Kent State-Bowling Green: The Biggest Game For Either Team In A While

Alex Trautwig

The difference between 9 years and 39 is noticeable. It's one of the simplest math problems in America, because there are no 1s to carry or decimal places and no solving for X.

On its own, nine years is a long time. That was the last time Bowling Green played for a MAC Championship, consequently the last time the game was played at a home stadium. They didn't win it, and I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT ANYMORE. But nine years is two generations of students. I was a punk student with a girlfriend that was wrong for me and instead of wasting time trying to come up with clever shit on Twitter, it was AOL Instant Messenger away messages. Those players on the '03 Falcons team are all grown up, too. Their senior linebacker Mitch Hewitt is now guiding a Ohio high school football team deep into the state playoffs. If you're looking at MAC championship droughts, you can go back to '92, but that's a couple steps away first.

But nine years is nothing compared to 39 years, the last time Kent State played a game to win the MAC. The 1973 Kent State squad began 8-1 with a 3-0 MAC record, and this was back when they only played five conference games. They were ranked in the top 20, as was undefeated Miami, and the then-Redskins beat them in Kent 20-10 in what appeared to be a snowy afternoon. And that's kind of where the good times ended. They'd win here and there, but eventually legendary coach Don James would be hired at Washington. And they never sniffed a MAC title again.

Also let's keep in mind the real impact of this game: If Kent State wins, they win the MAC East. Only them and Eastern Michigan have never won a MAC division since that's how business was getting done in 1997. A Bowling Green win would put them into a mathematical tie with the Golden Flashes, winning the head-to-head tiebreak, and would require a win next week against Buffalo in Columbus or for KSU to lose to the suddenly-hapless Ohio Bobcats. (Doesn't it seem more likely, of those two games, Buffalo would win?) But with the MAC West decided this week in DeKalb, this becomes the final race, and these are your two final dogs left standing.

Do you like keys to the game? Let's try that. In fact, both teams are rather similar in all facets, so let's boil it down to one fascinating part of the game, wildly embraced as a Mid-American Conference staple here:

Can anyone pass the stupid football?

Between both teams, only BGSU's Shaun Joplin has more than 400 receiving yards. Chris Gallon and Ryan Burbrink, both of the Falcons, have 32 catches. Gallon and Kent State's running back Dri Archer both have four receiving TDs. None of those rank in the top 15 in the MAC. To say the least, it's been playmaker-by-committee for both teams. Perhaps it's a function of the quarterbacks being facilitators rather than deciders: Kent State's Spencer Keith and BG's Matt Schilz are 10th and 11th in the conference in passer rating. Both complete under 60 percent of their passes, have thrown for less than 2,000 yards and 10 touchdowns or fewer — but also don't turn it over much. Keith has thrown just five picks, and Schilz six.

The difference in both passing attacks is Kent State can flip it out to Archer or set up a screen and see if he can break free. Of course, BGSU has faced all sorts of skill players but nobody with burning speed like him. Likewise, Kent State's passing defense, yards-wise, is pretty atrocious (112th in FBS), including over 350 yards allowed in the last four games, but they make it up with takeaways — 11 interceptions in their last four games.

We know what everyone else will do. Both offensive and defensive lines will push well. Both feature running backs — Trayion Durham and Anthon Samuel — will beat solo tackles into plowshares. They'll both take care of the ball — Kent State is +20 on the year, BGSU +6 — and both teams can flip the field with a 50-yard punt.

That's about it. Line up and do what you do best. I'll be at the game with my wife, because last time we went to a game they lost to Buffalo, and I ended up "writing" this. I need to show her that capable Bowling Green football exists and their leading all-purpose yardmaker will not get it all on interception runbacks. I'm going to show her crushing defense, bitter wind and stuffed breadsticks. It's going to be magical either way.

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