We continue this weekly series (better late than never) with Game No. 3 on the schedule, and it's a non-conference road game. That's right, a trip to Troy, Ala., which I have discovered has little hotel selection. I got a decent rate at a Best Western that looks OK, and hopefully I won't regret that decision.
Not being overly familiar with Troy's recent exploits, I called on Wes Johnson, who covers the Trojans for the Troy Messenger newspaper. So between him and some research I did, here's what we know about the school formerly known as Troy State.
Troy Trojans (Sept. 15, in Troy)
• Conference: Sun Belt
• 2011 record: 3-9 (2-6, 7th in league)
• Final ranking: Not ranked
• Coach: Larry Blakeney (164-91-1, 21 years)
• Returning starters: 15 (9 offense, 6 defense)
• Last meeting: MSU, 11-8 (Oct. 12, 2002, in Starkville)
• On the Web: TroyTrojans.com
Troy is coming off its first losing season since 2005, and only the fourth under Blakeney. The Trojans won or shared five consecutive Sun Belt titles between 2006-10, so losing is not something they're used to.
A big problem spot last year was Troy's defense. All of it. Opponents scored 33.7 points per game, and both the run (203.6 yards per game) and the pass (261.4 ypg) were effective against Troy. Part of Blakeney's effort to repair the defense was replacing defensive tackles coach Mo Crain with ends coach Randy Butler, and adding former Boise State aide Julius Brown as cornerbacks coach.
While not a strong unit last year, the defense did lose a very good player in end Jonathan Massaquoi, who was drafted in the fifth round by Atlanta. That spot is now anchored by Tony Davis (6-foot, 249 pounds), who was forced into tackle duty last season because of depth issues.
Troy is hoping sam linebacker Kanorris Davis can stay healthy after fighting through injuries last season. He's got the most experience of the linebackers, and he recorded 60 tackles, four tackles-for-loss and a sack last fall. Then there's Jacoby Thomas, a hybrid linebacker/defensive end who will be expected to put pressure on quarterbacks and defend the pass, too.
As for the offense, junior QB Corey Robinson has experience, and he passed for 3,411 yards and 21 touchdowns last season. But he's thrown 30 interceptions over the past two years, and that was partly due to a young receiving corps and lackluster running game. His top target this year will be Eric Thomas, who led the Trojans last season with 67 catches for 875 yards and nine TDs.
The offense is trying to replace left tackle James Brown. Troy allowed 20 sacks last year, a decent number.