The Troy Trojans (10-2) will face off this Saturday versus the North Texas Mean Green (9-4) in the New Orleans Bowl. The first FBS bowl game of this season will be played at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, with the start time schedule for 1:00 EST. The game can be seen on ESPN.
The Mean Green are coming off a discouraging performance versus Florida Atlantic in the Conference USA Championship. On top of that, they were without their two best playmakers in RB Jeffery Wilson (ankle) and WR Jalen Guyton (concussion).
They still have one of the better under-the-radar quarterbacks, Mason Fine (3,749 yards, 28 passing touchdowns), and a top-20 scoring offense. Including Guyton, they have four wideouts over 500 yards receiving this season. Between two losses to FAU this season, they won five straight, including a 52-49 thriller over Army.
As for the Trojans, they’ve rode their defense to get themselves to a 10-win season and a Sun Belt title. They boast impressive wins over the likes of LSU (road game) and scrappy Arkansas State. While not possessing any dominant sack artist (no one over 5.5 sacks) or tackling machine (no one with 80 tackles), they still do plenty of disrupting as a unit.
They had the 12th-most sacks in the country per-game and were 18th in interceptions. They’ll come into this game as 6 ½-point favorites over the Conference USA runner-up.
When North Texas finally played a team balanced enough, they were destroyed twice by Florida Atlantic. Troy doesn’t wow you a ton on offense, but still scores 30 points per-game and has the 11th-best scoring defense in college football. That’s more than enough to stall the Mean Green for a second consecutive contest.
With Wilson out, North Texas is without a guy who ran for over 1,200 yards (6.5 YPC) and scored 16 touchdowns. That’s a huge hole to fill against a team that is all but completely healthy on both sides of the ball. And there’s reason to believe Guyton won’t play as well, or that his role will diminish. Losing their prized RB and receiver is too much for the Mean Green—and most other teams—to overcome.
The Trojans will have their hands full with Fine, but the QB has yet to see a defense this good. He hasn’t met ballhawks this talented all year, and will face more pressure than he has all season. He was the lone bright spot in the conference championship game, yet the Mean Green only scored 17 points. Without the balance Wilson brings, Fine would have to be a miracle worker to pull this one out.
The QB is still prone to throw his share of picks, as he’s thrown one for every game he’s played this year. And with Blace Brown (11 interceptions over the past two seasons) blanketing Fine’s second-best target, Michael Lawrence, his options begin to dwindle.
Expect the scoring output to be low again for North Texas. If they were at full-strength, this would be a close game. But Troy has enough offense now, with 32-plus points in five of their last six games, to pull away in this one. They’ll stretch their winning streak to seven games this Saturday, and improve their spread streak to four.