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2021 Mid-American Conference Football Week 8 Game Preview: Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Ohio Bobcats

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Two squads looking to bounce back from tough Week 7 losses meet in Athens.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Syracuse at Ohio Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Game Notes

  • Time and Date: Saturday October 23rd at 1 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: ESPN + (A valid subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Audio/Internet: Ohio: Stretch Portal at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ohio/ || Kent State: Football - Kent State Golden Flashes (kentstatesports.com)
  • Location: Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio.
  • Weather: Partly Sunny and 62 degrees, with winds at 8 MPH
  • Line: Kent State (-5.5) per ESPN PickCenter
  • Last Meeting: Ohio triumphed in a 45-38 contest on October 19, 2019. The game between Kent State and Ohio was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID protocols for both sides.

Ohio Bobcats

The ‘Cats (1-6, 1-2 MAC) head into this one looking to put a few tough MAC losses behind them, the latest a one-point loss to Buffalo where they led the entire game until the last play of regulation.

Ohio is also looking to avoid another loss which would ensure their first losing record since 2008 and effectively put them three games back of Kent State in the MAC East race with four games to play.

With dual-threat QB Armani Rogers at the helm and All-MAC RB De’Montre Tuggle, Ohio will test Kent State’s rushing defense, a unit which was gashed for 300+ yard games in each of the last two weeks versus Buffalo and Western Michigan.

Look for Ohio TEs Ryan and Adam Luehrman to perhaps factor even more heavily in the run game as WMU ran the stretch play to the right with two TE personnel to great effect last week, rolling up 341 yards rushing.

The Bobcat offense also figures to take some deep shots this week to test Kent State’s defensive backs, who have struggled at times the last two weeks against vertical routes, resulting in multiple penalties or big gains. Bobcats WR Isiah Cox has had success deep at times in his career and may again this week.

Defensively, the Bobcats priority is slowing down QB Dustin Crum, who leads the MAC in total yards per contest with 255.

Defenses having success against Kent State’s offense under Crum find a way to keep him in the pocket and limit his impact as a runner as Crum has shown he’s adept at picking up critical first downs and scores on designed runs or scrambles. In three wins this season, Crum averaged about 78 yards per game rushing while in four losses, Crum has averaged just 10 yards per contest.

Key in containing Crum will be linebackers Bryce Houston and Cannon Blauser, both players on the rise in the MAC. Houston is fourth in the MAC in tackles with about 9 per game and Blauser is 15th with almost 7 per game, so they are always around the ball and will need to know where Crum is at all times.


Kent State

Kent State (3-4. 2-1 MAC) is trying to get back on track after being derailed by WMU last week by the score of 64-31.

And the Golden Flashes have the tools to do just that, with an offense that is probably the best unit on the field Saturday for either squad. Despite playing games against tough opponents like Texas A&M (who beat perennial power Alabama earlier this season,) Iowa and Maryland, Kent State is still 28th in the FBS in total yards per game with about 450, split about equally between run and pass.

Kent State’s ability to hit Ohio with a balanced attack will give it the flexibility to do whatever is working best and to keep the defense honest. The Flashes’ offensive plan of attack will likely begin similarly to what could work for Ohio’s offense: establish the ground game and work deep vertically.

Kent’s ground game revolves around Crum and two main backs in Marquez Cooper and Xavier Williams, who have combined for 818 yards.

The Flashes may not be able to run the ball as easily as it would have been able to against Ohio earlier in the year as the Bobcats have shown recent improvement, surrendering only 146 net yards rushing to Buffalo last week.

In the passing game, the Flashes have found their deep threat this season in WR Dante Cephas, who has catches of 40 yards or longer in four of the seven games and is second in the MAC in receiving yards per game with 580 yards.

Cephas presents an interesting matchup against young but promising corners in Ohio’s Roman Parodie and Pierre Kemeni, who will be left in man coverage at times with the Bobcats focused on stopping the run and limiting Crum.

Defensively, the Flashes need to find a way to stop the run better than they have last two weeks as Ohio would like nothing more than to run the ball, control the clock, and keep Kent State’s offense off the field.

When asked about the match-up this week, Ohio’s rushing offense versus Kent’s rushing defense, head coach Sean Lewis said the Flashes are capable of playing well if they have “elite habits when it comes to prep and play with elite fundamentals when we get to the moment of truth.”


Prediction

The Bobcats have been competitive in conference games this year with a win and two losses against solid MAC squads by a total of four points so I would expect Ohio to be in this one too. Ohio should be able to run the ball with some regularity against the Flashes and that should keep the game close into the second half.

If Ohio wins, they will need to either approach 400 yards rushing or hit more explosive plays in the passing game than they did last week, passing for 75 yards on 10 attempts versus Buffalo.

Kent State’s offense is probably the best unit on the field in this one so the Golden Flashes should win if the defense can make any progress defending the run.

Kent should cover at -5.5.