For being members of the MAC together, Central Michigan and Kent State are relatively unfamiliar with each other when it comes to football, meeting only twice over the past ten seasons, splitting the match-ups 1-1. Neither CMU's head coach John Bonamego, nor Kent State's Paul Haynes were a head coach of any program anywhere at the time of the most recent game between the two schools in 2011, where the Golden Flashes eeked out a 24-21 victory over the eventual 3-9 Chippewas.
Kent State (3-7, 2-4 MAC East) has found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard this half of the season, losing four of its last five contests by nearly 27 points per game. The offensive side of the football has been unstable, leading to the exposure of the Flashes' vulnerable defense.
The instability for Kent State begins at the quarterback position, where junior Colin Reardon entered the season as the returning starter, ready for a breakout junior year for his Golden Flashes. However, Reardon did little to prove his worthiness of the spot, as his stat line is riddled with inefficient numbers. The most glaring statistic of all? A lowly 46.1% completion percentage.
Kent State's game against Toledo was Reardon's last dance as the full-time starting quarterback for the Flashes, as freshman George Bollas took over midway through the contest. Bollas has yet to throw for over 150 yards in a game, but his completion percentage is already at a respectable 59% on the year. With this mid-season quarterback change, it seems as though Paul Haynes is looking to the future of his team, and hopes that Bollas will prove the Kent faithful that he is the guy. However, he is in for a rough day when Central Michigan rolls into Dix Stadium, as the Chippewas boast one of the top defensive secondaries in the MAC.
Kent State's defense, which ranked as one of the best in the country coming into the conference season, has been flatly exposed in the last five games, giving up scores of 27 (Ohio), 38 (Toledo), and 48 (Bowling Green) in recent games. Kent State has shown potential to win close games against limited offenses, as their two victories against Miami and Massachusetts show. In those two games, the Golden Flashes got pressure and caused mistakes, giving up 14 and 10 points in those contests, while a close game vs. Buffalo (18-17) showed grit. Nate Terhune and Jon Cunningham have proven to be explosive contributors this season and should be players to watch for against a limited Chippewa offensive line as the game progresses.
Central Michigan (5-5, 4-2 MAC West) is coming off a game against the Toledo Rockets that went right down to the wire. The Chips have won close games, and lost close games all season, and in Coach Bonamego's first season, a bowl game will do for this year.
The Chippewas have found their shining star in junior quarterback Cooper Rush. Just 25 yards away from 3,000 passing yards on the season, Rush has lead the Chippewas to their 5-5 record. The ground game for the Chippewas, lead by Martez Walker, hasn't been the best this year, coming in the bottom third of all FBS teams in rushing offense. With Devon Spalding out for the season with a broken collarbone, and Jahray Hayes limited by a hand injury, Central Michigan has been relying on the passing attack.
The Chippewas defense has stood tall and strong all season long, as they are one of the top defenses in the MAC. The Chips will look to take advantage of the situation in Kent State's offensive struggles and force turnovers to give the ball back to Rush and company. Joe Ostman is unlikely to play, but Louis Palmer and Kerby Latta have stepped up to help fill the gap that Ostman left. Kavon Frazier (88 tackles) has been a defensive force for the Chippewas at the safety position, while Josh Cox and Amari Coleman have showed consistency despite limited experience as starters.
The Chippewas and Golden Flashes will play on Wednesday night at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio at 8 p.m. Eastern time. The game will be on ESPNU, ESPN3, and on the WatchESPN app. The latter two need a valid cable subscription to work.