Kent State piled the points on every opponent last season and finished ranked first in the FBS with 49.8 per game. Replicating that output in the opener will be more difficult, as the Golden Flashes are greeted by a sturdy Texas A&M defense to kick off 2021.
The Flashes travel down to College Station for their first-ever meeting with the Aggies, hoping to pull off the upset as 4-touchdown underdogs against the nation’s No. 6 team. To preview the reigning Orange Bowl champions, Rush Roberts (@DrNorrisCamacho) of SB Nation’s Texas A&M blog Good Bull Hunting (@GBHunting) joins us to preview the Aggies.
Steve Helwick, Hustle Belt: The last time Kellen Mond didn’t start under center for the Aggies seems like a distant memory. What are your early impressions of newly anointed starter Haynes King, and can this team replicate its success from 2020 with a freshman at quarterback?
Rush Roberts, Good Bull Hunting: The coaching staff seems really high on King, which says a lot about him. I think he’s got another gear that Mond didn’t quite have, so hopefully there’s not too much of a drop-off in offensive production with the new signal caller.
Helwick: The Maroon Goons seemed to be the heart and soul of the team last year and presented one of the most dominant offensive lines in the country. With only Kenyon Green returning to the group, are there any concerns about the lack of experience in the trenches this season?
Roberts: There’s always going to be some concern with this kind of lack of continuity. I imagine we’ll see some rough patches in the first few games while the offensive line gels.
Helwick: Texas A&M entered the 2020 season with plenty of expectations, and the hype came to fruition with a 9-1 finish and an Orange Bowl win. However, there was that head-scratching opener at Kyle Field against Vanderbilt last September. How do Jimbo Fisher and Co. change their approach this year to prevent consecutive opening night scares?
Roberts: It seems like the ultimate cliche, but... don’t underestimate your opponent. Nobody has played football in nine months or so. Everyone’s going to be really eager and excited. Jimbo’s got to get them focused and concentrated and taking care of business one step at a time, otherwise, before you know it you’ve barely eked out a win against Vanderbilt. Or you’ve lost to Arkansas State. It could happen to any team at any time if they aren’t mentally prepared.
Helwick: Kent State led the country in points per game last year at 49.8, albeit a 4-game sample size. Still, the Golden Flashes present one of the nation’s most accurate and electrifying dual threat quarterbacks in Dustin Crum. How equipped do you believe the Aggies’ defense is to limit the All-MAC QB from lighting up the stat sheet?
Roberts: I think this will be a great test right out of the gates for the whole defense. The talent is certainly in place to handle the Golden Flash offense, but Aggies everywhere will get a good idea about how well-prepared the defense is after Saturday.
Helwick: Running back Isaiah Spiller and defensive end DeMarvin Leal generate plenty of awareness as some of the top players in the country at their respective positions. But who are some other names on the roster with star potential primed to break through in 2021?
Roberts: Haynes King at QB, Jalen Wydermyer at TE, and Leon O’Neal at safety.
Helwick: How does Saturday’s opener play out in CStat? What is the final score and who are your MVPs of the game?
Roberts: I’m thinking after a few hiccups, the Aggies cruise to a solid 37-13 win. King tosses a couple of long TDs and is the talk of the town.
Kent State opens its 2021 season at 8 p.m. ET in College Station, hoping to launch a third consecutive winning campaign under Sean Lewis. The game from the 103,000-seat Kyle Field is viewable on ESPNU.