Troy Trojans (9-3, 6-2 SBC) vs Ohio Bobcats (8-5, 6-2 MAC)
Game Time: 8:00 PM EST December 23rd
Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, AL
Weather: Partly cloudy, highs in the mid-60’s
Series: Second ever meeting. Troy won the first 48-21 in 2010
Line: Troy -4, O/U 49
Well, this is an interesting matchup. Exactly 30 days ago, these two teams had a combined overall record of 15-4 and a single conference loss between them. Now both teams lost two out of three to close their regular season and will benefit greatly from a win to bounce back on a positive note heading into next season. Ohio gets credit for their last loss being a near-miss against the PJ Fleck juggernaut that is Western Michigan, and Troy gets demerits for those two losses being a complete annihilation by Arkansas State and a loss to Georgia Southern for pretty much no reason.
When Troy has the ball
So you will be shocked to know that the Troy offense had a pretty good year, largely thanks to the passing-game prowess of Brandon Silvers. This was in part because the Trojans were one of the best offensive lines in the entire country at pass protection, allowing Silvers to get sacked only six times in over 400 dropbacks.
The Trojans pass the ball to set up the pass, and then run it to try and catch you of guard. This explains a team that ran the ball far more often on passing downs than on standard downs – which they might want to refrain from here, since doing so still left them in the bottom 25 in rushing S&P+ for the season. Don’t get me wrong, Jordan Chunn is a quality player, but the run game was largely boom or bust and they usually had better success with short passes than runs.
That makes sense when you think about the fact that Troy’s top five wide receivers all posted a catch rate of 66% or better, and all but one averaged at least 10 yards per catch. That’s a great way to put up yards and points in a hurry, having multiple sure-handed options who are great at getting open downfield.
Which will make for a great matchup because the one thing Ohio does extremely well is get after the quarterback, as their 42 sacks will attest, and they usually do so without bringing extra pressure either. They struggle a little bit in pass defense, especially in the underneath game (no shocker since their opponents have a great pass rush to try and beat) but it’s not such a struggle that they aren’t still a borderline top 50 defense nationally.
Tarell Basham led the defense with 10.5 sacks, but he was also one of four players with at least four sacks on the year. The pressure paid off for a defense that also recorded 13 interceptions and 19 forced fumbles on the year. This isn’t quite unstoppable force and immovable object, but it’s definitely strength versus strength and will be the game highlight.
When Ohio has the ball
What’s the opposite of strength versus strength? Weakness versus weakness. Except that’s not the case here. Troy’s defense actually finished right in the vicinity of Ohio nearly across the board, with only two exceptions. First, they give up significantly more big plays, especially in the run game. More interestingly, they generate pressure at essentially the same rate in all scenarios (except they’re better at generating pressure when blitzing DB’s) but have less success in turning that pressure into sacks. They generate pressure and record tackles for loss at the same rate, but had 15 fewer sacks than the Bobcats in only one less game.
Ohio, on the other hand, has an offense that is nothing like Troy’s. They excel at hitting big plays, and they excel at sack prevention… and that’s about it. They rank in the bottom 50 in just about every other meaningful offensive category. They are similar to Troy in that they are more explosive than efficient, and more successful in the passing game than the run, but they’re further down the ladder in every category. Factor in adjusted pace and Ohio’s offense is basically Troy’s offense covered in molasses.
I’ll let that mental image marinate for a second.
The Bobcats also have uncertainty under center. Senior Greg Windham played a strong game in the Mac Championship game and was the primary reason the Bobcats nearly won; it was also the first time he had played in over a month. He was benched after seven games due to ineffectiveness and was initially brought back in against Toledo before getting hurt and then never came back under center until the title game despite freshman Quinton Maxwell not faring much better.
This game favors Troy, though I’m not sure how much. You could easily talk me into that four-point spread being a little high or a little low. I think that the defenses are equally matched, but Troy’s offense is much more capable of exploiting Ohio’s defensive weaknesses than the other way around. I’ll give the slight edge to a Trojans team that has better quarterback play, but don’t rule out Ohio getting lucky on a few big plays and sneaking out a win
Troy Trojans 31, Ohio Bobcats 21