Game 8 Preview: Troy
It’s time to put it all together for the Georgia State Panthers (5-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) football team. Fresh off a come-from-behind victory at home against the Army Black Knights (3-4), the Panthers welcome fellow Sun Belt East opponent the Troy Trojans (3-3, 1-1 Sun Belt) to the friendly confines of Georgia State Stadium. Troy heads to Atlanta after defeating the South Alabama Jaguars at home by a score of 37-13. The Panthers have looked very comfortable at home so far this season, averaging 42.6 points per game in their three wins. The Trojans however have only dropped one of their two road contests.
For Troy, the offense runs through all conference signal caller Kaleb Barker. Saturdays matchup between these two teams should feature the arguable top two quarterbacks in the Sun Belt as Barker opposes Georgia State’s Dan Ellington. Barker gets the edge on Dan in terms of passing the ball, and his conference leading 278 yards thrown per game and 16 touchdowns through 6 games will be something to watch for. After back to back strong weeks from the entire defense as a whole, the Panthers secondary will be tested in a way they have not been since the Arkansas State game. Troy averages almost 300 passing yards per game, but it is possible to force Barker into turnovers. He currently has 6 interceptions on the year, so getting off the field will be important for the defense.
Behind him, DK Billingsly handles most of the tailback duties. Billingsly has provided a stable option for the Trojans offense, rushing for almost 500 yards on 91 carries. While the Panther defense has done reasonably well against running teams, the loss of captain Ed Curney from the linebacker ranks certainly hurts the entire defense. Georgia State will need to fill Curney’s absence and play calling ability in order to be successful going forward.
By now the offensive identity for this Georgia State team is no secret – they want to run early, and they want to run often. Unfortunately for Georgia State, Troy defends the run incredibly well. While the Panthers have one of the best rushing attacks in the country, they are also a very capable passing football team – an area the Trojans have specifically struggled to defend this season. Ellington is tied for the lead in touchdown passes in the Sun Belt Conference with 16. Freshmen Sam Pinckney is one of two freshmen across the country who have caught at least five touchdown passes this season. Troy will have to find a game plan to stop the Panthers without one of their starting defensive backs, as starting safety as Melvin Tyus is suspended for the entire first half due to a targeting call against South Alabama. This game could very well come down to the Panthers retaining their offensive identity and overpowering Troy at it.
Normally a Sun Belt powerhouse, Troy has had a tough time adjusting to life without program-altering head coach Neil Brown who departed to fill the head coaching vacancy at West Virginia after the 2018 season. The Panthers have an opportunity to secure a perfect month of October, and bowl eligibility against a “Sun Belt blue blood”. With a bye game the following week, that momentum could go a long way to help them reach their goals. Kick off is at 7pm EST in Georgia State Stadium.