2010 R&L Carriers New Orleans
Troy (7-5) vs.
Saturday, December 18th, 5:30 ESPN
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Pick ATS: Troy
Confidence Score: 81
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 24 out of 35
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and bowl history
By Pete Fiutak
It’s easy to mock the matchup, it’s easy to dismiss the Sun Belt vs. the MAC, and it’s easy to blow off the New Orleans Bowl. But by the time ball is teed up there will be just 33 college football games left to play, and this could be among the best of them.
Fine, so you probably wouldn’t watch Troy vs. Ohio if it was a Thursday night primetime game, and this will be little more than an appetizer before the better bowl games kick in a few games later, but the New Orleans Bowl has been good over the last two seasons, both teams are going to try, and both teams are going to look to make a statement on a national stage.
This is just the fifth bowl game in Troy’s history and its third New Orleans Bowl. While the Trojans are 1-3 in the post-season, three of the games were fantastic, even though they happened to be losses, with an overtime loss to Southern Miss in the 2008 New Orleans Bowl and a scintillating 44-41 double overtime loss to Central Michigan in last year’s GMAC Bowl, which might have been the best game in the post-season. The Trojans won a share of the Sun Belt title, but FIU was the real winner, at least with the tie-breaker, after a 52-35 pasting in mid-November. Even so, this was a bit of a rebuilding year and head coach Larry Blakeney still made it a success.
Few teams played more exciting battles early on with six of the first eight games decided by seven points or fewer, but Troy got inconsistent and a bit sloppy at times. The defense started to show up late, but it was miserable during a key second half stretch and was awful against the pass throughout. The offense, though, moved the ball on a regular basis with a high-octane passing game to finish first in the Sun Belt in yards and scoring. If nothing else, Troy will air it out.
The same can’t be said for an Ohio team that would like to grind the game to a halt.
The Bobcats were on a roll and appeared destined to play for the MAC title, but a loss to Kent State to snap a seven-game winning streak ended that. Ohio State blew away the Bobcats, and Marshall won a one-point squeaker, but everything started to click after the 1-3 start as the offense started to find an efficient passing game, the line started to come together, and a nice rhythm was formed with two dangerous quarterbacks to make the conservative attack work.
However, there were a lot of wins over some of the worst teams in America, fattening up on Eastern Michigan, Akron, Buffalo and Bowling Green, and it took a battle to put away a Louisiana-Lafayette team that wasn’t all that great, but also pushed Troy a bit. The Bobcats, though, came through with a blowout win at eventual MAC champion, Miami, and beat Temple in a sloppy game that at the time appeared to be the defining moment in the MAC East season. And then came the blowout loss to Kent State, and now Ohio has to win its first bowl game ever to make the season a success.
This is just the fifth bowl appearance for the
program and the third since the 1960s. Ohio lost
the 1962 Sun Bowl to West Texas A&M and the 1968
Tangerine to Richmond, and after losing to
Southern Miss in the 2006 GMAC and last year to
Marshall in the Little Caesars, a win over Troy might go down as one of the biggest in school history.
Ohio isn’t necessarily stodgy, hanging up 30 points or more in all eight wins, but it doesn’t have a high-octane passing game and it feeds off of mistakes and good field position. While being the 94th ranked offense in the nation might not look great, and being 105th in passing is lousy, the team finds ways to put points on the board against teams with mediocre defenses. Troy has a mediocre defense.
This might be a bit more of a shootout than it might appear on paper. Ohio can crank out yards with the running game, Troy’s offense is always going to wing it around, and both teams will empty the playbook. It might not be Oregon vs. Auburn, but it’ll probably be a better game.
Players to Watch: Troy senior WR Jerrel Jernigan followed up a record-setting 77-catch season with 71 catches for 1,101 yards and four touchdowns last year. The three-time First Team All-Sun Belt star came through with yet another special year with 77 catches for 774 yards and five scores while running for 306 yards and two touchdowns. The Sun Belt’s best punt returner and a strong kickoff returner, he finished eighth in the nation in all-purpose yards and will be asked to do it all in his final college game. Only 5-9 and 184 pounds, he’s not all that big but he’s lightning quick and he could be a gamebreaker. He caught nine passes for 154 yards in last year’s GMAC Bowl loss to Central Michigan and caught nine passes against Southern Miss in the 2008 New Orleans Bowl.
If you’re watching this game, you’re a die-hard college football fan so you should look for something deeper. This is a game to check out the offensive linemen with three of the best players in the game up front. Ohio’s
6-4, 290-pound junior Joe Flading wasn’t expected to be a top blocker when he started his career, but he ended up All-MAC recognition over the last two years at right tackle. He didn’t take over until the fifth game of last year, but he has been extremely steady while turning into a fantastic pass blocker. He’s the anchor of one of the MAC’s best lines, and he’ll be the one the team runs behind.
Troy’s Tyler Clark was one of the Sun Belt’s best blockers last year working at left guard, earning First Team All-Sun Belt honors. He stepped over and filled in center with the loss of all-star Danny Franks and was fantastic named to the First Team once again. The 6-2, 285-pound senior has been a tough, physical leader who has been a godsend of a leader up front with so many changes on the rest of the offense. 6-4, 329-pound junior James Brown has gotten in better shape and has turned into a whale of a left tackle. The Florida State transfer should be the Sun Belt’s most dominant lineman next year if he can keep losing weight and if he can move a bit better. The former JUCO all-star was a superstar high school prospect out of Mississippi, where he won the state high school weightlifting title in 2005, but his potential NFL future is at guard.
Troy will win if ... Ohio has to rely on the passing game. The Bobcats have shown they can win in shootouts, but they haven’t proved they can bomb away on a consistent basis. It’ll be tempting to try to light up the porous Trojan secondary, but Ohio’s bread is buggered with the running game, and with a great Troy defensive front that’s able to get into the backfield and hit the quarterback, plays won’t have time to develop. Troy is far better equipped to start bombing away on the fast indoor track, and while Ohio should be able to keep up the pace if the scores start rolling, it doesn’t have the ability to mount a major comeback like Troy does. The Trojans can strike from anywhere on the field; the Bobcats can’t.
Troy has to limit the turnovers. Mistakes were a problem all season long with four fumbles keeping the Trojans from pulling off the upset over Oklahoma State, two key interceptions a problem against ULM, four turnovers coming being given away in the loss to FIU, and five errors making the South Carolina loss an ugly blowout. Ohio is hardly stingy with the ball and will cough it up way too much, too, but the Bobcat defense is great at turning games around with key picks with four interceptions in the win over Miami (and six total takeaways) and with three takeaways against Temple.
Ohio will win if ... it scores 30 points. Yeah, Troy is better equipped to get involved in a firefight, but Ohio is 8-0 when it scores 30 points or more and 0-4 when scoring fewer. In the four losses, Ohio scored a grand total of 49 points; the same amount scored in the win over Bowling Green. Troy’s defense gives up 31 points per game, and while it was strong against Western Kentucky and Florida Atlantic in the final two games of the regular season, Ohio is far, far better. The Troy defensive line can get to the quarterback and it can get into the backfield, but it can be pushed around and could be flattened by the Ohio offensive front.
The Bobcats have had problems with turnovers, like Troy, but if they can be stingy, if they can keep the game close, the Trojans will screw up. No one has committed more penalties than Troy, with a whopping 105 sins this year with four games getting flagged 12 times or more. Ohio has to keep the chains moving on a Troy defense that isn’t good, but is strong on third downs, it has to control the clock, and it has to force the Trojan offense to press and wait for the mistakes will come. Along with needing to be on the right side of the errors, Ohio should be able to neutralize the Jernigan factor a bit with the MAC’s best punting game, netting a solid 39.36 yards per kick.
What will happen: There’s nothing to be figured out from the common opponents. Ohio blew away Bowling Green, who pushed Troy in the opening game of the year, and each team struggled in wins over Louisiana-Lafayette. Neither team is consistent, but Ohio has more veterans in key spots to potentially keep the mistakes to a minimum. However, Troy has the pass rush. Ohio’s offense was stopped dead in its tracks in the must-win regular season finale against Kent State thanks to a Golden Flash pass rush that came up with five sacks and a boatload of other plays made behind the line. The Troy defensive front will be the difference in a shockingly fun, close game.
CFN Prediction: Troy 31 … Ohio 27 ... Line: Troy -2
-Free Expert Football Predictions | Get Tickets For This Game
Pick ATS: Troy
Confidence Score: 81
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 24 out of 35
Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Troy Pick Confidence -
- Troy and Central Michigan played one of the best games of the 2009-2010 bowl season, but Ohio's offense isn't the CMU attack of last year. The Bobcats play great run defense and have an efficient offense, while Troy doesn't play defense and has good, explosive pop. It'll be a better game than most of the bowls, but it won't get any attention.
Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS -
Troy Pick Confidence -
- Two of Ohio’s biggest concerns will be handling a pair of first-year Trojans. Redshirt freshman QB Corey Robinson has thrown 24 touchdown passes and JUCO transfer DE Jonathan Massaquoi leads the Sun Belt with 17.5 tackles for loss.
Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Ohio Pick Confidence -
- Both teams looked transformed in their final regular-season games of the year – Troy for the better, Ohio for worse. Who knows what to expect in New Orleans? Ohio does have an experience advantage at quarterback; Troy’s Corey Robinson is a freshman.
Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Troy Pick Confidence -
- With all due respect to the players and fans of Troy and Ohio, who work just as hard to be the best football players/program they can be, we’ll be watching this with one hand on the remote.
Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Troy Pick Confidence -
- Troy wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan is worth the price of admission. The do-everything senior leads the Sun Belt in receptions per game, punt returns and all-purpose yards.
Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Troy Pick Confidence -
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Ohio Pick Confidence -
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Troy Pick Confidence -
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Troy
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Troy Pick Confidence
New Orleans Bowl History
2009 Middle Tennessee 42, Southern Miss 32
2008 Southern Miss 30,
Troy 27 OT
2007 Florida Atlantic 44, Memphis
2006 Troy 41, Rice 17
2005 Southern Miss 31, Arkansas St
2004 Southern Miss 31, North Texas
2003 Memphis 27, North Texas 17
2002 North Texas 24, Cincinnati 19
2001 Colorado St 45, North Tex.