Do not let the fact that Troy is in the Sun Belt and is coming off of an underwhelming 5-7 season fool you. This team poses a legitimate threat to BYU and their goals this season. It’s not impossible to think about BYU going undefeated this year, especially if they continue to play like they did back on Labor Day night, dismantling Navy 55-3. To take the mentality of the players, this team is only as good as its next game.
Troy never backs down from a challenge. They beat Nebraska in Lincoln in 2018 and shocked No. 25 LSU in Baton Rouge in 2017 and gave 2016 National Champion Clemson the biggest scare of their season. They had posted at least 10 wins in three of their last four seasons. However, this is the second year of new head coach Chip Lindsey, who took over after Neal Brown rode all that success to the West Virginia job.
Most BYU fans look at the schedule and see the possible stumbling blocks to a perfect abbreviated season as Houston or Western Kentucky, both traditionally strong Group of 5 programs. However, looking past Troy could be fatal for the No. 18 team in the country.
First off, Troy opened their season last week against Middle Tennessee State and basically did what BYU did to the Midshipmen on their way to a 47-14 win over the Blue Raiders. Their offense looks like it’s humming just as it was last season when they ranked 25th in the nation with 33.8 points per game. They hardly skipped a beat, in fact, in some ways they look better after replacing last year’s starting quarterback Kaleb Barker with Gunnar Watson this season, putting up 496 yards last week. Watson completed over 70 percent of his passes and tossed for 248 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday.
The Trojans have experience at the two most important positions on the offensive line, left tackle and center, where they boast returning All-Sun Belt honorees. Last season, the offense ranked seventh in passing yards per game. Why is this a concern? BYU ranked 71st in passing defense last season, allowing 236 yards per game. The secondary looks stronger than last season but Troy poses a threat that was nonexistent against Navy.
The Trojans boast a stable of solid receivers. Kaylon Geiger amassed nearly 900 yards with five touchdowns last year and returns for his senior season. Reggie Todd and Khalil McClain each had more than 500 yards and combined for 12 touchdowns in 2019. Certainly, BYU’s secondary will have their hands full.
The Trojans run a version of the Go Fast, Go Hard offense BYU fans got a taste of with Taysom Hill under Robert Anae, often snapping the ball with 15 or more seconds left on the play clock. BYU’s defense will need to be well conditioned and well disciplined to slow them down. Several times during Troy’s bout with Middle Tennessee, they went so fast that the Blue Raiders could not get players off the field fast enough, resulting in a penalty. One of which negated a huge interception early by MTSU’s defense and cost them dearly. It would be discouraging to watch BYU’s defense get into a similar situation.
Any team that has a solid offensive line, a steady quarterback and athletic, veteran receivers can put up points and stay in any game, especially when they will not have to deal with Cougar fans at Lavell Edwards Stadium, as the school announced that they cannot host fans this Saturday night. Troy will be better than Navy, you can just about count on it.
This game could bring back visions of the Toledo game in 2016, when Kareem Hunt and the Rockets came into Provo and put up 53 points and 692 yards in a thrilling overtime win for the Cougars. BYU must take Troy seriously.
The soft spot for Troy is certainly their defense. In 2019, they ranked 117th out of 130, allowing 34.8 points per game. With how BYU’s offense moved the ball at will on what should have been a solid Navy defense, this has the makings of a shootout in Provo.
Buckle up, folks.