In the Sun Belt Conference opener for both teams, look for the Troy Trojans to put their bye week following a covering loss at Wisconsin to good use hosting South Alabama.
The home team with an extra week to prepare could have the advantage Saturday night in the Sun Belt Conference opener for both schools when the South Alabama Jaguars (2-2, 1-3 ATS) pay a visit to these Troy Trojans (1-2, 2-1 ATS) at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, AL at 7:00 ET in a game available on ESPN3.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Troy as a home favorite for this contest with the current line at -6½ with odds of -104.
Troy used to be one of the dominant teams of the Sun Belt Conference over the first decade of the 21st century, but the program has been in decline in recent years, and this year marked a changing of the guard as it said good-bye to longtime head coach Larry Blakeney in favor of the youthful Neal Brown, the second youngest coach in the FBS behind only Kliff Kingsbury at Texas Tech.
The Trojans have been losing college football picks in two of their first three games under Brown with the only win coming over Charleston Southern of the FCS, but this is like a brand new season with this being the Sun Belt opener and Troy did do some good things on the road at Wisconsin from the mighty Big Ten the least time it played two weeks ago. Also, having two weeks to prepare for what is now a big rivalry game should certainly help.
South Alabama joined the Sun Belt just three years ago and is located less than 200 miles from Troy. Thus imagine the chagrin of the Trojans while watching the Jaguars progress quickly in three short years to the point where South Alabama beat Troy last year and went on to go to a its first ever bowl game! Thus a rivalry is born and this year for the first time, this matchup is dubbed the “Battle for the Belt” with the winners getting a WWE styled belt going forward.
Covered at Wisconsin
While South Alabama quickly flew by Troy the last couple of years, the pendulum may now be swinging back the other way bases on the Trojans covering the number in a respectable 28-3 loss to the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium two weeks ago as 34½ point underdogs. They can now build off of that effort with a full two weeks to prepare for this contest while returning home for this conference opener.
Also remember that besides the loss at Wisconsin, the other Troy loss was at NC State of the ACC, and considering that the lone win was over an FBS program, this is the first time this season that the Trojans are facing a team basically at their same level. And Troy should have added motivation here, not only because of revenge for last year but also because South Alabama did some heavy recruiting in the Troy area and poached some of the local talent.
Thus this game may also represent a recruiting war with a Troy victory going a long way toward keeping all the good talent in the area at home.
Taken Step Back Since Bowl Appearance?
In just its third season in the Sun Belt, South Alabama finished at 5-3 in the conference and 6-6 overall to become bowl eligible, and it did indeed receive its first ever bowl bid to the Camellia Bowl in nearby Montgomery, where unfortunately the Jaguars came up short 33-28 vs. Bowling Green out of the MAC as 3½-point favorites.
However, few teams in the country are as inexperienced as this 2015 South Alabama team that returns a mere five starters from that bowl team with just three returning starters on offense and two on defense!
Sure the team has a large influx of UAB transfers after the Blazers disbanded their football program, but that has not mattered yet with the Jaguars getting outscored by an average score of 40.2-22-2 so far while ranking 92nd in the country on total offense, 109th in scoring offense, 99th in total defense and 117th in scoring defense out of 128 FBS schools.
Trending the Chalk
Finally, the underdogs from South Alabama are an ugly 0-9 ATS in their last nine games after allowing more than 450 total yards in their previous game. Meanwhile, the Trojans of Troy are 5-1 ATS in their last six games following a straight up loss.
We are looking for home standing Troy to win the first ever “Battle for the Belt” by at least a touchdown when it hosts its new biggest in-state rival from South Alabama on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Troy -6½ (-104)