The Sun Belt Championship is on the line Saturday, and Troy (10-2, 7-1 SBC) is a 9-point favorite over Coastal Carolina (9-2, 6-2 SBC), according to the college football betting odds.
With star quarterback Grayson McCall doubtful for Coastal Carolina, the Chanticleers have their work cut out for them. They fell 47-7 to JMU last weekend, but the Chanticleers will represent the Sun Belt East with the Dukes ineligible for the conference title game due to FCS to FBS transition rules.
Troy, on the other hand, enters the game red hot. The Trojans have won nine games in a row after starting the season 1-2. The program’s only losses are to Ole Miss and App State, and the loss to the Mountaineers came on a Hail Mary on the game’s final play.
Troy’s defense a difference
Why is Troy more than a touchdown favorite Saturday? In addition to McCall’s absence, Troy’s defense is a massive difference-maker in the matchup. ESPN’s efficiency’s metrics list Troy’s defense as the 29th most efficient in the country. They’re second in the Sun Belt in scoring defense, allowing just 16.8 points per game.
Troy leads the Sun Belt in passing defense, allowing only 198.3 passing yards per game. The Trojans rank second in the SBC in pass defense efficiency, and the team allows just 3.3 yards per carry.
Linebacker Carlton Martial leads the NCAA in career tackles, and he’s as solid a linebacker as any in the conference. Troy’s defense seemingly keeps it in every game, minimizing the necessary impact by the offense to secure a win.
Coastal Carolina’s defense is the 103rd-most efficient in the country, per ESPN’s metrics. The Chanticleers don’t have the same level of defensive consistency and dominance as the Trojans. Defensive issues were easier to make up for with a healthy McCall, but his likely absence puts the Chanticleers in a hole.
Coastal Carolina overrated?
Coastal Carolina is 9-2 overall, but the Chanticleers only have a scoring differential of +7 this season. They’re 5-0 in one-possession games this season, and their two losses have come by an average of 34 points.
There’s a case to be made that Coastal Carolina looks more like a seven-win team than a nine-win unit. On the flipside, Jamey Chadwell is considered a top Group of Five coach, and the Chanticleers have won 31 games over the last three seasons. There’s something to be said for consistent winning, and while Coastal Carolina hasn’t been dominant this season, they’ve found ways to win.
Chadwell’s team needs an excellent performance Saturday to win on the road against an elite defensive team, but it’s hard to rule out the Chanticleers after the program’s success over the last three seasons.
It’s worth noting that the last time Coastal Carolina was blown out – a 28-point loss to Old Dominion on Oct. 15 – the Chanticleers beat a defensive-minded Marshall team 24-13 on the road in their next game. They had a bye week to prepare for that game, but Chadwell can certainly turn to a past experience to encourage his team after their 40-point loss to JMU last weekend.