One of the nice turnaround stories in college football these past few years is the rise of Kent State football under Sean Lewis. After a rough “getting to know you” season in 2018 (2-10) and a pretty slow start to 2019 he rallied the flashes to two consecutive winning seasons.
Coming into 2021 the Flashes had a record of 7-1 in their last eight, including a bowl win.
So it’s no wonder that with Buffalo getting run over by the coaching carousel and Ohio losing their coach to retirement, Kent was a strong pick to win the MAC East.
So far though, the Flashes have not looked like as strong a pick as they did over the summer.
Don’t get me wrong, I still think of all the teams in the east their returning roster and stability give them an edge over the other teams. But the “gap” between them and the re-builders is not what it once was, and this is to say nothing of Miami.
Up until last week, Kent got hammered against good P5 squads and beat up on an FCS team. Then Bowling Green gave them a real run for their money. Suddenly they look a bit vulnerable.
The concern for Kent State is that the “Flash Fast” offense has not really come together this season. Up until last week, you can point at a brutal out-of-conference schedule, and to be fair Bowling Greens' defense is pretty darn good, but against MAC competition the Flashes offense struggled.
Quarterback Dustin Crum has been very much bottled up. He’s having his least productive season to date. In his last four games, he has three touchdown passes, and aside from their paycheck game against VMI has not had a 70% completion day this season.
But again, Crum has faced some really good defenses. And other than the opening game against #6 Texas A&M he’s not thrown a pick. He remains one of the most solid and dependable quarterbacks in the MAC. His ability to read a defense and find the key moment to run on a zone-read play and will present a big challenge to the UB defense.
Where his passing has struggled, a bit, this year his rushing has not. He’s rushing for about 40 yards a game.
The only real worry Kent’s offense has in conference play this year seems to be their offensive line has fallen off a bit. If they can manage to slow down UB’s front seven it could be a long game for Buffalo.
On the other side of the Ball, Kyle VanTrease is going to have to contend with a very solid secondary. Kent is among the best in the nation at generating Turnovers. Kent corners Elvis Hines and Montre Miller are fantastic cover men, each with three picks on the season. On top of that four other flashes have an interception on the year. That’s 10 interceptions in 5 games.
Buffalo’s probably not going to be able to pass their way to a victory this season. They will have to consistently take advantage of Kent State's run defense. The unit is not great at stopping the run, but they have been far better this year than last. It was their run defense that really was the key to their win over Bowling Green last week.
Buffalo’s last six quarters of offense have... Well... not been great. If Crum is on it will be a challenge for the defense to keep the Bulls in this game. Should the Bulls put together a series of “three and out drives” it could dig a hole that UB cannot climb out of.
If, however, the UB that put a scare into Coastal Carolina shows up the Bulls can get the win and make things very interesting in the MAC East.