Kent State vs. Akron Preview: A New Chapter In the Fight For the Wagon Wheel Begins

Can Kyle Pohl and Jawon Chisholm return the Wagon Wheel to Akron for the first time since 2009? - Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Two teams enter, both on very different paths, in hopes of taking home the Wagon Wheel.

Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Akron Zips

InfoCision Stadium - Akron, Ohio

Saturday Nov. 2, 2013 - 3:30 p.m. (ET)

Television: Time Warner SportsChannel / Streaming on ESPN3 (Blacked out in Ohio)

Radio: WARF-AM, 1350, WHLO-AM, 640, Kent State Sports Radio on iHeartRadio

When Kent State (2-7, 1-4 MAC) and Akron (2-7, 1-4 MAC) kick off Saturday it marks the beginning of a new chapter for the 90-year-old rivalry. The two teams who started facing off on the gridiron in 1923, have been battling it out for the Wagon Wheel since 1946 with Kent State holding the Wheel more often than not. But, come gametime Saturday, none of that matters.

After three straight comfortable wins in the series by Kent State, and three years of total ineptness by the Zips, this game marks the most even matchup between these neighboring schools in recent history. A year ago the Golden Flashes were having the best season in their long history, while Akron was in the midst of its long FBS losing streak. Now, everything is different. On paper the schools are near identical this year. They have the same record, each with a pair of wins over an FCS foe and an inferior MAC opponent. Both teams are in the midst of an identity crisis and are under the guidance of first-year starting quarterbacks.

Kent State is led by dual threat game manager Colin Reardon, a redshirt freshman thrust into the starting role at the beginning of the season after four seasons with Spencer Keith under center. While Akron is guided by sophomore Kyle Pohl, a gunslinger who claimed the starting job as his own after three years with as many starting quarterbacks.

Both young quarterbacks play into their team's strengths. Reardon fits Kent State's run-first mentality, that has struggled mightily at times this season. Pohl, fits the Zips spread aerial attack, that can put points up, but is also prone to turnovers.

While the teams seem like a good matchup of strengths and weaknesses, the differences between the two will be what is key to the game. Both team's defense cough up points in bunch's, but Akron has been one of the more successful teams in the MAC at stopping the run, while Kent State has had issues against the pass.

This plays favorably into the Zips hands, as Akron and Pohl are averaging nearly 30 more yards a game through the air than Kent State. The Golden Flashes have also struggled on the ground throughout the season as Trayion Durham has failed to get going this year, and Dri Archer has been a factor at times this year after struggling with injuries for several weeks. If the Zips can force Reardon and the Flashes to pass more, it plays right into their gameplan, as they've had little problems getting after quarterbacks this season.

Akron's offense will also need to get going early. The Zips will need to score early and often and find a way to get Jawon Chisholm going on the ground to take any sort of comfortable lead in this contest. Though the statistics and play up to this point might give Akron the slight advantage, Kent State still has the experience, especially on defense with players such as Roosevelt Nix and Luke Wollet. Offensively, as of late Archer has started to return to old form, and has managed to score seven touchdowns in the past five games, almost all on long gains either on the ground or through the air. This game is sure to be an interesting matchup, that could go down to the wire.

But no matter what happens Saturday, one thing is for sure, this game will go a long way towards defining what paths these two teams take in the next few years.

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