I've already shared my thoughts on the Troy passing game and Doug Gillett has given you his rundown on the game, so we needn't tarry before diving in with both feet in analyzing the respective running games of Saturday's combatants.
Please recall, as always, that, when diving inside the numbers, I don't give you a pinch of insight or a dollop of detail; rather, I endeavor to give you . . . Too Much Information.
Possibly hobbled Trojan quarterback Omar Haugabook has run the ball exactly as many times (94) as Troy tailback (and former Knowshon Moreno teammate) Kenny Cattouse. Eight of the Sun Belt frontrunner's 15 rushing touchdowns were scored with Haugabook as the ballcarrier. In short, if Haugabook does not play, or if (as seems probable) his mobility is limited, the Trojan ground game could grind to a halt as Cattouse bears the brunt of the workload.
Honestly, though, running the ball is the weakest part of the visitors' game, both offensively and defensively, even with a fully functioning Haugabook in the lineup. Although Troy is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns scored, the Trojans manage a middling 174.6 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs allow just 133.9 rushing yards per game and just 3.7 yards per carry.
In the Southeastern Conference, the Georgia rushing attack is No. 6 with a bullet. While the Red and Black's 165.4 yards per game on the ground put the Classic City Canines' running attack on a par with Vanderbilt's, the cloud of Thomas Brown's and Kregg Lumpkin's injuries has produced the silver lining of Knowshon Moreno's dramatically improved production.
Despite not being the Bulldogs' featured back in the team's first six games, Moreno averages 100.9 rushing yards per game, better than any other running back in the S.E.C. who does not play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Moreno's 5.3 yards per carry match the average gain per touch tallied by the Hogs' Darren McFadden.
Even those solid numbers, though, do not accurately reflect what Moreno has been able to contribute in his newfound role as the workhorse of the Georgia offense. Against Vanderbilt, the redshirt freshman turned 28 rushing attempts into 157 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and tacked on another 18 yards on two receptions for good measure.
In Jacksonville last weekend, Moreno was handed the ball 33 times and he responded by gaining 188 yards (5.7 yards per carry) and scoring three touchdowns. Along the way, he has played intelligently, spinning away from tacklers, hanging onto the football, and having enough game awareness to know when to go out of bounds (in the fourth quarter of the Vanderbilt game) and when to stay in bounds (in the fourth quarter of the Florida game).
As Paul Westerdawg has noted already, the Trojans' run defense is more than slightly suspect. Troy ranks in the bottom half of the Sun Belt against the run, surrendering 5.0 yards per carry and 201.5 rushing yards per game. Although the Trojans have held their last three opponents to 116 or fewer yards, Troy held at least a ten-point halftime advantage in each of those contests and extended its lead in the second half in each instance. Furthermore, two of those opponents (F.I.U. and North Texas) rank 107th and 108th in Division I-A, respectively, in rushing offense.
Against the other five opponents on their slate---all of which, like Georgia, rank in the top 50 in the country in rushing yards per game---the Trojans have allowed at least 189 rushing yards every time, with four of the five topping 240 and half of those gaining 345 or more. Each of those five teams averaged at least 4.7 yards per carry against Troy, with three of them topping six yards a pop and two of those managing seven yards or more per rush.
We may debate which came first, the chicken or the egg, but the fact of the matter is clear enough: Troy's first four opponents all gained over 240 yards on the ground and averaged 5.7 or more yards per carry, and all four of them scored 23 or more points against the Trojans; Troy's last four opponents, by contrast, all were held under 190 yards on the ground and averaged 4.7 or fewer yards per carry, and none of the four of them scored more than 16 points against the Trojans. Teams that can run on Troy can score on Troy.
That, in a nutshell, is how the running game impacts the Georgia-Troy showdown. I'll be back after a while to share some stats on other aspects of the contest that could impact the outcome. Stay tuned. . . .