1. The Trojan offense has been off to a bit of a rocky start with scoring down to just 24 points a game — what's the story there this year?
Finishing drives has been the group’s biggest issue to this point in the season. Per S&P+, the Trojans rank 108th in this specific category and that is a big reason why this offense isn’t putting up points. The run game has been solid while the passing attack is struggling to produce explosive plays. Therefore, we’re seeing a lot of 10-12 play drives by the Trojans just to get into the scoring range. Then you add in the kicking issues (Troy has hit just three of six field goals and has already missed two extra points). The yards have been there but the ability to finish has not.
2. The duo of Jordan Chunn and Jamarius Henderson have been off to a great start running the football. What has been working for them so far?
These two backs are really just opposite of each other and I believe that is why they work so well together. It’s a real thunder and lightning duo as Chunn is the big power back that will take most of the carries while Henderson is used less but is always a threat to take it the distance whether in the run or pass game. Henderson has been ridiculously efficient when given carries as he has three touchdowns on just 23 carries. Meanwhile, Chunn has improved his rushing yardage total in each contest as the coaching staff is doing a very good job in limiting his touches early in the season. It also helps that when you see Neal Brown and the Air Raid scheme, you don’t expect to see a squad run it as well as the Trojans do.
3. Brandon Silvers has had a few struggles early on. What have defenses been doing to hold this passing game in check, and how does that factor into the gameplan against a secondary like LSU's?
Troy’s passing scheme is to spread you out and dink-and-dunk you to death. Brown wants his quarterbacks to have a very high completion percentage and then when the timing is right, they’ll take their vertical shots. In the opener against Boise State, Silvers played his worst game as a Trojan. The senior only completed 50 percent of his passes as he complied an embarrassing 139 passing yards. Boise State did a very good job of jumping on all the short routes and Troy was never able to connect on any home run shots down the field. Since then, he’s played pretty well as he’s hit at least 62 percent of his passes and has thrown for at least 286 yards in Troy’s three game winning streak.
Going up against an athletic secondary, it’s going to be very important that Troy is able to hit on some vertical passes down the field. Expect LSU’s corners to be sitting on Troy’s quick game and the Trojans will need to connect deep to have a fighting chance to move the ball through the air. If they are able to do that, Troy’s screen game can be very, very dangerous.
4. Troy has been able to put scares into the Tigers twice in the last 20 years — what has to happen for the Trojans to pull an upset this weekend?
Offensively, Troy will need to somewhat establish the run against a good LSU front seven. For the passing game to work against a true SEC defense, Silvers will need the balance and for something to negate the LSU pass rush. As the game progresses, Troy will need to connect on some vertical routes down the field to keep the LSU secondary honest. Do that and the quick game Troy loves to use will start to become very effective.
Defensively, Troy has been very solid against the run this season but they are about to get their biggest test yet. If they are able to hold the powerful LSU rushing attack in check, it will allow them to bring some blitzes to pressure Danny Etling as the Troy pass rush has been a weak spot for the defense. This unit does give up yardage but they have the ability to force turnovers and the ability to get stops when absolutely necessary.
5. How do you see this one playing out?
LSU is struggling to find itself under offensive coordinator Matt Canada right now and I think the Troy defense will have some success against the Tigers early. However, the LSU front seven should be able to handle this Troy rushing attack and I just don’t believe the short passing game Neal Brown loves to run is going to work against this speedy LSU defense. Trojans hang around for three quarters but fatigue gets to them as LSU pulls away in the final 15 minutes. LSU 31, Troy 13.