We’re back to take another statistical deep dive as we look at this week’s matchup between the Aggies and the Troy Trojans. Despite being 1-2 on the season, the Aggies have plenty of positives heading into this week’s game against the Trojans. First and foremost the Aggies will see the return of Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year Larry Rose III who will be making his 2016 debut. Second, the Aggies played well offensively in last week’s game at Kentucky. The Aggies held their own offensively, especially in the first half scoring 35 of their 42 points before the break. Meanwhile the Trojans are 2-1 on the season with an impressive win over Southern Miss on the road last weekend, a Southern Miss team which rallied to beat Kentucky in Lexington in week one. The Trojans also hung tough with Clemson eventually losing 30-24. With those results in mind, what can we tell about Troy? Are they as good as their 2-1 record would indicate or are they overrated and getting a little too much credit for a “close” loss at Clemson?
Troy ranks 39th overall on offense averaging 467 yards per game. They’re 24th overall rushing averaging 236.7 yards per game and 68th overall in passing averaging 230.3 yards per game which ranks just ahead of New Mexico State who is 69th in passing averaging 229.3 yards per game. The Aggies rank 85th in rushing at 154.7 yards per game.
Defensively Troy ranks 59th overall giving up 363 yards per game. They’re 48th overall in rushing defense allowing 124.3 yards per game and 80th overall in pass defense giving up 238.7 yards per game. The Aggies are 63rd in pass defense giving up 218.3 yards per game but 127th in rush defense allowing 297 yards per game. Overall the Aggies are the 120th ranked defense allowing 515.3 yards per game.
So as we did last week, let’s take a little deeper look at what those numbers represent.
When Troy has the ball on first down, they’re slightly more likely to run than pass. They’ve run the ball 63 times for 433 yards while passing the ball 44 times (completing 30) for 322 yards. They’re averaging an excellent 7.05 yards per first down play which sets them up for a 2nd and short situations which really taxes the opposing defense. Where it gets interesting is on third down. Overall Troy is a horrendous third down team converting just 27 percent of their third downs. However, if you dig deeper into that number you’ll find that they’re actually a very respectable third down team when they’re faced with a short to intermediate third down (six yards or less to gain). They’ve converted 9 of 20 first downs in which they’ve had to gain six or fewer yards. Where they’re terrible is when the defense gets them into a third and long situation where they have to gain seven or more yards. In that scenario they’ve converted just TWO of their 24 third down situations. The key for the Aggie defense will be to force Troy in to third and long situation which will obviously be much easier if they can hold Troy under their first down gain average of just over seven yards.
How does that stack up against the Aggie defense? Well, New Mexico State is giving up 6.39 yards per play on first down. Teams have predominantly run against the Aggies on first down with good success — 82 rushes for 471 yards, an average of 5.74 yards per rush. Passing, the Aggies have allowed just 12-of-23 completions for 200 yards, however, eight of the 12 completions have gone for first downs. When the Aggies get teams to third down they haven’t been that successful getting off the field. Teams have converted 20 of 45 third down attempts. Teams are have converted 13 of 22 third downs where they’ve had to gain six or fewer yards but just seven of the 25 third downs where they had to gain seven or more yards, though with one caveat, teams have converted five of the eight third downs where they had to gain between seven and nine yards.
Defensively Troy is allowing opponents to gain an average of 5.18 yards on first down. Teams are 29-of-47 for 286 yards through the air on first down and have rushed 51 times for 222 yards. As you can see their three combined opponents have been pretty even in their run/pass play calling on first down and that should continue as the Aggies have had 98 first downs on offense and have thrown the ball 49 times and run the ball 49 times but more on that in a bit.
Troy has done a good job getting off the field on third downs. Opponents are converting just 28 percent of their third downs (not accounting for first downs gained via penalty). They’ve been good in third in short to intermediate (six yards or fewer) allowing just 11 of 29 third down conversions. They’ve been even better in third and long (seven or more yards) allowing just four of 24 third down conversions.
So what does that mean for the Aggies? Offensively on first down they’ve doing pretty well averaging 5.72 yards per play on first down. As we mentioned before it’s been dead even playcalling between passing and running on first down. The Aggies have thrown 49 ties, completing 26 for 370 yards with half of those completions going for first downs. They’ve run 49 times for 191 yards, just 3.89 yards per run. When the Aggies have been forced into a third down situation, they’ve done reasonably well converting 17 of 37 third downs. They’ve converted seven of 16 third downs where they had to gain six or fewer yards. They’ve also done relatively well on third and long (seven or more yards to gain) converting 10 of 21 times. They’ve been even better with between seven and nine yards to gain converting on seven of the 12 times they’ve faced that situation.
So what is the final takeaway from this deep dive? The Troy offense is potent on first down and they’ve converted well on third and intermediate to short. If the Aggie defense can force Troy in to third and long situations it will obviously help tremendously. Offensively if the Aggies can get into third and short situations it goes without saying that they should be successful. Troy has been at their best when forcing teams in to third and 7+ yard situations.
Obviously having Larry Rose III back will be a boost for the Aggie offense, though how effective he is remains to be seen and it would be unwise to expect Rose to be back to his pre-injury form right away. From what we’ve been able to gather, these injuries can take up to six months to fully heal and the last thing to come back is the side-to-side, lateral explosive movements which are something a running back like Larry Rose III depends on a lot in his game.
It should be a fairly evenly matched game, Troy at least on paper seems to have the upper hand defensively. We certainly don’t believe the Aggies will allow another massacre like they did last season. Despite Troy’s close loss to Clemson and their win over Southern Miss on the road, a deep dive into the numbers would indicate that the Aggies aren’t as overmatched as the 17 point underdog line would suggest.