It’s not often that we have division-deciding games in October, but the matchup between the Kent State Golden Flashes (3-4, 2-1 MAC) and the Miami RedHawks (3-4, 2-1 MAC) is as big of a game as any in the 2019 MAC season. Kent is coming off of a close loss on the road at Ohio while Miami earned a victory last week over a tough NIU squad.
The matchup to watch in this game is KSU’s offense versus the defense of the ‘Hawks. The Flashes’s style of play on that side of the ball is unlike any other team in the MAC with their pace and the amount of stress that they can put on a defense on any given play. They used that pace to great effectiveness last week as they put up 200+ rushing yards and 260+ passing yards on the Bobcats. Dustin Crum is a lethal dual-threat QB as he nearly rushed for 100 yards on top of going for 262 yards and four touchdowns through the air.
The challenge for Miami will be generating stops against Kent’s no-huddle attack, which can be difficult since you can’t always get the players you want in on defense because of the speed of the offense. One way that the ‘Hawks can take advantage of KSU is up front. Ohio was able to register seven TFLs and two sacks against Kent’s offensive line. Miami knows how to be disruptive as it recorded ten TFLs and a pair of sacks against the Huskies. Expect Miami to come up with some creative pressures to get off the field on Saturday.
The other matchup presents some opportunities for the Red and White on offense. Last week, OU could’ve done whatever it wanted against KSU’s defense as it racked up 571 total yards as the road team could only account for two TFLs on the day. Meanwhile, Miami did a good job of avoiding negative plays against NIU (three TFLs, one sack) as Brett Gabbert hurt the Huskies with big plays with a pair of 40+ yard strikes to James Maye and Jalen Walker while adding a 31-yard scamper. Gabbert’s maturation is going to be key as you can’t afford to give Kent’s offense multiple chances to score when its defense hasn’t proven it can stop good MAC offenses.
Special teams also give the ‘Hawks an edge. KSU’s Derek Adams only mustered 29.8 yards per punt last week, while Kyle Kramer remains one of the MAC’s best punters as he averaged 43.6 yards per punt. When you add Maurice Thomas’s big-play return ability and Miami’s usually-sound coverage units, the field position battle should be in favor of the Red and White Saturday.
Ultimately, the game will come down to who will make the fewest mistakes. Both offenses will be able to score points but both quarterbacks will need to be able to make smart decisions with the football in order to compete for a win. With Kent State being relatively unproven (its only MAC wins are against rebuilding Akron and Bowling Green) and the experience that Miami has (particularly on defense and special teams), this is a game that the RedHawks should win barring uncharacteristic mistakes.