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Troy (0-0) at UAB (0-0)



The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 30, 12 p.m. (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Legion Field (72,000) -- Birmingham, Alabama. Television: FCS. Home Record: Troy 0-0, UAB 0-0. Away Record: Troy 0-0, UAB 0-0. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, UAB 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 0-0, UAB 0-0. Series Record: Troy leads, 7-4.

GAME NOTES: For the second straight season, the Troy Trojans and UAB Blazers will face each other in the season opener, this time at Legion Field.

Will Sutton nailed a 30-yard field goal in overtime to lift the Trojans to a 34-31 victory over UAB a year ago at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The win was the seventh in 11 all-time meetings for Troy against UAB.

It is no surprise that Troy came out on top in that contest, considering the Trojans finished the season at 6-6 while UAB stumbled to a miserable 2-10 mark. The Blazers have now had a losing record in nine straight seasons, which led to the firing of two-year head coach Garrick McGee and the hiring of Bill Clark, who was previously the head coach at FCS school Jacksonville State.

Obviously at 6-6, the Trojans have plenty of room to improve themselves. However, there won't be any change at the helm, as Larry Blakeney returns for his 24th season as head coach, marking the second-longest tenure in the country behind Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer.

Blakeney's teams are predicated on offensive efficiency, and that was especially true in 2013. The Trojans were the best scoring team in the Sun Belt Conference (34.1 ppg), and they also ranked among the top-30 teams in the country in total offense (463.3 ypg).

Of course, all that production came with Corey Robinson under center. However, Robinson, who is arguably the greatest player the Trojans have ever had at the position, is no longer with the team.

The options to replace Robinson are not exactly brimming with experience. Among the trio of Dallas Tidwell, Dontreal Pruitt and Brandon Silvers, only Tidwell has played in a collegiate game. Silvers, a redshirt freshman, is currently listed at the top of the depth chart, but Blakeney may give each some playing time in the first week.

There is a lot more to like about the other skill positions. Bryan Holmes (40 receptions, 676 yards, seven TDs) and Chandler Worthy (24 receptions, 398 yards, two TDs) should form a solid receiving duo, especially if Holmes continues to be a deep threat.

Meanwhile, at running back, the Trojans are fortunate to have their top two rushers from a year ago back. Brandon Burks (675 yards, two TDs) averaged five yards per carry and was third on the team in receptions (36). Jordan Chunn was extremely effective in short-yardage situations, especially near the goal line, racking up 14 touchdowns and 514 rushing yards.

With so much offensive success last year, the Trojans only needed a semblance of defensive prowess to really contend in the Sun Belt Conference. Unfortunately, that was not what the unit provided. One of the worst defensive teams in the country, let alone their own league, the Trojans allowed 35.9 points and 483.2 yards per contest.

Defensive end Tyler Roberts (49 tackles, 8.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks) showed a great deal of promise as a pass rusher, while linebacker Mark Wilson (58 tackles) is the team's top returning tackler. Expect the rest of the group to take their cues from those two.

Clark inherits a team that didn't perform very well offensively last season, except this version is without two quarterbacks and its starting running back. Austin Brown and Jonathan Perry combined to throw for 19 touchdowns and over 2,000 yards a year ago, but now a group of untested replacements will take over. The first to get a chance will be junior college transfer Cody Clements.

Then, at running back, the Blazers are without leading rusher Darrin Reaves (928 yards, 12 TDs), who was the lone bright spot for an offensive group that averaged just 26.3 ppg while ranking 78th in the country in total offense (392.9 ypg) last season.

The good news is on the edges, where the bulk of last year's receiving threats return. In fact, nine of the team's top-10 pass catchers will be strapping on uniforms this season. Jamarcus Nelson (42 receptions, 846 yards, eight TDs) was excellent in 10 games, averaging just over 20 yards per reception. Jamari Staples (31 receptions, 458 yards, four TDs) fits in well as a second option.

For how bad the Blazers were on offense last season, they were even worse on defense. They allowed 43.8 ppg and 497.8 ypg. Each of those marks ranked better than only a handful of teams in the entire country. One of the major issues was their inability to stop teams in the red zone. The Blazers gave up more touchdowns inside the 20 (48) than any other team in C-USA. They also allowed the most red zone attempts (60).

The outlook for improvement is even bleaker considering just three starters are back. Defensive end Diaheem Watkins (5.5 sacks), linebacker Jake Ganus (93 tackles, 8.0 TFL) and cornerback Kelton Brackett (31 tackles, INT) form the trio.

In this one, the difference in experience both on the sidelines and the field should be apparent. Although the Trojans are still trying to find the heir to Robinson's throne, they have much more continuity than do the Blazers. This time around Troy won't need overtime to come out on top.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Troy 35, UAB 30

08/29 15:15:30 ET

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