Troy (5-1, 3-0) v South Alabama (3-3, 0-3)
October 20th, 6:30 PM CST, Ladd-Peebles Stadium
You Can Watch This Game On: ESPNU
Wagering (for the barbarians): -8 Troy, FPI 82%, Troy
In certain circles, the battle of Alabama’s football supremacy lies between Auburn and the Crimson Tide. But circles of wisdom know that the state’s truest rivalry is the Battle for the Belt between the Troy Trojans and the South Alabama Jaguars. The rivalry, currently tied at a modest 2-2, may not be the stuff of legend, but Thursday night’s tiebreaker will either A) cement Troy as a legitimate contender for the Sun Belt throne, or b) bring a full measure of “It’s about time!” to a beleaguered Jaguar fanbase boiling for its first conference win of the season.
The Belt belongs to the Jags
The rivalry (and seething hatred!) began waaaaaay back in 2012, when the Trojans unceremoniously dispatched the Jaguars 31-10. Just so the world understood that this was no mistake, the Trojans beat South Bama again the next year. Fortunes reversed in 2014 with a 27-13 thumping from the Jags at squeaky clean Ladd-Peebles. Then the Jags did it again in 2015, rallying behind a two touchdown performance from signal caller Cody Clements that handed the Trojans one of eight losses. The win earned the Jags a year’s rights to this swank-ass belt!
Despite being winless in conference, South Alabama seems determined to keep the Belt sealed in a Kryptonian crystal case that prevents cretins like you and I from touching it. You know the Troy fanbase is super-pumped to get it back! At least, I think they are.
Trojans might be the Sun Belt Sheriff again
To me, Sun Belt young people, as I enthrall you with tale of lore and legend! Many moons ago (from 2006 to 2010 to be exact), the Trojans terrorized the Sun Belt countryside with five dominating seasons. The Trojans were the Sun Belt, laying waste with a merciless 32-5 conference record with seemingly no end of its tyranny in sight.
And then the Trojans sort of kinda stopped recruiting. Anyway, Neal Brown arrived to Troy in 2015 with the energy and ambition to not only make the Trojans a serious title threat, but to also make Brown a legitimate candidate to move on.
That’s what a 5-1 record and a near bump-off of Clemson will do for your rep. After a rebuilding 4-8 season, Brown has the Trojans leading the Sun Belt in Points Per Game (39.2), Passing Percentage (63.8%), Total Yards (2,786), Interceptions (14!) and, uh, 4th Down Percentage (76.9%). Against Sun Belt competition (New Mexico St, Idaho, Georgia State), the Trojans are averaging 39 points and have only given up an average of 13. The old Sheriff might be back to rule the Sun Belt.
South Alabama is killing Mississippi State and San Diego State’s RPI
When the Jaguars knocked off Mississippi State, everyone was like, Hey look out for the Jags! After losses to Georgia Southern and Louisiana, and then a single-point win over Nichols, everyone was like, False alarm you guys, Jags be Jagging! Then South Bama went ahead and played a brilliant game in a win over #19 San Diego State, and everyone was like, Hey look out for the Jags for real this time! But a loss to then 1-4 Arkansas State had everyone staring into space again. Who are these Jags?
Whoever they are, they’re not runners. After putting up an anemic 61 total ground yards on the Red Wolves, the Jaguars find themselves ranked 121st in the nation for rushing. South Bama can throw the pill. Bu even with super tight end Gerald Everett gobbling up yards, the Jags are only posting 23.8 points per game, 5th fewest in the conference. The pass defense is solid, but the Rush Defense is ranked 109th in the nation and giving up 220 yards per contest. The Sun Belt rushing leader, Troy’s Jordan Chunn, is in line for a great day.
Enough of your prattle, fool! Who’s grabbing the Belt?
The Jaguars have an NFL caliber tight end in Gerald Everett, and defensive end Randy Allen leads the Sun Belt with a whopping eight sacks. But Neal Brown has the Trojans playing at a hyper-level. Ranked 8th in Total Defense and 35th in Total Offense, Troy is simply too balanced and too tough for the Jaguars. That belt case is gonna look mighty empty after Thursday night.