football Edit

Analyzing the Enemy: Troy Trojans (10/1/22)

Day: Saturday, October 1

Time: 6:00PM CST

Location: Houchens Industries - L.T. Smith Stadium

Network: ESPN+

Betting line: WKU -5 | O/U: 57.5

History: Troy leads the matchup series 9-2-1. The Hilltoppers and Trojans last played in 2013; Troy won 32-26.

Quarterbacks

During WKU's 73-0 dismantling of FIU, quarterback Austin Reed went an astounding 30-of-35 (85.7%) for 381 yards, 5 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. On the season, he is 104-of-142 (73.24%) for 1,257 yards (314.25 yards per game), 8.9 yards per pass attempt, 14 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions. He's mobile when needed and adds 84 yards for 2 rushing touchdowns. Reed's play has made him one of the best in the conference and, after last week's game, he earned the CFPA Honorable Mention for his Week 4 Performance.

Prior to Reed being named QB1, there was a battle for the starting role between Reed and West Virginia transfer Jarret Doege. And then the dominoes fell. Reed was named starter and Doege entered the transfer portal. He landed at Troy and, once again, found himself in another quarterback battle. Ultimately, Gunnar Watson won the starting nod.

Through the first four games, Watson has completed 95-of-143 pass attempts (66.4%) for 1,249 yards, (312.25 yards per game), 8.7 yards per pass attempt, 5 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Against Marshall, Watson went 15-of-25 for 321 yards, 12.84 yards per pass attempt, 0 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Doege has seen action in two games and completed 6-of-12 pass attempts for 124 yards and 1 touchdown.

Both are a fit for their respective programs, but Reed has made a notable, explosive splash.

Advantage: WKU

Running Backs

For consecutive weeks, WKU rushed for over 200 yards: 216 against Indiana and 210 against FIU. Throughout those two games, the Tops' ground attack has produced 16 runs of at least 10 yards. The three-headed monster that is Kye Robichaux, Jakairi Moses and Davion Ervin-Poindexter has worked out well. But everyone got a piece of the pie against FIU: the aforementioned as well as L.T. Sanders (4 carries, 73 yards, 18.3 YPC, 1 TD) and Jaylen Hall (1 carry, 29 yards). On the season, Robichaux leads with 36 carries, 265 yards, 7.4 YPC, and 1 touchdown while the quick and shifty Ervin-Poindexter has 34 carries for 132 yards, 3.9 YPC, and 3 touchdowns.

Troy is averaging 29.5 carries, 66.0 yards, 2.2 YPC, and 1 touchdown per game. Remove Watson's 22 carries and -75 yards, and the DK Billingsley/Kimani Vidal combo have 69 carries for 311 yards (77.75 per game), 4.5 yards per carry, and 2 touchdowns. Overall, the Trojans have a rushing success rate of 31.2% and EPA per rush of -0.148. Those aren't great numbers, but season's past will reveal that both Billingsley and Vidal are highly versatile and capable of letting loose.

But, as long as Troy's defense allows a rushing success rate of 47.7%...

Advantage: WKU

Receivers

Prior to the season's induction, there were questions as to who would replace Jerreth Sterns and Mitchell Tinsley. That shouldn't be of concern anymore as an incredibly deep and productive receiver room has carried the same 2021 momentum into 2022. Wide receivers Daewood Davis and Malachi Corley are the go-to targets, who combine for 42 catches, 627 yards, 15.0 yards per catch, and 7 touchdowns. Corley's play elicited some dropped jaws against FIU with 3 receptions for 123 yards, 41.0 yards per catch, and 1 touchdown. As for tight ends, Joshua Simon is always a big-play threat while Joey Beljan is a consistent red zone threat. It doesn't stop there, as receivers Jaylen Hall, Michael Mathison, and Dalvin Smith are always fair-game for an explosive clutch catch or touchdown to seal-the-deal.

Like WKU, Troy has a solid group of receivers. Jabre Barber and Deshon Stoudemire are the most targeted with a combined 38 receptions for 470 yards, 12.4 yards per catch, and 2 touchdowns. Tez Johnson is an explosive threat with only 8 receptions but 200 yards, and 25.0 yards per catch. Although it is rare to see Troy tight ends running routes downfield, it seems only in due time that the Trojans fully utilize FCS-transfer Michael Vice to create a mismatch.

For all intents and purposes, this is a pretty even head-to-head in terms of talent, depth, and production. However, WKU's tight end usage gives them a slight edge.

Advantage: WKU

Offensive Line

Heading into Week 5, WKU's offensive line ranks #7 nationally in pass blocking with a PFF grade of 82.2 and ranks #54 in run blocking with a 64.8. Through the four games played, the o-line has allowed 14.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and 6 quarterback hurries.

Troy's o-line has allowed 23.0 tackles for loss, 12.0 sacks, and 15 quarterback hurries. They rank #91 in pass blocking with a PFF grade of 56.8 and #31 in run blocking with a 71.7. However, some of these stats could be attributed to Watson, as well.

Advantage: WKU

Secondary

WKU's secondary had already been productive leading up to the FIU game, and during that game, they capitalized and exploited on the Panthers' struggles: only allowing 19-of-35 pass attempts (54.3%) for 124 yards, 3.5 yards per pass attempt, and 0 touchdowns. A Kahlef Hailassie interception put the defense's season total picks at 8, which is the third-most in all of FBS.

Hailassie leads the group with 24.0 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, 1 interception, and 4 pass breakups. Kaleb Oliver and Upton Stout each have 2 interceptions. And, on the season, the secondary has allowed 93-of-155 pass attempts (60.0%) for 916 yards (229.0 per game), 5.91 yards per pass attempt, 4 touchdowns, and account for 7-of-8 interceptions.

Troy will have one of the - if not the best - receivers WKU has faced this season. Watson's efficiency on short and immediate throws coupled with Barber and Johnson's 296 yards after catch could cause fits in the WKU secondary.

Troy has allowed 75-of-132 pass attempts (56.8%) for 838 yards (209.5 per game), 6.35 yards per pass attempt, and 4 touchdowns as well as forced 3 interceptions. Craig Slocum Jr. leads with 29.0 total tackles, 1 pass breakup, and 1 fumble recovery. Last week, the Trojans held Marshall to 11-of-21 pass attempts (52.4%) for only 78 yards and 0 touchdowns.

Likewise, Reed and his receivers will likely be one of the best passing games Troy has seen so far.

This one - like the receivers - is pretty even. Down to the number of allowed 15+ yard passes...both are at 16.

Advantage: Even

Linebackers

JaQues Evans, Derrick Smith, and Will Ignont lead the linebacking corps and defense in terms of total tackles. The three combine for 72 total tackles, 7.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 2 pass breakups, and 1 quarterback hurry. Aaron Key has 2 fumble recoveries while Matthew Flint has 1. Niko Cooper has 1 forced fumble.

Carlton Martial leads Troy's linebackers as well as defense with 33.0 total tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 pass breakup, and 1 quarterback hurry. Bandits Richard Jibunor and Javon Solomon combine for 30 total tackles, 5.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and 4 quarterback hurries.

Advantage: Even

Defensive Line

Through two games, WKU's defensive line has totaled 73.0 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 pick-six, and 14 quarterback hurries. Juwuan Jones leads the group with 17 total tackles, 1.5 tackle for loss, 0.5 sacks, 1 pick six, and 1 quarterback hurry. Terrion Thompson has 9.0 total tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, and 2 quarterback hurries. Much improved against the run from 2021, the Tops' have allowed 152 carries for 432 yards (108.0 per game), 2.8 yards per carry, and 4 touchdowns.

The Trojans have allowed 161 carries for 581 yards, 145.3 yards per game, 3.6 yards per carry, and 7 rushing touchdowns. But their pass rush is a different story with 62 total tackles, 13.0 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, 3 quarterback hurries, 1 fumble recovery, and 2 forced fumbles. Defensive end T.J. Jackson shines with 19.0 total tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss, 3.0 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles.

In terms of stuff rate and line yards allowed, WKU is letting a little less get by (as is the second-level). However, the Trojans have been effective at bringing the pressure.

Advantage: Troy

Special Teams

Punter Tom Ellard punted 14 times for 606 yards, 43.29 yards per punt, with 4 landing inside of the 20-yard line. Kicker Brayden Narveson is 5-of-8 on field goal attempts and 25-of-25 on extra point kicks. Upton Stout has returned 5 punts for 29 yards (5.8 yards per return) and Michael Mathison has 2 kick returns for 49 yards and 24.5 yards per return.

Troy punter Mike Rivers has punted 15 times for 658 yards, 43.87 yards per punt, and has 5 punts land inside of the 20-yard line. Kicker Brooks Buce is 5-of-6 on field goal attempts and 11-of-11 on extra point kicks. Deshon Stoudemire has 4 punt returns for 27 yards and 6.75 yards per return. Jabre Barber, RaJae' Johnson, and Orlando Lacey combine for 4 kick returns, 92 yards, and 23.0 yards per return.

Advantage: Even

Prediction

Both teams' offenses have been tried and true. Efficient and effective at what they do, there's no reason to believe either will stray from their roots. They are with their flaws, as well. WKU has only converted 34.88% on third down while Troy has struggled to convert yards gained to points on the board. It all leads up to - what could be - a tit-for-tat game. Don't confuse WKU's number of positional advantages with an assured win. Whoever scores first, remains disciplined in all three phases, and forces even +1 more mistake than their opponent will likely win this game.


WKU - 30
Troy - 26

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