside from Mississippi State, they haven't really faced a team with a formidable running attack like they'll see Saturday in the nation's leading rusher, Antonio Andrews.
The battle in the trenches will dictate which direction this game will go, if Western Kentucky's offensive line can stymie the pressure of Troy's defensive front seven then it should be a good day for the Hilltoppers - offensively, anyway.
More Notes on Troy
- 8 passes of 50 yards or longer this season, which is tied for second in the NCAA.
- 8 straight games with a touchdown reception by Eric Thomas, the longest current streak in the NCAA.
- 10 touchdown reception by Eric Thomas this season, ranks as the third most in the NCAA.
- 45.4 yards per punt by Will Scott. That ranks sixth in the NCAA - watch out WKU special teams.
- 71.5 completion percentage (168-of-235) by quarterback Corey Robinson this season, fifth best in the NCAA.
My prediction: Offense for days at Houchens-Smith Stadium, the Hilltoppers prevail 42-39.