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Too Much Information: Troy (The Passing Game)

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Last weekend was a lot of fun, but it's time to put the win in the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party behind us and shift our focus to Saturday's opponent. While it is tempting to overlook Troy, it would be a grave error to sell the Trojans short just because they come from the Sun Belt, a league against whose current members the 'Dawgs are 6-0 all-time, with the closest contest being settled by a 19-point margin.

Paul Westerdawg has already provided you with a thumbnail sketch of Troy, an opponent whose legitimacy will become apparent in this posting and in those that follow. As always, when presenting my weekly breakdown of the Bulldogs' upcoming opponent, I intend to offer you not just a dash of data or merely a modicum of minutiae, but, instead, to provide you with Too Much Information.

The Trojans are no slouches through the air. Troy, which leads its league in scoring offense with 34.5 points per game, boasts the Sun Belt's highest completion percentage (59.1%), second-most touchdown passes (15), and third-most passing yards per game (273.6).

The real question is whether Trojan quarterback Omar Haugabook will be hamstrung by his hamstring. While the senior signal-caller is officially listed as probable for Saturday's contest between the hedges, the latest from David Ching suggests otherwise:

Right now, Haugabook hasn't taken any real practice reps - just some preliminary practice stuff like drills, etc. [Troy head coach Larry] Blakeney did say "He's jogging a little bit without pain, but the process is going to be long."

Haugabook is the Sun Belt leader in total offense (312.6 yards per game) and he accounts for 260.1 yards per contest through the air, most of them to fellow upperclassmen Josh Allen (53.4 receiving yards per game) and Gary Banks (56.1 receiving yards per game) on this senior-laden Trojan squad. Thirteen different Trojans have caught at least one touchdown pass, including Haugabook himself.

Although Haugabook has connected on an impressive 60.5 per cent of his attempts, Matthew Stafford has thrown more touchdown passes (13) than his Trojan counterpart. The Troy quarterback has connected on 12 T.D. tosses . . . but he also has thrown 11 interceptions, thereby making his contribution to the Trojans' 21 giveaways.

If Haugabook is hampered by his injury, the next most experienced signal-caller in the Trojan stable is Tanner Jones, who has hooked up with his intended target on five of his 15 pass attempts in 2007, yielding 59 yards---38 of which came on a single strike---and one touchdown.

Haugabook or his understudy will be going up against a Georgia secondary that allows 188.6 yards per game through the air. The Bulldogs have picked off the fewest passes (2) of any S.E.C. squad, have permitted the league's second-highest completion percentage (62.5%), and have conceded the conference's third-most yards per attempt (7.0) . . . but the Red and Black have given up the fewest touchdown passes in the S.E.C. (5).

While the Classic City Canines can only claim the Southeastern Conference's eighth-best aerial offense (203.6 passing yards per game), the Red and Black have been efficient through the air: Georgia has tallied the league's fourth-highest total of passing touchdowns (14) while surrendering the S.E.C.'s second-fewest interceptions (5).

Even excluding the injured Thomas Brown, there are four Bulldogs who each have caught a pair of T.D. passes and seven different Georgia players average over a dozen yards per reception. Sean Bailey, Demiko Goodman, Mikey Henderson, Mohamed Massaquoi, and Knowshon Moreno all have covered over a third of a football field on a single catch.

The Georgia receiving corps will go up against a Trojan defensive backfield that leads the Sun Belt in pass defense, allowing the league's fewest passing yards per game (175.6), fewest yards per pass (5.4), and fewest touchdown passes (9).

Those stellar statistics, however, are partly (if not largely) a byproduct of the fact that four of Troy's last five opponents rank 72nd, 101st, 115th, and 117th in the country, respectively, in passing offense. (The exception is North Texas, which ranks twelfth in the country in passing offense because the Mean Green, who are 1-7, rank 119th---dead last in Division I-A---in scoring defense. A team that gives up 46.5 points per game is, by definition, always playing catch-up, so U.N.T. has no choice but to throw the ball on every down.)

Against the Gators, Troy surrendered 236 yards and three touchdowns through the air without registering a single interception. Even ground-bound Arkansas averaged 7.1 yards per pass in the Hogs' showdown with the Trojans, chalking up a 42-yard T.D. pass without throwing any picks. In every game so far this season, Troy has allowed at least as many yards per pass on defense as the Trojans have gained on offense.

That gives you a pretty good idea how the 'Dawgs should fare through the air. However, as we shall see in our next installment, there is cause for hope that the Red and Black will not be called upon to put the ball in the air with undue frequency. We will turn next to a look at the two combatants' respective running games.

Go 'Dawgs!