After playing a brutal slate of SEC games culminating in the showdown with Florida in the Swamp, the Gamecocks get what should be a much-needed breather against Larry Blakeney's Troy Trojans. But will this game be a breather? The Trojans had a pretty good team last year, putting up gaudy offensive numbers all season, going 9-4, winning the Sun Belt, and coming close to a ten-win season after losing the GMAC Bowl in overtime. Moreover, this is a team that has often challenged the big boys. In 2008, the Trojans trailed Ohio State by four at the half before letting the Buckeyes pull away late and lost by only nine to LSU. In 2007, they lost by only 10 to a Georgia team that was on fire at the time and executed a beat down against Oklahoma State, winning 41-23. In 2006, Florida State needed a TD in the final minutes to avoid overtime against them. This is all to say that Troy, while clearly a less talented team that the Gamecocks, has a history of challenging good teams--indeed, better teams than us--to close games, even if they only occasionally win.
What do the Trojans bring this year? Let's take a closer look.
Offense: The Trojans lose record-setting QB Levi Brown, with junior Jamie Hampton taking his place. Hampton should have a wide array of weapons to go to as he attempts to lead Troy to another solid offensive campaign. The receiving corps and running backs both look excellent.
Defense: The are more problems here, especially on the front. Troy lost several highly regarded linemen and linebackers and will have to replace them with relatively inexperienced players. Blakeney has tended to produce good linemen, though, so perhaps he'll have his young crew ready.Player Whose Name You Should Remember: Josh Jarboe, WR. Jarboe was a coveted prospect in 2008 who signed with Oklahoma. Jarboe was relieved of his scholarship not long after that, and he found a home in Troy. He's a more talented player than one usually meets in the Sun Belt ranks, so he's one to look after.
What to Expect: Scoring. For both sides. Troy averaged 33 ppg last season, and they didn't only move the ball against their Sun Belt Conference mates. The Trojans rang up over 400 yards against Arkansas, and while no one would accuse the Hogs of having a nasty defense, they're still in the SEC. The problem for Troy will be whether or not it can stop us at all. If our running game and offensive line show any improvement this year, we should be able to run the ball at will against these guys and will have completely worn them down by the second half. I wouldn't be surprised to see multiple running backs in the 100-yard range. That should allow us to pull away late.
Prediction: Gamecocks win, with the score being something like 45-20.