I have anticipated this game for two years. No exaggeration.
The last time the Wagon Wheel game was played in Akron, the teams met at the Rubber Bowl. Ever since then, I have wondered how cool it will be for the teams to meet on the University of Akron's campus at a brand new stadium.
Well, it won't be quite as cool as I originally hoped because of the Zips' 1-7 record. The team does, however, have a chance to keep its rivals out of MAC East contention. And that appears to be the team's mantra this week: Spoil Kent State's hopes for the division title.
Holding their jobs for six years, J.D. Brookhart and Doug Martin are the longest tenured coaches in the MAC. Brookhart's record is slightly better, but the teams have always seemed to peak at different times.
As a Zips fan, I don't think I will ever forget the 2006 matchup. In that year, Akron was the hot-shot favorite to win the MAC and it had just knocked off N.C. State. Kent State dusted them up at Dix Stadium, 37-15.
Now the roles are reversed. Akron is the hapless bunch riding a six-game stink wave. Kent State has as much momentum as the program has seen under Martin. The Flashes sit at 4-1 in the MAC and control their own destiny for a trip to the MAC Championship.
Despite the discrepancy in records and momentum, you will find that these teams are quite similar.
The most obvious similarity is that both teams will rely on a teenage quarterback. Spencer Keith and Patrick Nicely are true freshmen -- highly touted -- but still learning. This will likely be the first of four duels between them.
Both teams start young running backs -- freshman DeVoe Torrence and sophomore Jacquise Terry. Both teams have sturdy defenses that, at times, have been let down by an offense that struggled to carry its weight.
But Kent State has gotten better results. The main difference between Akron's 0-4 MAC record and Kent State's 4-1 record is that the Flashes average about 60 more yards of offense per game. Another huge discrepancy is sacks per game. Kent State leads the MAC with 3.33; Akron is last with 0.75. The leader of Kent's pass rush is lineman Monte Simmons.