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2018 Week 10 MAC Preview: Kent State Golden Flashes @ Bowling Green Falcons

Well, someone’s gotta win it. And that win will feel glorious for said team.

NCAA Football: Kent State at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

One of the MAC East bottom feeders will earn their first win over an FBS team on the first Tuesday night MACtion game of the season.

Bowling Green and Kent State collide at Doyt-Perry Stadium, both boasting unfortunate 1-7 records after rough losing streaks. The story is similar to last year’s Halloween showdown, when the Falcons entered Dix Stadium 1-7 and defeated a 2-6 Kent State team. Both of these teams have been struggling for quite some time, and this game is always a winnable one to look forward to for both involved fan bases.

Kent State has been on the schneid since 2013, just one season after finishing an overtime away from a BCS bowl bid. The Golden Flashes have yet to attain five wins in a season since, and they’ll have to win out in order to break the streak.

Bowling Green’s well-documented struggles have been prevalent since 2016, just one season after winning a second MAC title in three years. The Falcons finally fired Mike Jinks after finishing 7-24 in that time span, handing the interim coaching role to defensive coordinator Carl Pelini. Under Pelini, the Falcons were torched by Ohio, 49-14, in his first game serving as Jinks’ successor.

At the beginning of the season, there were plenty of reasons to be excited about the Sean Lewis era at Kent State. The Golden Flashes showed signs of competency in non-conference play, leading Illinois 17-3 at halftime, hanging close with Penn State for the majority of the first half, and remaining within one-possession striking distance of Ole Miss in the fourth quarter. In between the Illinois and Penn State games, the Golden Flashes put an FCS foe, which the team traditionally struggles with, to rest 54-14.

Auburn transfer Woody Barrett has been a solid quarterback for the Flashes all season long. When he avoids interceptions, he often displays brilliant dual-threat play. Barrett has rushed for more than 60 yards on four occasions, totaling five rushing touchdowns this season. He’s been a decent pocket passer when needed to, albeit a victim of a porous offensive line.

Barrett leads all FBS quarterbacks in sacks taken this year with 30, and it’s not really that close. Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond checks in behind him with 25, further highlighting the Golden Flashes’ pass blocking struggles. Barrett, an avid scrambler with a knack for extending plays, forces himself into difficult situations sometimes when refusing throwaways and relying on his mobility in the pocket.

Luckily for the Flashes, their opponent exhibits the worst pass rush in college football. Bowling Green is dead last in the FBS, earning just six sacks in eight games. The Falcons don’t really excel in any particular skill defensively, fielding the worst rushing defense in the nation (332.9 yards per game) and only forcing four interceptions on the season.

Playing a weak run defense, Kent State needs to revert to its old ways and consistently attack its opponent on the ground. The Flashes have implemented passing into the offense more in the Sean Lewis era, but this is the game where they need to feed halfback Justin Rankin, who will be searching for his third 100-yard game of the year.

In Rankin’s latest 100-yard game, versus Ohio, the Golden Flashes nearly pulled off a stunning upset of the preseason conference favorites. In his previous 100-yard performance, Kent State rolled over Howard, 54-14. In summary, Rankin success equates to Kent State on-field success.

Bowling Green’s offense is equipped with some specialties too, primarily in the passing game. Jarret Doege, despite lacking Woody Barrett’s mobility, is actually one of the most accurate and talented quarterbacks in the conference. He completes passes around 65% of the time, throwing 20 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. Doege’s had a handful of 300-yard games, and these usually occur when the opposing defense struggles blanketing Scott Miller.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The 5’10” senior receiver is on pace for a career high in receiving yards, currently sitting at 785. He’s already posted three games of 140 yards or more this season, including a 206-yard outburst in a near upset over Western Michigan.

When Bowling Green’s passing offense is avoiding turnovers and targeting Miller, this can be a dangerous unit that could compete with some upper-level MAC teams. Thus, Kent State will demand stellar performances by their key secondary pieces: top cornerback Jamal Parker and strong safety Elvis Hines. Deep zone coverage will be vital in stopping Miller — one-on-one might not do justice.

One similarity both teams have shown this year is the ability to get off to fast starts. Especially against Power Five opponents, Kent State and Bowling Green showed success early. But in most games, the teams seem to crumble as time goes on. The big question heading into Tuesday night is: which 1-7 team will fold?

Game Notes

  • Time and Date: TUESDAY(!), October 30 — 8:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Doyt-Perry Stadium — Bowling Green, OH
  • Network: ESPN2(!)
  • Spread: Bowling Green (-1.5)
  • ESPN FPI Predictor: Bowling Green has 54.0% chance to win
  • All-time series: Bowling Green leads, 60-19-6

If you can see the excitement here, it’s because nationally televised Tuesday night MACtion is BACK(tion). Although it is rough for students who attend the universities, it is fantastic for a national audience and allows college football fans who wouldn’t normally watch MAC games on Saturdays focus in on the conference.

Bowling Green defeated Kent State on Tuesday night (Halloween) last October, 44-16. The Falcons earned their second and final win of the year in a dominating performance, which featured an accurate day from Doege through the air and a monstrous performance by running back Andrew Clair on the ground. Kent State fell to 2-7 after the loss, and likewise, failed to win another game in the season.


This one’s just about as 50-50 as you can get. Bowling Green is awfully inconsistent. When the Falcons aren’t getting curb-stomped, they are usually showing signs of promise on offense, hanging with teams like Toledo and Western Michigan. The problem is, you never know which version of Bowling Green you’re going to get.

Kent State has been more consistent. The Golden Flashes are a modest scoring team that primarily relies on its defense to make stops and carry the momentum. It’ll be a road game for the program against an interim coach, so those factors should balance out Tuesday night.

Overall, Kent State’s 1-7 is better than Bowling Green’s 1-7. The Golden Flashes were a dropped snap away from possibly beating Akron for the Wagon Wheel and showed the ability to hang with Power Five teams past the first quarter. Barrett and Rankin will lead a strong rushing attack that the Bowling Green defense won’t be able to counter. It should be close, but the Flashes earn their first FBS and MAC win of the Sean Lewis era.

Prediction: Kent State 24, Bowling Green 21