College football fans, the wait is over. Summer is coming to an end, students are returning to their respective schools, and across the Midwest (and Massachusetts), MAC teams are suiting up for the first weekend of the season.
On this inaugural Saturday of the 2014 season, the matchup of Ohio and Kent State presents a
sexy moderately attractive viewing option of two teams who were strong in 2012 but underwhelming in 2013.
Frank Solich and Paul Haynes, head coaches for Ohio and KSU, respectively, will both talk about how they expect to compete for a bowl berth. Neither program will be winning the MAC, and how realistic any bowl aspirations are will be put to the test on Saturday night.
As I mentioned previously, the Bobcats are now moving into the AD part of the Tettleton timeline. QB Tyler Tettleton was the greatest player to put on an Ohio uniform, and is the closest thing to a Touchdown Jesus in this program's history. But Tettleton was crucified in last year's Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in which he threw 3 interceptions. Given the NCAA's eligibility rules, Tettleton shall not rise again.
Still, the Bobcats have some exciting pieces on both sides of the ball. Daz'mond Patterson should be more explosive out of the backfield than Beau Blankenship was last year, and Tarell Basham could be one of the best defensive linemen in the country. On paper, this is a team that should compete for a bowl berth, although predictions on paper are rendered meaningless upon kickoff.
They'll be facing a team that's difficult to get a read on in 2014. The Golden Flashes, despite the return of stars like Dri Archer and Roosevelt Nix in 2013, finished last year with a record of 4-8. It was a disappointing result for a team that went 11-1 in 2012 under Darrell Hazell, his last year at Kent State before moving on to Purdue. Now current coach Paul Haynes must find a way to improve upon 2013 despite losing several of his best players, and recent tragedy.
Last year, long after they were out of contention, Kent State finished out their underwhelming season with a couple of nice wins against Miami and Ohio, giving fans hope for 2014 in what I like to call the "Cleveland Browns effect". Will the team build off their strong November 2013 play? Or will they, like their northeast Ohio professional football team, only follow hope with disappointment?
Sophomore QB Colin Reardon will look to be a little more consistent for the Golden Flashes than he was in 2013, where he showed flashes of brilliance mixed in with plenty of bad moments too. It didn't help that Reardon faced a lot of second or third and long plays thanks to the struggles of Trayion Durham. Durham was Archer's sidekick in 2012, but failed to step up in 2013 when Archer was injured. On defense the line, which was once a strength, is now a question mark.
Both teams have wrinkles that need to be ironed out, but the Golden Flashes just have too much to figure out. It also doesn't help that they'll likely be playing without Durham. I predict Ohio wins, 24-10.
The game starts on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio and will be broadcasted on ESPN3.