1. How do you use these things?
2. Do they come in sizes?
3. Do I have to?
(Ohhhhhhhhhh. Not that kind of Trojans? Now you tell me. Never mind).
OK, last year I started a way of previewing our opponents by asking 25 questions about each team. I didn't start until the middle of the season when we had a season track record to look at, so as we do it this year, we need to look more at last year for a body of work, etc. We can transition to this season after a few weeks.
Anyway, here goes.
What is their body of working coming into the season?
Troy is a consistently successful program. They have won eight games the last three seasons. Their program is stable. Their coach has been there 18 seasons and their OC and DC are back from last year.
What was their best result last season?
I am tempted to say leading OSU and LSU in the 4th Quarter (and leading LSU 31-3). But, since the question actually says result, I'm going to say beating Florida Atlantic on the road.
What was their worst result last season?
A one-point loss to Louisiana-Monroe.
What was the turnover margin?
They were +6 last year. Typically, they run just south of even, so +6 was a good season for them.
How is their QB play?
They are strong at QB. Levi Brown is their starter (Coach Clawson recruited him to Richmond). He had 62% completions and a 15-3 ratio. They also have a capable backup in Jamie Hampton, more of a run/pass threat.
What was their yard per play?
5.5 yards per play, which is very solid and would be in the upper third of the MAC. For reference, Bowling Green had 5.3 yards per play.
Can they run the ball?
Their rushing game was very solid last year. They averaged 4.9 yards per rush with sacks deducted and would have been over 5.0 if the sacks were excluded. Only Kent and Ball State rushed that well in the MAC last year. DeJuan Harris is their RB, and he got most of their carries and is a quality runner.
Do they pass the ball?
They can, for what they do. They execute a high-percentage offense very effectively. As mentioned, they have good QBs and Jerrel Jernigan is a wideout with real big play ability and 77 catches last season. They also have picked up Josh Jarboe, a transfer from Oklahoma.
Are they high efficiency or big play?
They are high percentage. Like a true spread, they hope for mismatches and missed tackles for big plays. They complete 62% of their passes, but only get 6.1 yards per pass, which is half a yard less than BG's last season, which in turn was not very good. It is a safe offense. They are rarely intercepted or sacked.
Do they convert on 3rd Down.
They are not especially good. They converted 38% last year, which would have been second to last in the MAC in 2008.
Do they score in the red zone?
Again, this is nothing special, 4.4 yards per red zone trip last year.
Do they protect the quarterback?
They allowed only 13 sacks last year, which is microscopic. When you are playing this quick passing attack, it is very difficult to get sacks.
In summary, their offense has very good players, and last year was able to control the ball and score points. They did this @OSU and @LSU. They bring enough players back that you might think they are even better this year.
They did score 32.8 points per game, which would have been second in the MAC.
Topline: Scoring and yards per play.
For as good as the Troy offense was last year, the defense was even better. They allowed 4.5 yards per play. The best defense in the MAC allowed 5.0. They allowed 21.3 PPG, which would have been third in the MAC. Their front seven is back intact (although WLB Bear Woods is ineligible for the BG game), though they did lost their entire secondary, creating a potential opportunity to move the ball.
Do they defend the run effectively?
Teams gained only 3.5 yards per rush against them (sacks included). This would be more than half a yard per play better than the best MAC rushing defense.
Could they be passed on?
Uh, not last year. They allowed only 55% completions and 5.8 yards per pass, both outstanding results. (Note losses here, both graduation and Jorrick Colvin, however....this at least qualifies as a question mark).
Did they get off the field on 3rd down?
Teams converted only 36% of their third down plays, which would have tied for the MAC lead.
Do they defend in the red zone?
Last year they allowed only 4.1 points per red zone trip, which is outstanding. They also allowed only 43 red zone trips while creating 63. If you get in the red zone two more times per game then your opponent, it is hard to imagine that you can lose that game.
Do they pressure the QB?
Last year they had 37 sacks, which was very similar to CMU, who led the MAC. With their front seven back, you can expect them to continue to excel here, taking pressure of their secondary. I don't know this, but I am guessing if their D-ends are as good as everyone says, then they can get pressure with four men, which makes a team nearly impossible to pass against.
Their net punting (36.5) would be near the top of the MAC. Their punter is back.
This is a question mark. Jorrick Calvin got most of their returns last year but he is ineligible. My guess is that with their team speed, they will find someone else who can do this.
Last year, their kicking was OK. 20-29, with 2 over 50 and essentially low percentage kicks. He was better beyond 40 (7-9) than inside 40 (13-18). There were 2 blocks.
Their kickoffs were about average (or a little below), with opponents starting on the 28, with short kicks and short returns. They did nail 9 touchbacks, (about 10%) which is around what BG had.
Again, Colvin got more of the returns, so this is a question mark.
Miscellaneous: Overall atmospherics and intangibles.
Hard to tell. Some considerations:
- BG has a new coach--big advantage.
- BG has a new coach--big problem.
- Troy plays Florida next. Could they look past us?
In fact, according to the Sagarin rankings, it is the weakest FBS conference with a mean ranking of 60.77. The MAC is next lowest at 61.96...which is pretty close. The difference between the Big 10 and the Mountain West was more than double that, for comparison purposes.
All-time, that MAC is 7-6 against current Sun Belt teams, and 6-4 since 2004. Certainly, no cakewalk....
And don't forget the OSU and LSU games.
I have picked the Trojans to win this game. I just think they are a really tough match up for us. That said, we don't really know what to expect from our new coaches and system. We have some talented players on offense, and if we can come out with a new energy and execute our game plan, we could beat this team.
It would be a great way to get things started for the Clawson era.