Just when you could pencil in a couple of Ws later on Troy's schedule, you see these results:
North Texas 38, UL-Monroe 21
Western Kentucky42, UL-Lafayette 23
Yep, wins by teams Troy has yet to face over teams that beat Troy convincingly. I guess it doesn't mean a whole lot if Troy doesn't improve, but it sure was interesting. Everyone thought ULL was going to coast to a Sun Belt title, but Western Kentucky, which has ULL's number just like ULM has Troy's number, took care of them. Then, North Texas moved the ball at will against a ULM defense that Troy did absolutely nothing with.
As of now, Arkansas State (3-0) is the only unbeaten team and I think the Red Wolves will cruise to the title. But having said that, they'll slip up and lose an upcoming game that you wouldn't think.
I'd say everyone has a shot, except FAU. Here you have the standings in league play: ULL (4-1), WKU (3-1), North Texas (2-2), ULM (1-2), Troy (1-2), FIU (1-2), Middle Tennessee (1-2), FAU (0-4).
***When I talked to Jeremy Rowell about FIU's offense, T.Y. Hilton wasn't mentioned much. Probably because everybody knows about him. Rowell was very impressed with FIU running back Kendrick Rhodes (who was NOT one of the 3 FIU players to top 100 yards against Troy last year) and wide receiver Wayne Times (who either didn't play or just didn't record a stat last year vs. Troy). You'll read more about it in Tuesday's game preview.
I think Troy can win, but I'm hesitant to pick them because I think FIU has better running backs, better receivers and a healthier, if not better, offensive line. But Troy is unbeaten on ESPN/ESPN2/ESPNU games in the regular season. The only 3 losses came in bowl games, and 2 of those went into overtime.
***Here is something to watch over the last 6 games: Troy's junior college transfers usually take a big leap over the last half of their first season. Jimmie Anderson did it. Jason Bruce did it in 2009. I'd say even Jonathan Massaquoi was much more dominant in the second half of last year (he redshirted in '09). Dion Gales comes to mind and so does Elbert Mack. So, the guys to watch are receiver Corey Johnson and safety Brynden Trawick. Both of these guys were big-time playmakers in spring and while they're playing a lot, we're waiting on Trawick to get an INT or a forced fumble at a key time, and for Johnson to break a big play like he did during spring ball. If those guys can make that next step, and if Troy corrects the other issues more obvious to the non-coaches like you and I, they've got a chance to be good.
***No story in today's paper - worked on desk tonight, but watch for a story on Jamie Hampton in Monday's paper and a game preview Tuesday. My flight from Panama City to Fort Lauderdale leaves at 7 a.m. Monday, so I'll try to update it on a layover in Orlando.