2011 Record: (3-9, 2-6 in Sun Belt)
Head Coach: Larry Blakeney (163-92-1 All-Time, 42-17 in Sun Belt)
Last Bowl Game: 2010 New Mexico Bowl: beat Ohio 48-21
Four Year Coaching Trend: 7 wins and 5.75 losses per season overall, 5.5 wins and 2.25 losses per season in Sun Belt
Stat to Cheer: 49 passing plays of 20 yards or more (2nd in Sun Belt)
Stat to Fear: -1.00 turnover margin (114th in Nation); converted 66.67% of red zone trips (119th in Nation)
Phil Steele’s Returning Starters: (Offense: 9; Defense: 6; Specialists: 0)
Key Defensive Returnees: S Branden Trawick (123 tackles), LB Brannon Bryan (82 tackles), LB Kanorris Davis (60 tackles), DE Tony Davis (34 tackles, 2.5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Corey Robinson (21 TD, 15 INT), RB Shawn Southward (556 yds, 4 TD), WR Eric Thomas (67 rec, 9 TD), OG Kyle Wilborn
Troy won five straight Sun Belt Championships up until last year. The Trojans went from 8-5 in 2010 to just 3-9 in 2011. 2011 was a disaster. After losing to Clemson and Arkansas (as expected) the Trojans won their next two games to even their record at 2-2. Then the bottom dropped out. The Trojans lost seven of their last eight beating only lowly FAU.
What happened to Troy? They turned the ball over (-1.00 turnover margin) and the defense was bad. In their losses, the defense gave up 37.7 points per game. Funny thing is, it could have been worse. In their losses, Troy was second in the conference in red zone defense (allowing a 78% conversion rate) and their opponent third down conversion rate was fourth in the conference. One big issue was giving up the big play as Troy gave up 20 (yes 20!) plays of 40 or more yards and 11 plays of 50 or more yards.
Troy also took a big step back on offense as they scored 11.7 less points per game in 2011 (versus 2010) and they gained 73.5 less yards per game. Troy was missing that balance on offense (maybe because they played from behind more). In 2010, Troy gained 115 first downs rushing. In 2011, they gained just 64. In 2011 they attempted seven more passes than in 2010 but they attempted 137 less runs and averaged 1.18 less yards per carry. Can Troy fix all of this in one year?
The good news is that the Trojans have the third most experienced team in the Sun Belt. I think last year for Troy was a combination of the other teams getting better and Troy taking a step back. Arkansas State, FIU and Louisiana are going to continue to compete. Troy should be able to get back into the top four of the conference this year but I wouldn’t look for a return to the conference title based on the issues they had last year on both sides of the football.
2012 Prediction: 6-6
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