Following Saturday night’s eye-opening, upset victory over Ed Orgeron’s heavily favoured Louisiana State, some of you may be legitimately asking; ‘who are Troy’? We reveal the story behind this season’s greatest upset.
TROY, Al : Dating back over a hundred years to its maiden contest in 1909, the mid-major, ’Group of Five’ school first joined the ranks of the FBS (Division I-A) in 2001,having departed the Southland Conference (FCS/D-IAA) of the FCS sixteen years ago.
Having plied their trade in what is a highly competitive and fascinating Sun Belt Conference, the Trojans are wrongly regarded as an afterthought by both the American media and college football fans alike across the national scene.
However it is high time the criminally overlooked Sun Belt should dominate the headlines, as it has this past week, on the heels of sending a conference record six teams to bowls last season, such is its heightened standing in recent years.
— 40 Yards Scouting (@mattphillips78) October 1, 2017
Situated in the college city of Troy within the rich recruiting heartlands of Alabama, the university is well used to fighting for a share of the attention in a local market dominated by in-state megaliths, Alabama and LSU. That said, the 108-year old program has more than held its own as a successful school in its own right and consistently remained as one of the more prominent mid-major operations in the country.
Following on the heels of last season’s impressive 10-3 campaign and 28-23 Dollar General Bowl victory over Ohio that included a very narrow 24-30 defeat on the road to Clemson (the Trojans out rushed last year’s National Champions), Saturday evening’s result shouldn’t have been the shock many perceived it to be, a scoreline that leaves LSU head coach Ed Oregon clinging on to his job and asocial media storm of criticism from its fanbase who are baying for blood.
Make no mistake, the Trojans are a force this season, determined to improve upon last season’s third place divisional finish and a first Sun Belt Conference title in seven years. Even before marching into Baton Rouge on Saturday, we wrote how the Trojans’ program has opened a clear window in which to represent the ‘Group of Five’ in this year’s New Years Six Bowls (Peach).
The eye catching result in Tigers Stadium, that improved the Trojans to a 4-1 record, only bolsters an already impressive resume. With their toughest opponents, Boise State (L 13-24) and LSU (W 24-21) in the rear view mirror, this experienced, returning roster has a fantastic, realistic chance to run the table over the next seven weeks, beginning at home against in-state rivals South Alabama for the intensely competitive ‘Battle of the Belt’ next Wednesday night.
Despite losing the school’s finest offensive tackle in Antonio Garcia to the NFL in the spring (New England Patriots, R3/85), head coach Neal Brown (18-12), boasted one of college football’s most experienced returning rosters ahead of the season, powered by one of America’s most dangerous QB/RB/WR trios in Brandon Silvers, Jordan Chunn and Emmanuel Thompson. A highly road tested, returning offensive and defensive line backed up by a talented, experienced secondary has enabled Troy to boast the 35th best defence in the country (17th vs rush, 10th best in turnover margin at +10).
There’s no doubt that having scored a combined 438 points (33 ppg) a year ago and currently rolling a four-game winning streak that has seen them already amass a mere 120 points, the Torojans possess the firepower to not just match but outscore anyone in the country.
Brown has been a hot name on the head coach trail for some time, having turned around an initial 4-8 record in 2015 to 14-44. As this past Saturday evening reinforced, the two year head honcho is not scared to adapt away from his favoured air raid offense to exploit the weaknesses of his opponents on any given weekend, the latest example seeing the Trojans employing a punishing run heavy attack the SEC giants could not physically match.
However, it remains eyebrow raising that Brown’s program continues to be overlooked. The South Alabaman school has provided the NFL a rich production line over the years, thirty-five in all, boasting two first round selections in school history. Denver Bronco defensive end DeMarcus Ware selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the eleventh overall pick in 2005 and former Buffalo Bill Leodis McKelvin again too selected eleventh with the eleventh pick. School Hall of Famer, Osi Omenyiora, two-time super bowl champion kicker Lawrence Tynes, three-time All-Sun Belt selection and former Giant Jerel Jernigan and former New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi to name just a few who have all thrived having honed their abilities at Troy.
The window of postseason opportunity is there for a program on an upward trajectory led by a head coach under increasing demand and key experienced, returning All-Conference talent and a favourable remaining schedule. It will be fascinating to watch whether this hugely talented team can line up on January 1st with a conference title in hand at the Peach Bowl as the Group of Five representative. All the pieces are in place for Saturday’s ecstasy and the celebrations back on campus and the award of a study free day this past Monday to be just the start rather than a passing memory.
So which Trojans should we watch with an eye on the 2018 NFL Draft?
#12 QB BRANDON SILVERS, 6’3 214
One of three All Sun-Belt Conference selections last season as a junior.
Often strangely underrated in college football landscape despite his high level of accuracy, prototypical next level build (6’3 214), experience and leadership. Posted 3,180-23/12 (64% acc) that backs up the accuracy he has displayed on the field during his career who gets the ball out quickly with an impressive touch and crispness to his passes. Has a strong running game in place to assist him. Despite losing Antonio Garcia to the NFL, he still enjoys the protection of an experienced, returning line that kept him clean for the vast majority of the 2016/17 campaign. Has continued his impressive form through the opening five contests this season, posting 118/182 (65%) – 1,241 – 2/2.
#38 RB JORDAN CHUNN, 6’1 240
Returned for his senior campaign to reforge one of the more dangerous RB/QB combinations in college football and by far the premier double headed attack in the Sun Belt Conference. Chunn wrote himself into school folklore to become the all-time career rushing leader as a junior (37), 16 of those coming last season. Plays with a physical, downhill style who projects perfectly to a power-run scheme at the next level. Despite seeing left tackle Antonio Garcia depart for the NFL, his performances have remained unaffected, posting a destructive 191 yards on a heavy, industrious load 30 carries in the week 5 upset on the road in Baton Rouge over LSU. Great size, he used to fill effect in bowling over SEC defenders ‘up the gut’ and trucking linebackers at the second level. Can carry a heavy load and be the powerful spearhead to do the heavy lifting for an offense.
#8 WR EMMANUEL THOMPSON, 6’1 197
The third element in one of the country’s most dangerous offensive trios, experienced receiver Thompson is firmly one of the top pass catchers in the Sun Belt. Has consistently been quarterback Brandon Silvers’ go-to target. Can catch the ball in a variety of routes, both on the outside and in the middle of field and uses his physicality and sticky hands to ‘wall off’ and dominate at the catch point. A dangerous and productive redzone threat who with regularity dominates at the catch point, with the leaping ability to hang in the air to secure the ball at the highest point on end zone fades. He allows you to throw the ball up with confidence in the knowledge smaller cornerbacks will not be able to physically compete with him. Sits down impressively for his passer to provide an insurance blanket for Silvers. Possesses excellent athleticism with a smoothness, hence his nickname, ‘Smoove’, securing the football without losing a step in his quickness. A compact, strong runner with an impressively put together, NFL-ready body, Thompson is a danger after the catch with the movement and vision to take the ball the distance. Broke out as a junior last season with an impressive 80 catches for 820 yards and 6 touchdowns. Lightly regarded in draft circles to date but one to watch down the stretch this season.
⇒ Cover Image: ESPN
Live College Football
⇒ Friday 5th October
0030 ~ Connecticut Vs Memphis
0315 ~ BYU Vs Boise State
⇒ Saturday 6th October
1500 ~ ESPN College Gameday
1700 ~ Northwestern Vs Penn State
*2030 ~ Miami Vs Florida State
2030 ~ Florida Vs Louisiana State
0030 ~ Michigan Vs Michigan State
*BT Sport 2 otherwise BT Sport/ESPN
Also This Week ~ 2018 NFL Draft
We take you into the perennially competitive Atlantic Coast Conference and introduce you to the anchor at the core of one of the country’s most suffocating defence.