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The Battle for the Belt: the Sun Belt’s biggest cross-divisional rivalry game

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Scott Shelton

Staff Writer

The Troy football team returns to Sun Belt Conference play against arch-rival South Alabama Jaguars following a loss to Liberty University in non-conference play and a bye week.

The Trojans enter the game at 3-0 and in a three-way tie with Georgia Southern and Appalachian State for the Sun Belt East. 

Troy head coach Neal Brown knows the stakes of this rivalry game as well as the talent on South Alabama.

“We will get a team that’s well prepared,” Brown said. “They are tough and well-coached just because I know who they have on that staff. 

”We are going to have to play considerably better than we did on Saturday to have a chance to win the football game on Tuesday night.”

The Jaguars are just 2-5 on the season so far, but last season they were 1-4 heading into the Battle for the Belt, and they defeated the Trojans at Veterans Memorial Stadium. 

Troy and South Alabama have played six times since 2012, and the road team has won each of the last three seasons. 

Despite the loss last Saturday, running back B.J. Smith accumulated 111 yards rushing, marking the third game in a row in which he rushed for over 100 yards. 

Smith and fellow running back Jabir Daughtry-Frye will look to take advantage of the Jaguars defense, which ranks 117th in the FBS in rushing defense, allowing 221.7 yards on the ground per game and 4.99 yards per carry. 

Troy’s defense ranks 42nd in the FBS in rush defense, allowing 132.9 yards per game on the ground at just 3.33 yards per carry. 

The Trojans front seven also holds strong with 22 sacks on the season, good enough for 18th in the FBS. Troy’s defense also ranks 15th in the FBS in tackles for a loss.

But the Jaguars benefit in the secondary from playmakers like cornerback Jalen Thompson, who leads the Sun Belt Conference with three interceptions on the season. 

The Trojans hold their own in the secondary too. Tron Folsom, Tyler Murray, Will Sunderland and Cedarius Rookard combine for six interceptions this season. 

But Folsom is questionable for this game after missing the last game against Liberty. 

Getting off to a fast start in this rivalry game will be key for the Trojans, and it’s something the team has improved on this season. 

Since the loss to Boise State, Troy has outscored opponents 73-7 in the first quarter. 

The Trojans will take on the Jaguars on Tuesday night, Oct. 23, at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.