Troy Poised for Another Title Run
(This is the eleventh in a series previewing the 2019 opponents of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns. Today: Troy. The Trojans visit Cajun Field on Saturday November 23. Information from Phil Steele's College Football Preview was helpful in this story.)
Another year, more success for Troy.
In 2018, the Trojans defeated Buffalo in the Dollar General Bowl giving them double digit wins for the third straight year. That caught the eye of West Virginia, who hired Neal Brown after their coach departed for Houston. The new boss is Chip Lindsey, a former Troy assistant who most recently was at Auburn.
Troy suffered a big blow midway through the season last year when starting quarterback Kaleb Barker was lost for the season with a torn ACL. Enter Sawyer Smith. Although Troy lost Smith's first start at Liberty, the young QB led Troy to four straight wins before falling at Appalachian State in the regular season finale. Smith has transferred but Barker is healthy and returns for his senior season. He's lost some firepower at wide receiver and that's the biggest question mark for the Troy offense.
There is no question about the running game as Troy returns its top three rushers. Leading the way is preseason Offensive Player of the Year in B. J. Smith. Smith had a Troy record five straight 100-yard rushing games en route to first team all league honors, 1,186 yards and 13 touchdowns. Four offensive linemen return and that means Smith should have another big year.
The question for Troy is their defense. Although six starters return, the biggest loss might have been defensive coordinator Vic Koennig, who went with Brown to West Virginia. Koennig's defenses were near the top of the league the last three seasons. New DC Brandon Hall was on staff last year and that will help.
The Trojans lost both of their return specialists but PK/P Tyler Sumpter is back. He has yet to miss a PAT in his career. He was a second team All-SBC kicker and 3rd team punter a year ago.
THE SCHEDULE: In non conference the Trojans host Southern Miss and Campbell while traveling to Akron and Missouri. After beating LSU and Nebraska in back to back seasons, the Trojans will not be intimidated by that schedule. The conference schedule is favorable. Troy's toughest road game is at Louisiana. They get Arkansas State, Georgia Southern and App State all at Veterans Memorial Stadium. They do not play ULM.
OUTLOOK: There aren't a lot of question marks about the Trojans except for how they will respond to a new coaching staff. The schedule works in their favor this year and that Friday game the day after Thanksgiving against App just might be for the East title.