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2019 Week 3 MAC Preview: Kent State Golden Flashes @ Auburn Tigers

Kent State continues its brutal non-conference schedule at Jordan-Hare.

Kent State v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

No matter the method, a win still shows up as a win in the loss column.

Considering all that went down last Saturday afternoon, Kent State was thankful to escape with an overtime victory over FCS opponent Kennesaw State in the season home opener.

Trailing by three in the waning minutes of the contest, the Golden Flashes powered through a 4th-and-6 around midfield and Matthew Trickett wound up kicking a game-tying 38-yard field goal.

In overtime, inside linebacker Matt Bahr landed on a fumble, and Trickett took over the hero duties once again. His 43-yarder after a difficult possession locked up Kent State’s first win of the season and the third of the Sean Lewis era.

After coming back and dismantling the easiest foe on the non-conference schedule, the competition ramps up exponentially. Kent State must face an AP Top 10 program on the road as it pays a visit to Auburn this Saturday.

Kent State quarterback controversy

When the terms Auburn and Kent State are mentioned in the same sentence, usually the subject is quarterback Woody Barrett IV. A top 10 quarterback recruit in high school, Barrett initially committed to Auburn but transferred to a community college after receiving a redshirt. Barrett’s journey eventually culminated into a starting quarterback gig at Kent State. But last Saturday, for the first time in Barrett’s 14-game Golden Flashes career, somebody else started under center.

Dustin Crum is the likely Week 2 starter for Kent State after starting and finishing the Golden Flashes’ 26-23 win over Kennesaw State. With hope to awaken the offense in the opener at Arizona State, Crum was inserted but struggled with a stat-line of -3 passing yards on 3-for-8 passing. But the junior completed the best game of his career last week by finishing 17-of-23 with 192 passing yards, one touchdown, and zero interceptions.

Crum, who is primarily inserted into games for power run packages, possesses a completely different skill set than Barrett. Barrett succeeds more with his cannon arm and downfield vision, while Crum can create production as a runner. According to, Lewis plans to utilize both quarterbacks Saturday when pitted up against Barrett’s former college.

Auburn Tigers ignite into the Top 10

Auburn took a step back last season with an 8-5 finish. But Gus Malzahn’s Tigers look fully reloaded as New Year’s Six contenders after an impressive 2-0 start to the new year.

Oregon had plenty of opportunities to defeat Auburn in Arlington two weeks ago, but the Tigers’ defense kept the door ajar in the second half. Then, quarterback Bo Nix did the rest by rushing for a first on a critical fourth down in the final minutes. He also completed two clutch throws to wide receiver Seth Williams to clinch a 27-21 victory for the Tigers.

Auburn continued to roll in Week 2, defeating an improved Tulane squad, 24-6. The Tiger defense is led by arguably the country’s best defensive line featuring defensive tackle Derrick Brown and reigning SEC Defensive Lineman of the week Marlon Davidson.

Inside linebacker K.J. Britt and strong safety Daniel Thomas have stepped up to the plate and delivered impressive contributions in Auburn’s 24th ranked scoring defense. Auburn particularly succeeded at defending the air in Week 2, limiting Tulane to under the 30% completion mark.

Other players to watch

  • Jo-El Shaw, RB, Kent State: Shaw nearly hit the 100-yard mark against Kennesaw State in the second game of his senior season. The running back leads all Kent State rushers with 160 yards and he’d done it by picking up a respectable 4.8 yards per carry. At 6’1” and 230, Shaw is built bigger than most feature backs, but the Pittsburgh native possesses a considerable amount of speed as well.
  • Will Hastings, WR, Auburn: Seth Williams suffered an injury in the win over Tulane, so it’s up to the rest of Auburn’s veteran receiving corps to make plays against the secondary. Hastings missed all of 2018 with an ACL injury and suffered a nasty hit last week, but he’s as tough as they come. The deep threat should see plenty of looks from Nix this week to build upon his 75-yard, 1-touchdown performance in his most recent showing. Along with Hastings, wide receiver Eli Stove is recovering from an ACL injury and could be a dangerous threat to Kent State’s pass defense.
  • K.J. Sherald, FS, Kent State: Sherald defended three passes and registered six tackles — including one behind the line of scrimmage — in a dominant performance against Kennesaw State. But Sherald’s third quarter interception in the end zone was his magnum opus. The pick caused a 14-point swing in favor of Kent State, preventing the Golden Flashes from trailing behind by two possessions. Sherald is omnipresent on the field, and will be up to the challenge against Auburn’s offense on Saturday.
  • Jeremiah Dinson, FS, Auburn: The other free safety in this game looks poised for a breakout season. Dinson nearly has double the amount of tackles as any other Tiger with 19, and he’s made his mark as one of the best hitters in college football. He also has displayed versatility in the young season with one sack and one interception and is expected to apply copious amounts of pressure on Kent State’s quarterbacks from the backfield and the secondary.

Game Notes

Time and Date: Saturday, September 14 at 7 p.m. ET

Network: ESPN2

Location: Jordan-Hare Stadium — Auburn, AL

Spread: Auburn (-35.5)

ESPN FPI: Western Michigan has 98.5% chance to win

All-time series: No previous matchups


Kent State’s last trip to Iron Bowl territory resulted in a 48-0 shutout against Alabama in 2016. This one should play out similarly.

Kent State struggled establishing offense against Arizona State’s defense, and Auburn’s unit presents similar challenges when compared to the Sun Devils. The Golden Flashes may struggle moving the ball past the line of scrimmage, as the run game could easily stall against Auburn’s front-four. Kent State still hasn’t developed a consistent and reliable air attack and the team is expected to be in for a long day against No. 8 in the country.

If there’s any silver lining, Kent State’s defense might be able to record several stops against this Auburn offense. The Tigers only piled up 24 points on Tulane, but losing two fumbles proved to be a major inhibition for Nix and Co. in that one.

Prediction: Auburn 42, Kent State 3