Troy has established itself as a strong mid-major football program, compiling a 31-8 record over the past three seasons and they put themselves on the map with marquee wins over LSU and Nebraska during that span. They enter the season as a Sun Belt title contender and are returning the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball from a team that finished with a 10-3 overall record in 2018. However, they are off to a 1-1 start after suffering a heartbreaking defeat last week. Can the Trojans bounce back on the road as heavy favorites versus Akron on Saturday?
Trojans lose Smith for the season
After a blowout win versus Campbell to open the year, the Trojans were unable to keep their momentum going last week. Troy found itself in a good, old-fashioned shootout at home versus Southern Mississippi a week ago, but a costly 100-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter helped thwart the Trojans’ comeback bid.
It is hard to blame the loss on starting quarterback Kaleb Barker, who finished the game with 504 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions. Four Trojans’ receivers eclipsed the 100-yard mark, led by Kaylon Geiger, who caught six balls for 118 yards and a score on the day. The junior college transfer is averaging a healthy 20.2 yards per catch through the first two games of his collegiate career and leads the team with 222 yards and a score so far this year.
The two teams combined for 1154 yards of total offense, including 1,018 yards through the air in a wildly entertaining 47-42 game.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Barker top the 500-yard mark again this week against a lackluster Akron defense. The senior from Decatur, Alabama has thrown for 786 yards and six touchdowns this season and looks ready to lead the Trojans to a Sun Belt Championship.
Troy QB Kaleb Barker is fun. Strong arm and has athleticism. Maybe not an NFL prospect, but certainly has CFL tools. pic.twitter.com/NVuzJyHPnL
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) July 2, 2019
The Trojans did get some bad news over the weekend though, losing running back B.J. Smith for the season to a torn patellar tendon. The senior running back was named the preseason Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,186 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. He ran for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Trojans’ season-opener against Campbell, but was limited to one carry for minus-4 yards and one reception for 10 yards against Southern Miss prior to leaving the game on a play that resulted in an incomplete pass.
Akron winless through three games
Akron has gone winless through their first three contests, while averaging just 6.3 points during the first half. They’ve held a lead just one time so far this season, which has rendered the offense one-dimensional and that showed up once again in last week’s 45-24 loss to Central Michigan. After falling behind 27-10 in the first half, Akron was forced to throw the ball 48 times on the evening in a lopsided defeat. Quarterback Kato Nelson did all he could, completing 25-of-41 attempts for 243 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, while also finishing as the team’s leading rusher with 26 yards. Meanwhile, the defense surrendered 533 yards, including 189 on the ground in the MAC Conference opener.
Kato Nelson out here throwing🎯
— Akron Zips Football (@ZipsFB) September 7, 2019
If there was a bright spot last week, it was the special teams unit, which recovered an onside kick, returned two kickoffs for over 40 yards and made all their field goal (and extra point) attempts.
The Zips have struggled to control the line of scrimmage this season and they lost plenty of starters on the defensive side of the ball. That has led to the team giving up 39.3 points per game this season. The Zips have also given up the most sacks in the nation through three weeks (18) and they are averaging a mere 46.0 rushing yards per game and 1.51 yards per carry, which ranks 129th of 130 FBS teams. Faced with all those third-and-long situations, they also come in ranked 124th in FBS on third down, converting just 26.1 percent of the time.
- Trojans are 20-7 ATS in their last 27 road games.
- Trojans are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game.
- Trojans are 13-5-1 ATS in their last 19 games overall.
- Zips are 3-9 ATS in their last 12 games overall.
- Zips are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games following an ATS loss.
- Zips are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing more than 40 points in their previous game.