TROY, Ala. (AP) — The Troy Trojans reside Southeastern Conference country, where the powerhouse league dominates headlines and the football chatter.
Now, they finally get a chance to take on one those teams on their own turf. The Trojans welcome an SEC team to Veterans Memorial Stadium for the first time when Mississippi State (2-0) visits Saturday night.
"Hands down this is the biggest home game in school history," Trojans offensive lineman Kyle Wilborn said.
Troy (1-1) is a 16-point underdog but can draw confidence from some recent and not so recent history. Fellow Sun Belt Conference team Louisiana-Monroe just upset then-No. 8 Arkansas on the road.
Plus, Troy won 21-9 at Mississippi State in 2001 and lost 11-8 the next year in Starkville after committing six turnovers. The Trojans have had success against prominent visitors, upsetting Missouri at home in 2004 and Oklahoma State three years later — both by double digits.
The first one might have been the biggest for a program then in its first year in what's now the Football Bowl Subdivision.
"It's hard to forget about that game because there are pictures hanging all over the halls," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "It was a great day. I think they are a much better SEC program than they were then. We're a different team trying to find ourselves, but the impact of that win has resonated with our people through the years. It was a great day for Troy. It will be harder now because I think both programs are different, but I'm looking forward to it."
The Bulldogs were mired in a six-year funk at the time when they won just 17 games collectively. Now they're 2-0 for the first time since 2000, coming off a lopsided win over Auburn and hoping to win their first three games for only the sixth time in 32 years.
Mississippi State is trying to sustain that momentum through its first road game in facing the Trojans.
"They've had some big home wins over the BCS schools in the past," Bulldogs coach Dan Mullen said. "Their guys at Troy know how to play, know how to win games, know how to do it at home. They're a very explosive team, so we're going to have to come out and play very well and play well on both sides of the ball and deal with that adversity of being on the road for the first time this year."
Mississippi State comes into Troy on a high note. Quarterback Tyler Russell was named the SEC offensive player of the week following a pristine performance in that 28-10 victory over the Tigers.
The challenge now is to stay grounded, especially with two Sun Belt teams in a row. Next week's opponent, South Alabama, is in its transition FBS season.
Mullen knows players spent the week getting congratulated around town and campus.
"If you want to be a great football team, you're continually improving when you get into November," Mullen said. "That's where we want to be as a football team. That's really been the message to our guys."
The Bulldogs veteran secondary faces a much busier few hours in this game. Opposing quarterbacks have managed a passing rating of 83 so far, tops in the SEC and eighth nationally. Troy brings in the nation's No. 8 passing offense, and junior quarterback Corey Robinson just set the school's single-game and career passing mark in a loss to Louisiana-Lafayette.
Robinson was 46 of 70 for 485 yards in the game, the second most passing yards among NCAA quarterbacks so far this season.
Louisiana-Monroe's quarterback Kolton Browning helped beat Arkansas by throwing it 67 times.
"We're thinking optimistic. We want to get our hands on the ball this week," Mississippi State safety Corey Broomfield said. "They've got a really efficient quarterback. If he doesn't see what he wants, he'll throw the checkdown every time. They execute very well. They'll throw 5 yards, 5 yards, then throw it over your head. So you've got to stay in position, stay patient and that's what we're going to do this week."