Troy would claim a share of the Sun Belt Conference title Saturday with a win over Georgia Southern. Arkansas State snapped a seven-game Trojan winning streak on Nov. 17, but Troy (9-2, 6-1 Sun Belt) responded with a resounding 40-7 road victory last week at Texas State. The Trojan defense held Texas State’s offense to 256 yards and forced two interceptions. Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers finished with 218 passing yards and two touchdowns, while running back Jordan Chunn ran for 74 yards and a score.
After a much-needed open date last week, Georgia Southern (4-7, 3-4) will look to close its season in the win column. The Eagles’ last win came on Oct. 22 when they defeated New Mexico State 22-19. Since then, they’ve dropped four in a row. The Eagles did rush for 241 yards on 46 attempts in their most recent loss, a 30-24 defeat at Georgia State on Nov. 19.
For Troy, a win over the Eagles would mean the Trojans would claim a piece of the Sun Belt conference title. A Troy victory and an Arkansas State win over Texas State on Saturday night would result in a three-way tie for first with Appalachian State (9-3, 7-1). For what it’s worth, the Trojans beat the Mountaineers 28-24 earlier in the season while the Red Wolves defeated Troy 35-3 and Arkansas State and Appalachian State didn’t play each other. At least this will be taken care of when the Sun Belt introduces a championship game in 2018.
Troy and Georgia Southern first played each other back in 1934 and the Trojans lead the all-time series 10-5. The Eagles have won the past three meetings, including a 45-10 blowout last season.
Troy at Georgia Southern
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 3 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Troy -7
Three Things to Watch
1. Troy RB Jordan Chunn
It’s no secret that much of the Trojans’ success on offense this season is due to their ultra-talented running back. Chunn enters this game with 1,153 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the season. He leads the Sun Belt in both rushing touchdowns and all-purpose yards per game (122.2) and is currently second in rushing to Appalachian State’s Jalin Moore (1,367).
The junior has five 100-yard games and was just 26 yards shy of a sixth last week, finishing with 74 rushing yards against Texas State. Chunn’s 32 career touchdowns rank third on the school’s career list, and he needs just three more to become the new record holder.
2. Georgia Southern’s two-headed QB-RB monster
While Chunn’s name is met with much fanfare – and for good reason – the Eagles boast two talented ball carriers of their own in quarterback back Kevin Ellison and running back Matt Breida. In last week’s loss to Georgia State, Ellison had just 31 passing yards, but he ran for 101 and a touchdown with Breida adding 56 on the ground and a score. Ellison is more than a one-trick pony, as the senior currently sits fifth on the school’s career passing leaderboard with 3,098 yards.
When the tandem gets going, the results are usually positive for Georgia Southern, although it may not be reflective in the Eagles’ record this season. Troy is allowing 115.1 rushing yards per game, but will definitely have its hands full against a team that’s averaging more than 200 yards per game on the ground in Sun Belt games.
3. Road Warriors
You don’t roll up nine wins without winning a good amount of games on the road. Troy is no different, as the Trojans are currently riding a four-game winning streak away from home. Troy has beaten Southern Miss, South Alabama, Idaho and Texas State all on the road. In fact, the Trojans’ only road loss this season was a six-point defeat to current No. 2 Clemson back on Sept. 10. Meanwhile Georgia Southern has lost its last two home games – 33-26 to UL Lafayette on Nov. 10 and 34-10 to Appalachian State Oct. 27.
With any season-ending game, emotions will be strong. Troy enters with the hopes of ending the regular season with 10 wins and a share of a conference title, while Georgia Southern hopes to stem the tide of losing and close out its 2016 campaign with a victory. The Eagles have bested the Trojans in their last three contests, and that fact is sure to be on the minds of Troy’s senior class. Anything can happen when teams with the histories such as these meet, but barring a cataclysmic breakdown by Neal Brown’s team, win No. 10 should come Saturday afternoon in Statesboro.
Prediction: Troy 35, Georgia Southern 21
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.