BRZ's Official Troy Preview

It's been six years since Rick Stockstill arrived in Murfreesboro. During his tenure, he's done almost everything you could want him to: taken the team to multiple bowl games, won a share of a league title, produce multiple All-Conference players and put together the basis of a winning program. Yup, he's done just about everything … except beat Troy. Saturday, he'll get another chance.

Unfortunately, this season's matchup isn't going to make it easy for Coach Stockstill and crew. As is their norm, Troy has one of the more potent offenses in the country. Check out their offensive rankings below:

• Passing offense – 336 yards/ game (7th nationally)
• Rushing offense – 165 yards/ game (58th nationally)
• Total offense – 501 yards/ game (12th nationally)
• Scoring offense – 31.45 points/game (45th nationally)

When you look down those numbers and then consider that Middle Tennessee's defense is giving up an average of 430 total yards per game – 251 through the air, 179 on the ground – you have to wonder if Coach Nix and the Blue Raider defense has another superior performance in them.

If they do, it'll be even more of a miracle considering the significant loss of Kenneth Gilstrap in last week's win over South Alabama. Gilstrap might not have been the best defensive back in the Belt, but he was definitely the most experienced in Middle Tennessee's secondary and his absence couldn't have come at a worse time.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the keys to a Middle Tennessee victory are turnovers and time of possession. I know, I know … that could be said of every football game ever played, but when you look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team, it's 100 percent true of this Saturday's game.

Turnover Margin
Troy currently sits at -4 in turnover margin for the season. Their star quarterback, Corey Robinson, is putting together another 3,000 yard season and has been a Blue Raider killer the past two seasons. In two games against Middle Tennessee the talented senior has a total of 607 passing yards, six touchdowns and just one interception. He's also completing passes at a rate of 66.7 percent against Middle Tennessee.

In other words, he's been REALLY good against the Blue Raiders.

In spite of his past performances against Middle and his stellar yardage this season, he is human and his touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season proves it. So far he's thrown 11 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Both numbers are lower than his totals from the past two seasons, but the difference between touchdowns and picks has shrunken dramatically.

A couple of notes on Robinson's interceptions for the season:

• Five of his interceptions have come in road games.
• Six of them were thrown in Sun Belt games.
• His season high was three, thrown in a 31-10 win over South Alabama in Sep.
• He hasn't thrown ANY interceptions in Troy's last three games.

Apart from interceptions, Troy has a problem with fumbles, too. So far this season, they've lost 12 fumbles, which is good for about one per contest. If Middle Tennessee is to slow down their potent offense enough to give the Blue Raiders a win, they'll more than likely have to do so through turnovers.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans have excelled at forcing their opponents to put the ball on the ground. Through 11 games, the defense has an impressive 13 fumble recoveries. On the flip side, they've only hauled in five interceptions all season long and Middle Tennessee quarterback Logan Kilgore has only thrown one pick in Sun Belt play this season – so those numbers work in favor of the Blue Raiders.

Time of Possession
When it comes to controlling the time of possession, the last thing any coach wants to do is let Troy's offense dictate the pace of the game. This game could easily come down to who gets the ball last, but it could also be determined by who gets it first … especially when you consider the fact that Troy's defense is one of the worst in the nation:

• Passing defense – 266 yards/ game
• Rushing defense – 188 yards/ game (89th nationally)
• Total defense – 454 yards/ game(100th nationally)
• Scoring defense – 31 points/ game (88th nationally)

The average rushing yards allowed has to be appealing for Coach Stock and offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner … not to mention breakout running back Jordan Parker. With a Blue Raider ground game that's averaging right at 188 yards per game, look for the Blue Raiders to lean on the run and keep the ball out of Robinson's hands.

On another note, Kilgore is averaging 228 yards passing on the season and had a career day against North Texas a few weeks ago. His completion percentage and ability to protect the ball combined with a Trojan secondary that hasn't really been able to stop anybody could be an asset to the Blue Raiders if this game turns into a shootout.

Quarterly Breakdown
Finally, let's take a look at how each team looks on a quarter-by-quarter basis:

Score by Quarter 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
Troy 82 110 67 87
Opponents 114 80 80 68

Middle Tennessee
Score by Quarter 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter 3rd Quarter 4th Quarter
Middle Tenn. 57 71 87 80
Opponents 43 79 84 64

Based on these trends, if Middle Tennessee wants to win the game, they'll need to jump on Troy early and play the best defense of the season in the second quarter – during which Troy has scored an impressive 110 points on the season. Both teams have finished strong – outscoring opponents by more than two touchdowns in the final quarter, so it'll be interesting to see which defense prevails in the fourth quarter.

If you ask me, I think if Middle can get into the fourth quarter with a lead they could finally break the streak. But just like every year, we'll have to wait and see.

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