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2018 MAC Football Game Preview: Akron Zips at Kent State Golden Flashes

One of these teams has to get their first MAC win this week...right?

NCAA Football: Akron at Northwestern Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

The Kent State Golden Flashes will host the Akron Zips this weekend in a battle of struggling MAC squads. Both teams enter the game without a conference win and are on long losing streaks - after winning their first two games, Akron has now dropped three straight while Kent has lost their last five contests.

This will be the 61st meeting between the two schools, with Akron holding a 34-24-2 lead and having won three straight against the Golden Flashes.


Game Info

Date/Time: Saturday, Oct. 20th, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Dix Stadium — Kent, Ohio
Watch: ESPN+
Odds: Akron is favored by 4.5 and has a 66.9% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
Weather: Mid-50s with rain likely


The Zips...

Quick Facts:
Record: 2-3 (0-2 MAC)
Points per game: 23.2
Points allowed: 26.4
Yards per game: 308.4 (111.4 rushing, 197.0 passing)
Yards allowed: 381.0 (152.6 rushing, 228.4 passing)

Since shocking Northwester in mid-September, the Zips have really struggled in their last three games. They haven’t scored more than 17 points since and have tallied just 36 total points in those three blowout losses.

Kato Nelson, the Zip’s QB, has connected on 52% of his throws for 980 yards and 7-6 TD/INT ratio but he’s also second on the team in rushing yardage with an additional 202 yards.

The only Akron player with more rushing yards is Van Edwards Jr., who has 244 yards and two scores on 56 carries. No other Zip has more than 65 rushing yards.

When Nelson throws the ball he’ll primarily be looking for Andre Williams, who leads the team with 19 catches, 289 yards, and three scores. But there are also three other receivers that can beat defenses - Jonah Morris (12 grabs, 214 yards, TD), Kwadarrius Smith (12 grabs, 193 yards, TD), and Nate Steward (14 grabs, 146 yards, TD).

On defense, look for linebackers John Lako and Josh Ward to make some plays. Lako leads the team with 42 tackles and Ward has lived in the backfield, netting 4.5 TFL, 2 sacks, and two forced fumbles. If he gets his hands on a player, it’s most likely going to be a loss on the play.


The Golden Flashes...

Quick Facts:
Record: 1-6 (0-3 MAC)
Points per game: 23.0
Points allowed: 36.6
Yards per game: 397.4 (171.4 rushing, 226.0 passing)
Yards allowed: 508.1 (205.0 rushing, 303.1 passing)

It’s hard to win games when opponents are putting up more than five TDs and over 500 yards per game. But a turnover-prone offense doesn’t help things either. The Flashes have 15 turnovers so far this season and haven’t gotten solid quarterback play.

Woody Barrett, the Kent QB, has hit on 61.33% of his passes for 1560 yards but they haven’t been able to put it away, as he’s only thrown seven touchdowns to eight interceptions. However, his four rushing scores leads the team and his 297 yards is good enough for second place.

On the ground only Justin Rankin has done more, as he has 511 yards, three scores, and is averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Jo-El Shaw has also done some work on the ground, adding 166 yards and three TDs.

Four Kent State receivers have 200+ yards: Mike Carrigan (29 catches, 344 yards, 3 TD), Isaiah McKoy (32 catches, 342 yards, 2 TD), Antwan Dixon (28 catches, 265 yards, TD), and Trey Harrell (22 cathces, 207 yards)...so they have the depth at wide out to make this difficult.

But again, a lack of defense has really hurt them. However, linebacker Matt Bahr and cornerback Keith Sherald Jr. have played well. Bahr has 65 total tackles, 4.5 TFL, a sack, two QB Hurries, and a forced fumble while Sherald has 54 tackles, 5 pass break ups, 3.5 TFL, a pair of sacks, and two forced fumbles and QB Hurries.


Prediction

Akron should be able to notch their first conference win this season as Kato Nelson should be too much for the Golden Flash defense.

Look for Akron to jump out to an early lead and never look back.

Akron - 38
Kent State - 21