In their final non-conference match up of the season, the Missouri Tigers (3-1, 1-0 SEC) will face the Troy Trojans (2-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) at Faurot Field at 3pm CST. To get some perspective on what the Tigers might be in for, I sat down with beat writer Ken Rogers from the Dothan Eagle:
Sammy Stava: Troy was picked to finish second in the Sun Belt Eastern Division behind Appalachian State. After three straight double-digit win seasons, the Trojans are off to a 2-2 start, coming off a conference opening loss to Arkansas State. With what you have seen so far, can Troy still meet expectations based on their preseason prediction?
Ken Rogers: Troy can, but it needs to play better on defense. It has scored 43 and 42 points in its two losses. That firepower keeps the Trojans in games. Too many big plays by the opposing offenses have kept Troy from being 4-0.
SS: Recently, Troy has pulled off some major upsets, beating LSU in 2017 and Nebraska last season, but both of those came under Neal Brown. Is there any reason to believe they can do it again this season under first-year head coach Chip Lindsey?
KR: Again, they’ve been good enough to pile up points, but not good enough to get key stops at the right time in close games. People forget Neal Brown was at Troy for four seasons. In his first season, the Trojans lost at North Carolina State, Wisconsin and Mississippi State in games that weren’t very close. In his second year, Troy lost a heart-breaker to eventual national champion Clemson. Then came the big wins at LSU and Nebraska. The point is— Neal Brown in Year 1 wasn’t Neal Brown in Year 4. Same probably goes for Chip Lindsey.
SS: Looking at both sides of the ball, who, in your opinion, should Missouri be the most concerned about in this game? Who has the potential to make a big impact?
KR: Troy’s biggest impact player on defense is undersized inside linebacker Carlton Martial, who has been superb. He’s probably the most instinctive player they have, too. Offensively, Troy has a trio of junior college transfer receivers — Reggie Todd, Khalil McClain and Kaylon Geiger — who have made a tremendous impact on the offense. Quarterback Kaleb Barker has done a nice job coming back from the season-ending knee surgery he had after Game 6 last year. He’s best with the RPO stuff because he’s smart and makes good, fast decisions.
SS: What will need to happen on Saturday for Troy to pull off the upset?
KR: Troy is going to need some help. Missouri will have to cough up the ball. Also, the Trojans can’t dig themselves into early 14-0 deficits as they did in their first two losses. They were able to overcome those and eventually took small leads in the second half of both games, but it just felt like they were in catch-up mode all night. Doing that on the road and against better athletes would be disastrous.
SS: How do you see this game playing out on Saturday? Do you have a final score prediction?
KR: I just haven’t seen evidence that Troy can get Missouri stopped. I do think the Trojans can score some points. The first quarter will be crucial. Troy needs to hang around and not get overwhelmed.
Missouri 52, Troy 24
Thank you to Ken Rogers for the time, and you can follow him on Twitter at @DEBamabeat for Troy coverage this week.