Three Keys to Victory
3. Pass Defense
Troy has one of the nation's best statistical passing offenses. Therefore, even if we're heavily favored in this game and probably shouldn't make too much of what happens in it, it will be interesting to see how we perform against the pass so we can gauge whether or not our secondary is improving. I don't necessarily expect to see a great performance, but it would be nice to see us make fewer mental mistakes.
One aspect of our pass defense that will be interesting to watch: Does Ellis Johnson blitz as aggressively as he does against SEC teams? While it's common to use a prevent-based gameplan against teams like Troy, GwinnnettGamecock noted in one of the comments thread this week that one of our problems with playing down to our competition in games like this seems to be that our coaches don't call the game as aggressively. Maybe it's time to see how we fare with a more aggressive approach. It's not like it's early in the season and we need to play close to the vest and not give anything away to upcoming opponents.
2. Run the Ball
In the days leading up to the Florida game, much was made of whether or not Spurrier would commit to the run in the biggest game of the season. Your truly was one those speculating on the topic. We all knew that the team is at its best when Marcus Lattimore gets going, but would Spurrier fully commit to the new offensive approach after having waffled on it in previous weeks? As it turned out, Spurrier did indeed place Carolina's hopes on the running game, even working in more QB runs for Stephen Garcia to go along with leaning on Lattimore. The results speak for themselves. Against Troy, Carolina should continue doing the same. We should have little trouble running the ball against the Trojans, and, what's more, long, clock-eating, run-based drives should help us protect the ball and keep our defense fresh and ready to combat Troy's passing game. As the saying goes, teams that can run the ball up the gut on you are hard to beat, because a good running game keys so many other elements of a team's game. In sum, I'd very much like to see Lattimore run for around 100 yards with a couple of scores and for Brian Maddox to get the bulk of the second-half carries and run for 100 of his own, both because Lattimore could use the rest and because Maddox deserves some carries. That will be a measure of a healthy offense and coaching philosophy for this team.
1. Protect the Ball
Most great upsets involve ugly turnover margins for the favored team, and typically the favored team can overcome a poor overall performance as long as it doesn't turn the ball over too much. That more or less sums up what Carolina needs to do to win this game. As long as we finish -1 or better in TOs, I think that we win.
What It Means
In the grand scheme of things, this game probably only means a lot if we lose. Early-season games against non-premier non-conference competition is interesting because you get glimpses of how the team has evolved since the year before, but at this point in the season, you know what you have and just don't want your team to wet the bed. Losing is a definite possibility if we come out flat, especially if we put the ball on the ground and / or Garcia throws some interceptions. Troy is a good team and could easily take advantage if we don't come to play. That said, we shouldn't have too much trouble here. If that's the case, then all I really want to see to consider this a good weekend is for us to create a reasonable lead by the third quarter and then get the backups some playing time in the last home game, particularly the seniors. I would especially like to see Maddox get plenty of touches. He's been a true team player this year and deserves one last chance to make the highlight reels.
Carolina pulls out to a sizeable lead by halftime and coasts in the second half whilst giving up a few scores to allow Troy to make the final score somewhat respectable. 'Cocks win 45-27.