(PHOTO/ Chris Wallace)
Junior receiver Khalil McClain brings down a pass from Kaleb Barker in the season opener against Campbell. McClain posted two catches in the 43-14 win.
Troy football will face its first FBS opponent of the season when it takes on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles from Conference USA at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
The game comes five months after Jeremy McClain left his position as Troy Athletic Director to the same position at the University of Southern Mississippi in April.
The Trojans are coming off their first bye week of the season to face the Golden Eagles, who lost to the Mississippi State Bulldogs last Saturday and fell to 1-1 on the season.
One of the key matchups to watch this Saturday will be between Troy’s rush defense and the Southern Miss rushing attack.
In its first two games, Southern Miss struggled to run the ball.
Against Alcorn State, the Golden Eagles rushed for 96 yards, and no running back got in the end zone.
Last Saturday against Mississippi State, which had one of the nation’s best rush defenses a season ago, Southern Miss rushed for 110 yards.
Currently, the Golden Eagles rank 113th nationally in rushing offense.
In total offense, Southern Miss averages 366.5 yard per game, ranking 90th among FBS teams.
Though they’ve just played one game, the Trojans rank ninth nationally in rush defense, allowing only 50 yards per game on the ground.
Troy’s defense, particularly the front seven, played strong against Campbell in week one.
The defense against Campbell was led by sophomore linebacker Carlton Martial, who set a career-high in tackles with 13 total tackles and nine solo tackles.
For his efforts against the Camels, Martial was awarded Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Week, according to the Sun Belt Conference league office.
The bulk of the Golden Eagles’ offensive production has come from quarterback Jack Abraham.
Abraham, this season, has thrown for 527 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions on a 67% completion percentage. He ranks fifth in Conference USA in passing yards so far this season.
One problem for Abraham this season has been interceptions. He’s thrown three so far, which ties him for seventh nationally and second in Conference USA.
Abraham will face a Troy secondary that allowed only 93 passing yards against Campbell two weeks ago.
Abraham will also face a Troy defense that racked up five total sacks in week one. Troy’s five sacks were good enough to rank the team fifth nationally in sacks per game.
On the flip side, Troy had one of the nation’s most explosive offenses in week one, putting up 527 yards total of offense.
That number leads the Sun Belt Conference though Troy has just played one game.
The Southern Miss defense through two games has allowed 307 yards per contest. That number leads Conference USA.
The Golden Eagles have allowed 145 rushing yards per game, but the secondary is where they’ve shined so far.
Southern Miss has allowed just 162 passing yards per game, which ranks 30th in the FBS.
Another strong point for the Golden Eagles has been special teams, especially returning punt and kickoff returns.
Jaylond Adams averages 31.7 yards per punt return, which ranks him second nationally.
Adams is also one of only seven players in the country so far to return a kickoff for a touchdown.
One of Troy’s biggest keys to this game is the front seven stopping the Golden Eagles’ run game and force them to be one-dimensional.
Southern Miss can make a difference for its team by creating big plays on special teams with Adams and using Abraham’s arm to make plays and open up the run game.
The game will kick off at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 5 p.m. It can be viewed on ESPN+.