If Buffalo is going to win its first bowl game in the history of the football program at the Dollar General Bowl, they are not only going to have to overcome Troy, but some daunting gambling statistics as well. The Bulls opened as the 3-point favorite for the Saturday game, but the line has been bet down to just a point.
Part of the reason for the line movement could be linked to the Trojans’ success against teams with a winning record. Troy is 8-0 against the spread over the last two seasons. In some cases they won outright, such as the shocking 24-21 victory over No. 25 LSU last year.
This season Neal Brown’s squad was a 10-point underdog to Nebraska and won outright, 24-19. The team finished 9-3, but didn’t make it to the Sun Belt Championship game, and Brown has told his team this is an opportunity to win a championship and get to double-digit victories for the third straight year.
“We have unfinished business,” Brown said. “We have another opportunity to win a championship. We can be the champions of the Dollar General Bowl. We need to show up and finish the season the right way.”
Buffalo’s Offense Facing Tough Defense
The Bulls have two legitimate NFL prospects in quarterback Tyree Jackson and wide receiver Anthony Jackson. The duo have combined for 128 catches, 2,300 yards and 25 touchdowns over the last two seasons. Jackson was the Mid-Atlantic Conference’s Player of the Year.
Buffalo has the No. 36th ranked offense in the country, but will face a stern test with Troy’s defense, which is ranked 28th overall. The team has a strong group of linebackers, led by Carlton Martial and Hunter Reese. The pressure they put on quarterbacks with the front seven culminated in 17 interceptions, the fourth most in college football.
That could prove problematic for Jackson, who has shown that he can be mistake prone against teams that apply pressure. In the team’s three losses he had less than a 50 percent completion rate. Buffalo coach Lance Leipold said Troy’s defense will definitely be a challenge.
“I think a lot of [Troy’s interceptions] come from the different looks they give you,” Leipold said. “There are some unique looks that they give you up front with their front seven. In its structure sometimes they can cause a lot of confusion, and with that confusion they can get hits on people and get to the quarterback and force hurry-throws and things like that. I think on the back end, their total team speed in the secondary and athleticism has helped them accomplish some of those things.”
Home Cooking for Troy
Another advantage for the Troy is the Dollar General Bowl is being played in its home state of Alabama. The university is about a three-hour drive to Mobile, and it is a place that Brown said is familiar to the he and his players.
“It’s an in-state game,” Brown said. “Any time you can stay in your state and play a bowl game, there are huge, positive ramifications with that. It’s a known commodity. We’ve used the hotel a bunch. We’re going to practice at Saraland High School. We did that a couple years ago, so there’s some familiarity. We know the schedule. There’s a lot of benefits for playing in Mobile.”