You can bet (excuse the pun) that at least a few fans have seen the hashtag #SBCChampionshipGame and thought that there was such a thing. Instead, it’s something fans made up as a gimmick.
Not only are the Sun Belt-leading Troy Trojans and Arkansas State Red Wolves playing in a mere “regular season” contest, it won’t even completely decide the Sun Belt crown. Another 1-conference-loss team, Appalachian State, is playing on Saturday…and if they win, they’ll share the trophy with the winner of Troy and Ark State.
But the Trojans badly want to emerge as the best Sun Belt team to come along in awhile, and perhaps earn a postseason ranking in the top 25. Troy has had almost a dream season with exception of a mid-season slip-up to South Alabama – and that game can be written off as a hangover weekend. The Trojans had just upset LSU.
Arkansas State has no such marquee win to hang its hat on, but the bookends were there in ’17 – the Red Wolves nearly knocked off Nebraska to begin the year, and hung 67 on Louisiana-Monroe last weekend.
Who: Troy Trojans at Arkansas State Red Wolves
When: Saturday, December 2nd, 7:30 PM EST
Where: Centennial Bank Stadium, Jonesboro, AR
Lines: Troy (+1) at Ark St (-1) / O/U Total: (59)
Troy must accomplish 2 things to beat the Red Wolves on the road.
First, the Trojans must generate a pass rush against Wolf QB Justice Hanson. The junior is tall and possesses an accurate arm, but tends to look very bad or very good based on his blocking and supporting cast. Hanson had 4 interceptions against South Alabama earlier in November as the Jaguars completed their unlikely sweep of the best 2 teams in the Sun Belt. But he also had 520 passing yards at ULM on Saturday.
Second, Troy must get more than one RB involved in the ground game. Jordan Chunn has led all rushers by more than twofold, but he was the only skill player to find space in the Trojans’ near-loss to Idaho. It’s not enough for Chunn to get 100+ rushing or for Brandon Silvers to get 250+ through the air. Troy must play a balanced, flexible game to put up touchdowns and stay ahead of the Wolves.
Can the (slight) underdogs pull it off? If they’re motivated and focused enough, yes. The front-7 was excellent in Troy’s dominant road win over Georgia State, sacking Conner Manning 4 times. They added another 3 sacks last Saturday in a 62-9 murdering of Texas State.
As for diversifying the ground game, OC Kenny Edenfield diagnosed the issue after the Idaho game, giving 7 players carries a week later against Coastal Carolina…with the Trojans winning 42-17.
The Red Wolves play in a tough, noisy venue in Jonesboro and should be able to pressure Silvers on 3rd down and long. But thanks to Chunn and an OL that has produced 5 ypc this season, the Trojans won’t be in 3rd down and long very often. Plus, the visitors’ defense knows how to harass a QB on the road.
Pick Troy against the spread or on the ML to prevail in Jonesboro.