FACTS & STATS: Site: InfoCision Stadium (30,000) -- Akron, Ohio. Television: ESPN3, TWC SportsChannel. Home Record: KSU 1-3, Akron 1-3. Away Record: KSU 1-4, Akron 1-4. Neutral Record: KSU 0-0, Akron 0-0. Conference Record: KSU 1-4, Akron 1-4. Series Record: Akron leads, 30-23-2.
GAME NOTES: The Kent State Golden Flashes and Akron Zips are both hungry for a victory as the two Mid-American Conference rivals collide at InfoCision Stadium in the battle for coveted wooden Wagon Wheel.
Although the Zips lead the all-time series 30-23-2, the Golden Flashes own a 22-18-1 record since the Wagon Wheel has been at stake starting in 1946. KSU has won the last three encounters including their 35-24 victory over the Zips last season at Dix Stadium.
Due to graduations and injuries, first-year head coach Paul Haynes has not been able to replicate the Golden Flashes' success from a season ago when they won 11 games and the MAC East Division. Kent State fell to 2-7 on the season last week as it was routed, 41-21, by Buffalo at home. The setback was the fourth loss in a row for Haynes's unit, which has not been victorious since its 32-14 decision at Western Michigan on Sept. 28.
Terry Bowden's Zips failed to string together wins as they were handed a 42-24 loss by Ball State last week. Akron, which had won only once through the first seven games of the campaign, with the triumph being a narrow 35-33 decision over FCS foe James Madison at home in early September, finally defeated an FBS opponent and a MAC rival in week eight when it downed Miami-Ohio on the road by a touchdown.
Kent State been inconsistent on the offensive side of the ball this season due to inexperience at the quarterback position and on the offensive line. It is ranked eighth in the MAC in total offense (349.2 ypg) and ninth in scoring offense (19.3 ppg).
The Golden Flashes have a pair of all-conference caliber players on the offensive side of the ball in Trayion Durham and Dri Archer. Durham has been a workhorse throughout the campaign en route to 558 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries. Archer (7.5 ypc) sat for the majority of the first four games of the season due to injury, but has scored seven touchdowns with six plays of 30 yards and four plays of over 60 yards over the past five games. He is also one of the most explosive special teams players in the nation with four career kick returns for TDs.
Freshman signal caller Colin Reardon returned after missing the Golden Flashes' game at South Alabama with an ankle injury last week to amass 260 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-32 efficiency against Buffalo. The rookie passer was also picked off twice by the Bulls. Reardon has connected on just under 60 percent of his pass attempts for 1,459 yards, with 11 TDs and six INTs. Wideout Chris Humphrey has been the top receiving threat, with 34 catches, for 512 yards and three scores. Archer and Casey Pierce have reeled in four touchdown passes apiece.
Kent State's defense has let it down this season as it has allowed its opposition to net just over 120 total yards and 12.7 points more per game than the Golden Flashes' offense. The squad ranks third to last among MAC schools with an allowance of 470.4 ypg. The struggles have come despite the strong leadership of Luke Wollet (68 tackles, two INTs). Jordan Italiano is a close second on the team's tackling leaderboard with 63 stops.
Although the Zips lost by 18 points last week, they set a new season-high with 226 rushing yards on 44 carries with 166 yards coming courtesy of Jawon Chisholm's 26 attempts. The junior tailback has been a big factor in Akron's offense since his arrival on campus. He has surpassed the century mark on 11 occasions in his career. On the season, Chisholm has compiled a team-high 609 yards and seven TDs on 134 carries. He has also been a factor in the aerial attack with 176 yards receiving.
Kyle Pohl's sporadic play continued last week versus Ball State. He finished 17-of-35 passing for 211 yards and a touchdown, but was also picked off twice and sacked three times. The Zips lost by a significant margin despite outgaining BSU, 437-434, in total yards of offense. Pohl averages just over 200 passing yards per outing and has thrown 10 touchdowns and the same number of interceptions through nine games.
Zach D'Orazio and L.T. Smith have racked up 428 and 356 receiving yards, respectively, while serving as Pohl's primary targets. The Zips will need one of their skill position players to break out soon to improve on their average of 20.1 points per game, which ranks 107th nationally and seventh in the conference.
Akron is allowing 32.7 ppg, which gives it the fourth highest scoring defense mark in the MAC. However, it is ranked fifth in the league in total defense (417.0 ypg). Dylan Evans will look to build on his strong performance last week versus Ball State. The sophomore linebacker anchored Akron's defense with 13 tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Justin March is another impact player on the defensive side of the ball for the Zips, with 57 stops and three interceptions.
The Golden Flashes have had a difficult schedule to this point having faced all three of the remaining undefeated teams in the MAC along with Bowling Green and a pair of schools from BCS conferences. The Zips have not had an easy road either and they held their own against Michigan and NIU. Akron can be a dangerous team when it comes to play, but it has been anything but reliable in the early stages of the Bowden era.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Kent State 31, Akron 21
Saturday, November 2, 3:30 p.m. (et)