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2016 MAC Football Preview: Kent State vs. Central Michigan

Will Nick Holley run his way to the Golden Flashes third win on Saturday?

NCAA Football: Kent State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The Kent State Golden Flashes (2-6) will cruise into Kelly/Shorts Stadium to take on the Central Michigan Chippewas (5-3) on Saturday afternoon. Both teams will try to bounce back after losses last week to Ohio and Toledo.

The last two matchups between these two teams have been split evenly. The Chippewas took the most recent victory in 2015, beating the Golden Flashes 27-14 in Ohio. Kent State won the previous meeting in Ohio, edging out Central Michigan 24-21 in 2011.

Central Michigan will have one concern on Saturday, that will be to stop Nick Holley from running the ball. As the starting quarterback for the Golden Flashes for four games now, Holley has rushed for 584 yards and eight touchdowns. The only game that Holley has won as the starting quarterback, he rushed for over 200 yards. Kent State will try run all over a Central Michigan defense that has allowed 141.4 rush yards per game this season.

Kent State will have no business going to the air in this one. Holley is not overly accurate, and playing against a team that leads the MAC in interceptions (10) will definitely make Holley’s arm a little more hesitant. Defensive backs, Josh Cox and Amari Coleman, each have three interceptions this season. You can bet that they’re mouths will be watering when they see Holley drop back for a pass on Saturday.

Even though Cooper Rush leads the MAC with 2289 passing yards, look for the Chippewas to utilize their run game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. In Kent State’s 14-10 loss last week, Ohio quarterback Quentin Maxwell threw for a mere 127 yards and one interception. The Chippewas will have no reason to make Rush throw 30+ attempts come game time.

With a Kent State defense that only allows only 199.9 pass yards per game, Central Michigan will look to their junior running back to take care of a large portion of their offensive productivity. Devon Spalding is fifth in the MAC with 612 rushing yards, and when he has success on the ground the Chippewas tend to have pretty successful games offensively. Spalding has rushed for over 100 yards in three out of their five wins this season.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Spalding will be heavily relied on in the red zone as well. The Chippewas and Cooper Rush will not risk going to the air when they are inside the Golden Flashes twenty yard line considering they have the worst red zone offense in the MAC (66.7%). An interesting statistic for Mr. Rush; he has not thrown for over 270 yards since Jesse Kroll’s career ending injury earlier this year. Just another reason why Spalding will be in for big work load come Saturday.

Central Michigan really needs to keep Holley in check if they want to win this game. Last week against Ohio, Holley rushed 41 times for 159 yards and one score. That was enough for the Bobcats to emerge victorious last weekend against a Golden Flash offense that has the worst pass offense in the MAC. The Golden Flash offense averages 134.6 pass yards per game, which is the sixth worst in the nation. Nick Holley’s legs are the only way Kent State will score points in Michigan on Saturday.

Central Michigan wants the best chance at getting a favourable bowl matchup. That quest starts by winning this matchup against a team that they are heavily favorited over.

Kent State will try to hold their own against the Chippewas and finish the season with a respectable record in the MAC.