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Kent State Golden Flashes vs. Akron Zips Football Preview: The Wagon Wheel

Akron needs win number six to have any shot at going to a bowl, and Kent State is playing to take back the Wagon Wheel.

Andrew Hammond

Legend has it that John R. Buchtel, the main benefactor of Buchtel College (now the University of Akron), was looking for a place to build a college around 1870. One day he was looking around the area where Kent State University currently sits. He was in  a wagon that was being pulled by horses when all of a sudden one of his wheels became stuck in the mud. The horses tried to pull it out, but ended up tearing the wagon apart and running off. Because of this incident, Buchtel decided to build his college where the University of Akron (founded 1870) currently sits.

The Wagon Wheel did not become the trophy for the winner of the game between Akron and Kent State until 1946, which was 23 years after the first game between the two schools. The Wheel itself became a trophy when the Dean of Men at Kent State, Raymond Manchester donated the Wheel, claiming that it was found while constructing a pipeline in 1902 around where Kent State (founded 1910) currently sits.

The Kent State Golden Flashes (1-9, 0-6) have had a disappointing season up to this point. Last week, the Flashes were supposed to play at Buffalo, but the game was cancelled due to severe weather. Even with the nine losses, Kent State has only been blown out once, and that was at the hands of Ohio State. When analyzing the Flashes, nothing pops out at you as being a strength. Kent State comes into the game at 65th in the nation in passing yards per game. Colin Reardon and Nathan Strock have rotated as quarterback for the Flashes in the past few games. Kent State is dead last in the country in rushing yards per game with 78.8. The rushing attack is lead by sophomore Nick Holley, who has just 421 yards on the season. The Flashes are also dead last in scoring offense at a measly 15.3 points per game. These struggles on offense could be brutally exploited by the strong Akron defense that is led by senior Justin March. Defensively, the flashes give up nearly 30 points per game, which isn't a huge deal as the Akron offense hasn't looked very good for about a month, despite the good game against UMass.

The Akron Zips (5-6, 3-4) have been a bit of a disappointment in the second half of the season. The offense has struggled to get anything going, and even with a great defense, a team needs to score if they want to win games. Even without flashy numbers from quarterback Kyle Pohl, and a group of receivers that drops a lot of passes, the Akron offense racks up over 250 yards through the air per game. Akron put up 30 on UMass last week, which was the most points that they had score since October 4. Akron has not shown that they are a great rushing team this year. They only put up 117 yards rushing, which is good for 110th in the country. Senior running back Jawon Chisholm has had a few good games this year. He has 436 yards on just 95 carries. He has had to fight through an ankle injury, so junior Conor Hundley has had to pick up some of the slack, and he has done a great job. Hundley averages 5.3 yards per carry. Akron's pride is their defense. At 44th in total defense, the Zips are led by linebackers Justin March and Jatavis Brown. This defense is good enough to shut out a team like Kent State, but it's a rivalry, so anything is possible.

Akron leads the all-time series with Kent State at 31-23-2. However, Kent State leads the Wagon Wheel series at 22-20-1. Friday marks the 56th matchup between the two teams.