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2016 Week 4 Preview: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide

Kent State travels to Tuscaloosa as huge underdogs and it’s hard to imagine an upset.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Penn State
Mylik Mitchell has shown promise for Kent but ‘Bama is a whole different animal.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The #1 team in the nation is hosting a team that we just rated as 9th in the MAC.

This Saturday showdown will likely be lacking the excitement of either team’s game from last week, but who knows? The MAC has been seen pulling upsets on occasion, and maybe Alabama is going to look right past the Golden Flashes and play poorly.

On the other hand, Alabama comes into this game as the top team in the country, having already beaten two ranked opponents. They started their season with a 46 point demolition of USC before squeaking out a 5-point win last week vs. Ole Miss (ranked 19 by the AP going into the game). The Crimson Tide sandwiched a boring beat-down of Western Kentucky in the middle of the two higher-profile games.

In last week’s tight win over Ole Miss, Alabama’s mighty defense faltered just enough to make it a game. While the Tide actually had two defensive TDs and one punt return score, they still allowed 421 yards of passing to Rebel QB Chad Kelly. 43 points allowed by a Nick Saban defense is surely enough to put his players on edge coming into their next game.

That’s not great news for Kent State.

The Golden Flashes have been far from perfect this season, losing by 20 to a mediocre Penn State team and then losing in four overtimes(!) to North Carolina A&T at home. In the latter, Kent State forced four turnovers and kept that defensive momentum going against Monmouth in week 3’s win.

The defense has performed relatively well from a scoring perspective – 17 points allowed in regulation against NCA&T and then 7 vs. Monmouth – but the offense has struggled to move the ball. In the past two games the Flashes have barely crossed 600 yards of offense despite having eight quarters and four overtimes of football.

The ground game has been up and down. If Kent State wants to hang with Bama even a little bit they’ll need to rediscover the ground attack they showed against Monmouth. In that game the Golden Flashes averaged a hair over five yards per rush, with eight players tallying at least two rushing attempts. Justin Rankin has been the leading rusher with 178 yards on 38 carries this season but he’s only found the end zone once.

There is also optimism around quarterback Mylik Mitchell, a redshirt freshman who has thrown five touchdowns and one pick through his two starts in addition to rushing for 77 yards against Monmouth. He was sacked four times against Penn State, three against NCA&T and twice against Monmouth. It’s an encouraging trend, but somehow I think Alabama’s front four is going to present a bit more headache than Monmouth’s did.

In short, Alabama is going to be way too much to handle. The early point spread is Alabama -43.5, which is a smaller spread than the final score of the Bama/USC game. Jalen Hurts and Damien Harris ran for 300 yards combined against Ole Miss and it’s hard to imagine them not dominating Kent’s defense.

The big boys up front for the Crimson Tide are just too big and the defense is overwhelming when it’s clicking. I would expect that Alabama will be clicking after that strange performance against Mississippi.

It would be hard to blame you for not choosing Kent State vs. Alabama as your 12:00 game-of-choice on Saturday, but here’s hoping that you do.