Kent State is off to an excellent 6-1 start that has Darrell Hazell’s team tied with Ohio atop the Mid American Conference (MAC) and travels to Piscataway, New Jersey to take on #15 Rutgers who is 7-0, for the first time since 2004, in the first year under head coach Kyle Flood.
If you thought this would be a marquee game in the final weekend of October back when this season kicked off around Labor Day, then you are a college football savant and I would like you to help me pick out some lottery numbers for this weekend.
A win over Rutgers would give Kent State their longest win streak since 1940, and a signature win this season as they potentially could sneak into the top 25 with a win over a team from the Big East.
Meanwhile, Rutgers is in a battle with Louisville who is also unbeaten for conference supremacy and the right to represent the conference in a BCS bowl berth this January.
Teams from the MAC have been tricky for Big East teams with three MAC teams owning wins over conference opponents including last week’s Toledo win over previously unbeaten and #21 Cincinnati, so Rutgers won’t take the Golden Flashes lightly.
On paper the matchup that is likely to determine this winner is Kent State’s run game vs. the stout rush defense of Rutgers, that is tied with Florida State for second in the nation. Only twice this season has Rutgers allowed a rushing touchdown and has a streak of 11 games without allowing a rusher to eclipse the 100-yard mark.
Kent State has a two-headed monster in their backfield with Dri Archer and Trayion Durham combining for 15 touchdowns and more than 1,300 between the two. Archer is the homerun hitter and fully capable of taking it to the house every time he touches the ball, and is averaging more than ten yards per carry.
Rutgers is going to slow down these two backs and one way to do that is to keep their offense off the field and controlling the clock with their star tailback, Jawan Jamison is a recipe for success that Flood likely will deploy Saturday afternoon.
Jamison leads the conference in carries and yards and the quarterback that hands him the ball, Gary Nova, also leads the conference in touchdown passes, so the backfield for Rutgers is prepared to get into a shootout if the Rutgers run defense is unable to slow down the Kent State two-headed beast.
The two schools have not played since the 2004 season when Rutgers started off 9-0, but this will be quite the test for each school as they look to validate their records to this point. If Kent State can run the ball early and get some confidence they can move the ball against this defense, then it can be a game that is decided in the final possession.
My prediction is Kent State continues the MAC’s dominance over the Big East and pulls off an upset with a field goal in the final minute and escape Piscataway with the 27-24 victory.
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Patrick is a diehard Chicago sports and an avid college football fan, and host of “The Wake-up Call,” a weekly sports show on Sportstownchicago.com airing live on Wednesday mornings from 8-10. View his show’s website here.