The non-conference showdown between the Troy Trojans (3-1) and LSU Tigers (3-1) is a potential nightmare matchup in the making for both squads. The Trojans are a senior-laden team with playmakers at key positions on offense, while the Tigers are loaded with potential on both sides of the ball and are capable of playing above or down to their opponent each week. All the variables add up to a key potential win for one team and a trap game for another.
The Trojans started the season with a tough 24-13 road loss to Boise State. Against the Broncos, Troy’s defense played well, holding BSU to 357 total yards of offense while the offense sputtered for 215 yards. Since the BSU loss, the offense has picked up the pace thanks to All-Sun Belt Conference senior quarterback Brandon Silvers. A two-headed ground game with Jordan Chunn and Jamarius Henderson has emerged, giving the Trojans a balanced offensive attack. Statistically, Troy’s defense is one of the better squads in the nation allowing just 318 yards per game.
LSU remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma with talent all over but has yet to find its groove on offense with inconsistencies on defense. Starting running back Derrius Guice has been hampered by a leg injury, slowing down the cohesion on offense, while the defense has already dealt with its fair share of injuries and will be without end Rashard Lawrence this week. Troy has a second chance for a statement win this year before going into conference play, while the Tigers are coming off a 35-26 win against Syracuse that got interesting in the third quarter, adding to heightened tensions in Baton Rouge.
Troy at LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: LSU -21
Three Things to Watch
1. LSU’s production at running back
All-SEC tailback Derrius Guice was initially scratched from the Syracuse game during the week but ended up playing against the Orange, logging eight totes for 14 yards, all in the first half. On Tuesday, head coach Ed Orgeron upgraded Guice’s status for this week's game from out to “doubtful.” Guice may want to play, but his backup, senior Darrel Williams, is more than capable. Williams got 16 carries for 92 yards with a touchdown against Syracuse. Saving Guice for next week might be the best bet.
2. Brandon Silvers vs. LSU’s defense
Silvers is the slow and steady quarterback who finds a way to get it done. The senior is completing 66 percent of his passes for 1,084 yards but has tossed just two touchdown passes against two picks. One thing that makes Silvers tough to defend is his ability to spread the ball around. Five Trojans have 12 or more receptions on the year, with Deondre Douglas leading the way with 19 catches for 233 yards and one touchdown. The passing attack will have to step up in the red zone for Troy to pull off an upset come Saturday.
3. LSU’s pass defense
Statistics can be misleading unless properly applied. The Tigers are ranked No. 23 out of 129 FBS programs, allowing an average of 297 yards per game. LSU’s rush defense has been solid, holding teams to an average of 106 yards, but the pass defense is starting to show cracks. The Tigers held BYU to 102 yards passing, but the numbers are trending the wrong way with Syracuse passing for 308. Outside linebacker Corey Thompson has been superb rushing the passer with four sacks, and Andraez Williams has been great with three picks, but something is missing. Getting Arden Key going — he has just a half sack in two games played — would do wonders for the defense.
Man for man, Troy does not have the overall talent on the roster that LSU has, but the Trojans appear to be jelling, making this an interesting game. LSU faltered against Mississippi State and then let Syracuse back in the game, giving up 23 second-half points scrambling to put away the win. If LSU takes Troy lightly while looking ahead to a road game next week at Florida, the Tigers might be in for another late fight.
Prediction: LSU 38, Troy 24
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.