When the big schedule posters were printed in the summer, and talk began about the soft back end of the Ole Miss schedule, the Troy game was no doubt one pointed to the most. After Idaho perhaps.
When you look at the games already behind the schedule’s back end lives up to its billing as less taxing, but it’s not as soft as many might have hoped back in August given what Missouri has accomplished this season. The Tigers will arrive in Oxford next week as a Top 10 team.
There’s that Mississippi State thing to consider too. Regardless of what the Bulldogs’ record may be when the time comes that game can turn either way.
Troy, however, will not be a top 10 team when it arrives for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kick at Vaught-Hemingway.
I admit to having a soft spot for Troy or most other teams from low-level FBS conferences. I attended such a school. So many of them have chased the dollars of D1. There’s no shame in being one of the top small-school programs in the country, and back in the day Northeast Louisiana was that. Troy has been that.
That’s a topic for another day, however.
The other thing the small schools can bring is talent. Obviously there’s just not as much of it as there should be with a competitive BCS conference team. Troy will have a solid senior quarterback in Corey Robinson, who, unless he’s held far below his weekly average, will leave Oxford with 3,000 passing yards on the season. Troy will have some talented running backs and receivers.
If Ole Miss highlights its differences from Troy — play along the lines and superior depth — the Rebels should win this one without being challenged in the fourth quarter.
Hugh Freeze told us last week he felt like Ole Miss was sluggish in its 34-24 win over Arkansas. That the Rebels could be sluggish and win an SEC game without a fierce fourth-quarter fight is an impressive statement about how far the program has come under Freeze.
Matt Luke advanced the sluggish theme on Monday.
The coaches pledged to work on that in practice this week. Frankly, I’ll be surprised if we don’t see more sluggish from the Rebels against Troy.
Here’s the thought process: Freeze told us after the LSU game that you just can’t get your players prepared for that type of emotional high every week. The Rebels were beaten, battered and suspended (Senquez Golson), yet managed to get an inspired effort and beat a top 10 foe at home.
Well, the players, like everyone else, have read about the alleged soft tail end of the schedule. It would be understandable for Troy, 5-5 overall and 3-3 in the Belt, to be viewed in such a manner.
You may see a little sluggishness against Troy followed by an amped up and inspired performance against Missouri next week.
The tricky part about sluggishness against Troy is that the Trojans do have some athletes. They’ve scored against everyone on their schedule except Mississippi State. The Bulldogs got out in front in that one and never looked back, ultimately winning 62-7.
Troy has scored at least 31 points in every other game this season. The only other BCS-level opponent the Trojans have faced has been Duke, which held on to defeat Troy 38-31. Duke is ranked 11th in the ACC in total defense but fifth in scoring defense.
Troy basically comes into this game like a poor man’s Texas A&M. The Trojans are going to score points, and it’s going to be up to the Ole Miss offense to exploit a sub-par Troy defense and score more points than the Trojans.
The Rebels should have better exploited the A&M defense. Had they done so they’d be 7-2 now and not 6-3.
I think Ole Miss will handle the Troy defense and will hold the Trojans offense to fewer than the 41 Johnny Manziel put on the Rebels at the start of the six-game homestand.
Prediction: Ole Miss 49, Troy 31