New Orleans Bowl score: Troy caps off its best FBS season with win over North Texas

UCF is in the Peach Bowl as the Group of Five's highest-rated team, and while that's all fine and well-deserved, we all should have been paying a lot more attention to Troy

This is a program, after all, that gave Clemson all it could handle last season -- and the Tigers went on to win the national championship -- and beat LSU in Baton Rouge this September, 24-21. Neither of those results were flukes, either. Against LSU, the Trojans lined up, hat on hat, ran the ball well and capitalized with two touchdowns on four takeaways. 

And with a 50-30 win over North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday, the Trojans have secured their best season since joining the Football Bowl Subdivision: 11-2 with a share of the Sun Belt Conference title to boot. It's the first conference title for Troy since 2010 when it shared one with FIU

Troy started Saturday's game hot by jumping out to a 15-0 lead. Though North Texas closed the gap at the end of the first half, Troy started the third quarter with back-to-back touchdowns and the game was never close after that. The Trojans did an especially good job on defense teeing off on quarterback Mason Fine and getting hits on the undersized signal-caller. 

What coach Neal Brown has done in three years is remarkable considering this was a program that was 4-8 just two seasons ago and 3-9 when he took over. 

And speaking of Brown, he wasn't a huge name in the coaching carousel this season, but expect that to change if the Trojans repeat their success in 2018. He's 25-13 in three seasons with two bowl wins and has some exciting veteran players coming back next year. Quarterback Brandon Silvers is one of the senior starters who will need to be replaced, but there are tons of sophomores and juniors who were big-time contributors and will step into larger roles. One of them is receiver Damion Willis, who had 11 grabs for 136 yards and two scores against the Mean Green, all season highs. 

There are two good, early-season opportunities for Troy to get eye-catching wins in 2018. The Trojans open the season against Boise State -- they lost to the Broncos 24-13 this year -- and at Nebraska on Sept. 15. If you want an intriguing Group of Five program that could crash the New Year's Six in 2018, keep tabs on Troy. 

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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