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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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Scoreboard
Local
Final
ORL 83
CHA 98
8:00pm Tonight
SAV
NCCU
 
8:30pm Tonight
CHI
CAR
 
Final
PHI 2
UTA 6
 
1:05pm Today
MIA
FIU
 
1:05pm Today
DET
FLASO
 
Final
HOU 105
CLE 103
Final
ORL 83
CHA 98
Final
BOS 101
GSW 106
Final
IND 94
PHI 74
Final
SAC 99
POR 110
Final
LAL 101
OKC 108
Final
DEN 92
NOP 99
7:00pm Tonight
PHI
TOR
 
7:30pm Tonight
BRK
GSW
 
7:30pm Tonight
MIA
PHO
 
8:00pm Tonight
MIN
LAC
 
8:30pm Tonight
DAL
NOP
 
Final
NIAG 57
FAIR 56
 
Final
PETE 68
IONA 60
 
Final
RIDE 59
MAR 49
 
Final
MAN 69
QUIN 65
 
Final
UCONN 81
SMU 73
Final
CAL 73
ORST 56
Final
HOU 72
SFLA 55
Final
PROV 77
MARQ 66
Final
WISC 68
MSU 61
Final
MON 63
SIENA 57
 
Final
WAKE 69
PITT 66
Final
STAN 70
OREG 73
Final
OSU 65
PURD 61
Final
COL 87
ARST 81
Final
UCLA 72
WASU 67
7:00pm Tonight
TEX
BAY
 
7:00pm Tonight
SYR
UVA
 
7:30pm Tonight
NCAT
COOK
 
7:30pm Tonight
SHSU
CARK
 
7:30pm Tonight
DELST
HAMP
 
7:30pm Tonight
HOW
NORST
 
7:30pm Tonight
NWST
SELA
 
8:00pm Tonight
STEPH
INCWORD
 
8:00pm Tonight
MCNST
LAM
 
8:00pm Tonight
SAV
NCCU
 
8:00pm Tonight
NO
NICST
 
8:30pm Tonight
ARKPB
JST
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAST
PVU
 
8:30pm Tonight
ALAAM
TXSOU
 
9:00pm Tonight
VT
BC
 
9:00pm Tonight
MVSU
GRAM
 
9:00pm Tonight
ISU
OKLA
 
Final
WIN 5
LOS 2
Final
PIT 5
CLB 3
Final
FLA 4
TAM 3
Final
WAS 4
TOR 0
Final
DAL 1
ANA 3
3rd
VAN 5
STL 4
 
7:00pm Tonight
NYR
NAS
 
8:30pm Tonight
CHI
CAR
 
10:00pm Tonight
SJS
MON