Football preview: Troy faces Georgia Southern with fate in its hands, USA visits Coastal Carolina, UNA takes on Southern Miss

Football preview: Troy faces Georgia Southern with fate in its hands, USA visits Coastal Carolina, UNA takes on Southern Miss
Troy wide receiver Tez Johnson runs the ball vs. Arkansas State. The Trojans can stay in the hunt for a Sun Belt East Division title with a win this weekend at Georgia Southern. (Joey Meredith/Troy University Athletics)

The mission is clear for the Trojans of Troy: Win out and the top spot in the Sun Belt Conference East Division is theirs.

With one conference loss and East leaders Coastal Carolina (4-0 in Sun Belt and No. 15 in the AP poll) and Appalachian State (2-0) ahead on its schedule, Troy (2-1 in conference) has its fate in its hands.

But that fate will slip away if coach Chip Lindsey’s crew slips up in its noon Saturday visit to Statesboro, Georgia, for its meeting with Georgia Southern (2-2 in conference).

Troy quarterback Jacob Free and the Trojans have a showdown with Georgia Southern in Statesboro to take control in the Sun Belt Conference’s East Division. (Joey Meredith/Troy University Athletics)

The Eagles bring a special challenge as they run a triple-option offense, something that’s always hard to defend, Lindsey said.

“They make you play good, disciplined football every snap, and they’re really good at what they do,” the Trojans coach said. “It begins with their quarterback, Shai Werts, who does a good job of getting their offense going. He’s played in this system now for three years and looks very comfortable making the reads that he needs to make to execute the option.

“Their offensive line is really good at their technique and they understand how to block the different defensive fronts that they see, which is a key for any triple-option team,” Lindsey continued. “We’re going to have to do a good job of not letting them get downhill and reading their play-action passing game. If you’re not careful, they will suck you in and throw the ball over your head.”

On the other side of the Sun Belt, South Alabama (2-1 West Division) sits behind Sun Belt West leader Louisiana (3-1 in the league). The Jaguars visit Louisiana next week, but before they can focus on that they must visit the Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina (6-0 overall) at 7 p.m. Central.

“The great thing for us, though, is we still control our own destiny,” coach Steve Campbell said. “We’ll have another good opportunity this weekend against an outstanding Coastal Carolina team. They are well-coached and have a lot of great athletes on both sides of the ball.

“Their quarterback is an outstanding player. They’ve got speed at running back position and a couple of good wide receivers,” Campbell continued. “They do a good job of getting the ball to the backs out of the backfield. They run a lot of option and throw the ball well, which presents assignment conflicts. We’re going to have to do a good job of remaining assignment-sound in both areas.”

The USA coach said Coastal Carolina has some of the top tackle-for-loss and sack players in the Sun Belt. That makes having success on early downs that much more important.

The South Alabama Jaguars’ Brandon Crum scores a touchdown during the Jags’ game with Georgia Southern. This week USA travels to Coastal Carolina to take on the Chanticleers. (Scott Donaldson/University of South Alabama Athletics)

“We need to win first down both on offense and on defense,” he said. “It’s a big challenge, but it’s one that we’re looking forward to.”

Coming off back-to-back open dates, the University of North Alabama football team will face its first opponent since Oct. 17 when the Lions travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Saturday to face Southern Mississippi at 2 p.m. at M.M. Roberts Stadium.

UNA, 0-2 this season, lost 24-17 at home to Jacksonville State in its last outing, while the 1-5 Golden Eagles dropped a 30-6 home decision to Rice last Saturday night under their third head coach of the season.

Southern Miss will be the second of three Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS)  teams the Lions will face in 2020 after playing just four FBS schools in the previous 71 seasons. UNA is 2-3 all-time against FBS schools, including a 28-7 loss at Liberty to open the 2020 season.

The Lions will close their fall slate at unbeaten and nationally ranked BYU on Nov. 21.

North Alabama is in its third season as an Football Championship  Subdivision (FCS) member in the school’s transition to Division I. The Lions will not be eligible to compete for a Big South Conference football title or an NCAA postseason berth until 2022.

“We couldn’t be more blessed than just having the chance to play football this season,” Lions coach Chris Willis said. “Going into the season, we knew the strength of schedule would be against us, playing three FBS teams, but our players have embraced that challenge.

“We’ve had two really good weeks of practice and you can tell our guys are ready to play some football,” Willis said. “Against Southern Mississippi, we will have to compete like we have the first two games. We had great effort against Liberty but made a couple of mistakes and didn’t take advantage of opportunities when we had them. Against Jacksonville State, we eliminated most of the mistakes but couldn’t get a couple of key stops when we needed them. This week, we’re going to throw everything that we have at this game and feel like we have an opportunity to have some success.”

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HIGH SCHOOLS

Class 7A: Austin (8-2) is No. 9 in the latest Alabama Sports Writers Association ranking. The Black Bears host Oak Mountain (6-4) in the first round of the state playoffs.

Class 6A: Lee-Montgomery (6-3) heads to Pelham (8-2).

Class 5A: Mae Jemison (4-6) blasts off from the Rocket City for a splashdown at No. 3 Pleasant Grove (7-2).

Class 4A: No. 9 Bibb County (8-2) welcomes Dale County (7-3).

Class 3A: Saks (7-3) heads to No. 10 East Lawrence (9-1).

Class 2A: Tanner (6-4) visits No. 4 Spring Garden (9-1).

Class 1A: Billingsley (5-5) hits the road to face No. 1 Brantley (10-0).

AISA: Edgewood (6-3) visits No. 5 Patrician (8-1).

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