Kent State (1-6) at Miami-Ohio (1-7) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Yager Stadium (24,286) -- Oxford, Ohio. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Kent State 1-3, Miami-Ohio 1-2. Away Record: Kent State 0-3, Miami-Ohio 0-5. Neutral Record: Kent State 0-0, Miami-Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: Kent State 0-3, Miami-Ohio 1-3. Series Record: Miami-Ohio leads, 46-15.
GAME NOTES: The Kent State Golden Flashes finally got in the win column last weekend with a non-conference victory over Army. Now the Golden Flashes will look to make it two in a row as they travel to face the Miami-Ohio RedHawks in a Mid-American Conference bout at Yager Stadium.
The Golden Flashes had dropped their first six contests of the 2014 season up until last weekend's 39-17 destruction of Army at home. Now Kent State will seek its first in-conference victory as they prepare to take on another one- win program in the RedHawks.
Miami-Ohio was sent back into the losing column with a 51-41 defeat at the hands of MAC rival Northern Illinois last Saturday. The RedHawks, who ended the nation's longest losing streak at 21 games just three weeks ago, have now lost back-to-back games, but have owned the series with Kent State in the past.
Miami has not only been good against the Golden Flashes in the programs' histories, but the RedHawks have instead been dominant. Miami leads the all- time series with Kent State, 46-15, in an in-state rivalry that began during the 1942 season.
Kent State had it all working it seemed against Army over the weekend. The Golden Flashes played an all-around strong game offensively, and racked up 467 total offensive yards thanks to a strong 360 from quarterback Colin Reardon. The sophomore Ohio native has been extremely inconsistent all season long, and has frequently struggled with turnovers. But he showed what he is capable of last weekend against the Black Knights.
Reardon completed 27 pass attempts for 360 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, and added a rushing score and 42 yards on six carries. Offense has absolutely been the key issue in Kent State's losing ways this season, as the team is averaging 15.7 ppg and a mere 301.9 total ypg (ranked 118th in the FBS this season). Reardon's fortunes are hopefully turning, though. The sophomore has passed for 1,587 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions, and has a completion percentage of 56.6.
The offense would be undoubtedly improved if star running back Trayion Durham could be on the field, but the senior hasn't played a down this season due to an injury. Following the graduation and subsequent NFL drafting of Dri Archer, the Golden Flashes have struggled to find anyone who would sufficiently carry the football. Nick Holley leads the team with 257 yards on 77 carries (3.3- yard average) in an offense managing just 73.7 rushing ypg.
When the offense isn't performing and staying on the field, then it's hard for the defense to get anything done with little time to rest. Opponents are averaging 32.1 ppg this season in games against the Golden Flashes, and have had a breeze of a time running the football for 224.4 rushing ypg. It certainly doesn't help that Kent State's defense is allowing a 44.9 third-down conversion percentage.
Safety Nate Holley ranks third in the nation with a 12.9 tackles-per-game average, and has forced two fumbles through seven contests this season. Aside from Holley, the only other player that has showed any sort of promise for Kent State has been Nate Terhune, who has three tackles for loss and a sack. But as a unit, Kent State has only recorded four sacks and just five interceptions all season. Going against a constantly improving quarterback in Andrew Hendrix doesn't appear too promising for the Golden Flashes.
Speaking of Hendrix, the Notre Dame transfer was solid once again against Northern Illinois, though it wasn't enough to help his team to victory over the defending MAC champions. Hendrix completed 23-of-42 passing for 346 yards and two touchdowns, while also leading the team with 72 rushing yards and three scores on the ground. The RedHawks offense should be upset after putting up 41 points and still being handed the loss.
Hendrix has steadily improved this season, and looks much more comfortable in the offense now that he has had time to adjust. He has thrown for 2,477 yards and 19 touchdowns against just seven interceptions in eight games. Throw in four rushing touchdowns, and Hendrix is the focal point for any opposing defense. But the opponent has to limit Hendrix on the ground and try to take away receiving threats David Frazier (four TDs) and Sam Martin (five TDs).
Aside from Hendrix, the Miami run game is relatively non-existent. Dawan Scott (listed as a receiver) took nine handoffs last weekend for 62 yards and a touchdown, and has shown more promise than Spencer McInnis (61 carries, 232 yards). The Miami offense has increased its scoring total to 25 ppg, and if the defense can catch up development-wise, the RedHawks could win a few more games this season.
But the defense has struggled mightily to contain any opponent through eight games. As a unit, Miami is surrendering 35 ppg and 455.9 offensive ypg to the opposition. In six of the team's eight games, opponents have scored at least 31 points, and that includes Miami's only win over UMass (42-41).
Four players on the Miami defense have registered at least 60 tackles, led by Jarnell Jones's 66 total stops. Linebacker Kent Kern is another one of them, and also sports a team-best eight tackles for loss. Defensive lineman Bryson Albright has registered five sacks and three quarterback hurries - both team highs - and will look to keep Reardon contained this weekend.
The RedHawks have shown much more this season in terms of potential than their winless one a year ago, but it's still not a complete effort by any means. The offense has made huge strides forward, and shouldn't have any trouble whatsoever handling Kent State, which is the only winless team in MAC play this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Miami-Ohio 28, Kent State 17Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 25, 2:30 p.m. (ET)