There have been 33 different teams around the county crowned bowl champions – and now, finally, the Troy Trojans will get their chance to be among those winners.
It’s been nearly a month and a half since the Trojans last were seen on the field, a win on the road against Louisiana-Lafayette back on Nov. 28, and a little more than a month since the Troy found out where it would be playing during the bowl season.
Now, the Trojans find themselves facing a fellow conference champion, Central Michigan from the Mid-American Conference.
This is the first time the two teams have ever met on the field.
But even with the layoff, the Trojans will be ready to go, according to head coach Larry Blakeney.
“I think we are prepared for the game,” Blakeney said.
“You never know how a game is going to go, but we have worked hard and made some plans that we think will be effective.
“The past couple of days have been very productive – the kids are enjoying themselves and importantly, I think they are ready for Central Michigan,” the coach added.
The one area that concerns Blakeney and the rest of the coaching staff the most going into the game against the Chippewas is the same thing that everyone has talked about all season long – Central Michigan’s offense and more specifically, quarterback Dan LeFevour.
“[LeFevour] is effective both on the ground and through the air – he can really hurt you,” Blakeney said.
“It is going to be up to our defense to make sure that [LeFevour] is contained. If we can do that and match them on offense, we have a shot.
“Ultimately, this game is going to be decided by the defense,” he added.
Containing LeFevour was something not many teams were able to do this season, as the quarterback throw for 3,043 yards and 27 touchdowns and ran for 701 yards and 14 touchdowns this season alone.
However, the Trojans may have an answer for the LeFevour and the Chippewa offense – their own quarterback and offense
Senior Levi Brown ranks second in the nation with 322 passing yards per game, and his 3,868 yards are the most in both Troy and the Sun Belt’s history.
The Trojan offense itself has averaged nearly 33 points per game.
“Offensively, we are going to try and do what we have done all season long – wear down the defense and create big plays,” the quarterback said.
Brown continued by saying after watching tapes of the Chippewas defense, he noticed a difference between other defense he and the offense has seen during the season – their size.
“They have some really big and physical guys on the defense,” he said. “But that doesn’t really worry us.”
“We are going to do what we do best – spread the field and work the passing game.”
As far as the Central Michigan team plays as a whole, Brown said there is not a lot the team does wrong.
“You couldn’t say that for a lot of the teams we have faced this season but that is not the case for Central Michigan.
“They have some really big and physical guys on the defense,” Brown said. “But that doesn’t really worry us.”
The Trojans will be looking to bounce back from last year’s New Orleans Bowl loss to Southern Mississippi and even its overall bowl record to 2-2.
But a win would also give Troy 10 wins on the season, which would be the most since joining Division 1 back in 2001.
“To be a part of this game, it means a lot to me,” Brown said.
“I think this is the biggest game Troy has ever played in since joining Division 1. There is a lot at stake for this team, so we are going to do what we can to make sure we win.
“This is my last game, so to go out on top would really be special,” the senior added.
For every bowl game there are different festivities going on that may distract a player from the game.
However, Brown said that he and his teammates will be ready for what’s to come later on tonight.
“I have been kind of getting focused for the game most of [Tuesday afternoon],” Brown said.
“There has been a lot going on since we got down here, so I have not worried about being 100 percent focused until [Tuesday].
“I have been enjoying every minute of it though – soaking everything in,” he added.
The Chippewa players may not be able to say the same however.
Butch Jones, who was with the team all season long, recently left to fill the vacant head coaching position at the University of Cincinnati.
The only win Central Michigan has had in a bowl game coming into tonight matchup is back in 2006 against Troy-rival, Middle Tennessee State in the Motor City Bowl.
Even with the coaching change for the Chippewas, Blakeney said he expects a good game from both teams.
“Like most of the other games, this is going to come down to a ‘cat and mouse’ type game,” Blakeney said.
“I think both teams are very much alike scheme wise. This team will be ready to play – it should be a fun game to watch,” he added.
The Trojans and the Chippewas will take the field for a 6 p.m. kickoff on ESPN.