Know the opponent: Troy Trojans

Troy-Trojan-9-25-13For the third year in a row, the Blue Devils will take on a Sun Belt Conference foe on Saturday as they host the Troy Trojans. Saturday's tilt will be the first ever between the two programs. A perennial Sun Belt contender, the Trojans are off to a 2-2 start to their 2013 campaign.

To give us an insight into this year's Troy team, we welcome in five-time award winning journalist Jeremy Wise of the Dothan Eagle. Jeremy has worked at The Southeast Sun, The Enterprise Ledger and the Army Flier before joining the Dothan Eagle where he covers the Troy beat. Be sure to check out Jeremy's work on the Troy Story blog, which will include a Q&A with BDN this week. Thanks for joining us, Jeremy!

Troy is expected to compete for another Sun Belt title this year and like the Blue Devils, got off to a strong 2-0 start. What has gone wrong during their current 2-game slide?

Well, the competition has stepped up for one. The first two games involved a contest with Savannah State, while last week Troy faced Mississippi State. You cannot make too many evaluations about Troy based off the first two games given the Savannah State contest. Against the teams Troy was expected to compete with, turnovers (and turnover margin) have been a problem. In the three FBS games, Troy has 10 turnovers. The Trojans have forced none.

A trio of seniors lead the high- flying Trojan offense. Senior QB Corey Robinson has been very good at times this year, particularly his 30/32 performance in the season opener; fellow senior QB Deon Anthony has also been effective, and senior WR Eric Thomas is 2nd in the country with 6 TD catches. How are Robinson and Anthony utilized in the Trojan offense? How was Mississippi State able to contain them?

Mississippi State was just a disaster defensively, and both Anthony and Robinson were out of the game by about halftime. They had early success in that game, but poor field position from some penalty-laced kickoff returns really choked what they could do in the second quarter.

To answer the question about utilization, Anthony is the most versatile guy. He is such a playmaker that the Trojans have lined him out wide a few times and even given him a few handoffs at running back. When Troy needs a big third-down run, he’ll be on the field.

As for Robinson, he’s your typical gun-slinging pocket passer, who despite losing some weight and improving his quickness, is not looking to leave the pocket.

On the defensive side of the ball, Troy's leading tackler is senior safety Camren Hudson, but the Trojans have struggled against the pass, where they rank 101st in the country. Who will need to step up to slow down Brandon Connette and the Blue Devil offense? 

Well, Troy gets back Jeremy Spikner, who missed the first four games due to an NCAA academic eligibility ruling. He was the projected starting nickelback, which is a hybrid linebacker/cornerback in Troy’s defense. That allows Troy to move senior Chris Pickett back to safety, where he played a lot last year. It may not show up too much on the stat sheet (this secondary is a recruiting class or two from being great again), the additional depth should help some this week.

This is the first meeting for Duke and Troy on the gridiron, with an encore scheduled at Troy in 2014. Both teams can put up points and have had recent struggles against the pass; the oddsmakers list Duke around a 10 point favorite in a high- scoring game. How do you think these teams match-up? Will it be the shootout many predict?

I think yards and points will come in bunches. Few have been able to slow Troy’s offense, and they are often their worst enemy with the turnovers. Given the shootout nature of the game, the team that makes the fewest critical turnovers or penalties will win this game.