Akron (1-8) at Kent State (7-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 3, 2 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Dix Stadium (20,500) -- Kent, Ohio. Television: SportsTime Ohio. Home Record: Akron 1-4, Kent State 3-0. Away Record: Akron 0-3, Kent State 4-1. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, Kent State 0-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-5, Kent State 4-0. Series Record: Akron leads, 30-22-2.
GAME NOTES: The Kent State Golden Flashes continue their quest towards their first Mid-American Conference title since 1972 when they host the Akron Zips at Dix Stadium.
The Zips were mathematically eliminated from the race for the MAC's top spot weeks ago and enter on a six-game losing slide. Coach Terry Bowden has made a positive impact in his inaugural season at the helm of the program despite its unattractive 1-8 overall record. The Zips dominated Morgan State, 66-6, in their lone win of the season and came up just short in overtime losses to FIU and Ohio University. Akron was shut down and suffered a 35-14 setback at Central Michigan its last time out.
Kent State became the fourth MAC team this season to defeat a Big East school as it went on the road to take down No. 18 Rutgers, 35-23. The victory was the sixth in a row for the Golden Flashes, who look to be heading to a bowl for the first time since 1972. Coach Darrell Hazell began his career at KSU last season with a 1-6 start. KSU has won 11 of its last 13 games since Hazell's slow start. The Golden Flashes are the only team left in the East Division without a MAC loss, but they still have to face Bowling Green and Ohio University, which both have been defeated only once in league games.
The Zips had one of the least productive offenses in the FBS last season with mere averages of 277.8 yards and 14.2 points per contest. Bowden's fast paced strategy has led to 436.1 yards and 28.0 points per game. The Zips rank first in the MAC and 13th in the FBS with their 316 passing yard per game average after gaining 352 yards through the air in last week's loss to Central Michigan.
This will be the 55th meeting between these programs. Akron holds a 30-22-2 lead in the all-tie series, but is just 8-13 in Kent. The Golden Flashes have come out on top the last two times these schools met, including a 35-3 victory in 2011 at InfoCision Stadium.
Senior transfer Dalton Williams had just one year of eligibility remaining when he arrived this past off season from Stephen F. Austin. Bowden is getting the most out of his quarterback, who is averaging over 47 attempts per game and has a 22-to-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Williams paced the team by going 31-of-51 passing, for 329 yards and two TDs with two INTs last week.
Williams's favorite target is Marquelo Suel, who has tallied 600 receiving yards and four touchdowns through nine games. Zach D'Orazio, Keith Sconiers, L.T. Smith, and Dee Frieson also play vital roles in Akron's spread attack. Junior wideout Jerrod Dillard is the most reliable option in the red zone and leads the team with six touchdown receptions.
While Akron clearly emphasizes passing in its offense, Jawon Chisholm is a capable tailback. The sophomore has picked up 688 yards on the ground this season after finishing just 39 yards shy of 1,000 last year as a rookie. A shoulder injury kept Chisholm out last week and his return for Kent State is questionable. In his absence, Conor Hundley gained 92 yards on 17 carries to pace the rushing attack against CMU.
The Zips are not an intimidating team defensively. Bowling Green is the only one of their eight FBS opponents to be held under 30 points. Akron ranks 108th out of 120 FBS programs in total defense with an allowed average of 472.2 yards per game.
Kurt Mangum is the leading tackler with 80 stops, 35 of which are solo. J.D. Griggs is a force up front with 5.5 sacks, which is tied for seventh most in the MAC.
Hazell's squad continued to thrive as it faced elite competition last week. Kent State has averaged 38.6 points and 406.8 yards of total offense over the span of its last five games. The Golden Flashes have the ability to torch teams through the air with Spencer Keith and pound away on the ground with Trayion Durham and Dri Archer.
Durham (780) and Archer (766) have used their contrasting running styles to shred opposing defenses. Durham refused to quit last week as he compiled 131 yards on 22 carries against Rutgers' sixth ranked rush defense. Archer's electrifying speed is evident when he returns kicks (13 returns, 547 yards, three TDs), but has translated well into the backfield also, as he gains a team-best 8.9 yards per carry. Archer is also a weapon in the passing game with 22 receptions which he has turned into a team-high 314 yards and three scores.
Keith has not been a prolific passer this season but has been serviceable, completing 56.7 percent of his pass attempts for 1,163 yards with only three interceptions to eight touchdown passes. The senior quarterback has thrown at least one TD pass in each of the past five games.
KSU has been improving defensively from week to week. After forcing six total turnovers against Western Michigan to help the team overcome a 24-17 deficit, the Golden Flashes recorded seven takeaways in their upset at Rutgers. Six of the Scarlet Knights' turnovers were Gary Nova interceptions. Nova entered the game with only three INTs in RU's first eight contests.
Luke Batton is the anchor of the defense with a team-best 84 total stops. Luke Wollet is second on the squad with 61 tackles and also has made a team-leading three interceptions.
The Golden Flashes have put themselves in great position with just three games left to play. KSU has three difficult games on the horizon, making this one a must win. Bowden needs to develop the Zips to fit his strategy more before they can compete with the league's top tier programs.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kent State 38, Akron 20
10/31 10:44:42 ET