Nov. 7 is the game I circle on my schedule. It's a rivalry game with great atmosphere. Plus, you never have an idea of how it will transpire.
This year's matchup will carry additional significance because it will be the Flashes' first appearance at InfoCision Stadium.
2008 recap: After seven games, it appeared that coach Doug Martin would finally receive his pink slip. The Flashes had only one win -- over a Division I-AA team. Martin's team finished strong, winning three of its last five games, including a season-finale shocker over the eventual MAC Champion Buffalo Bulls. The team finished at 4-8. Thanks to the explosive backfield of Julian Edelman and Eugene Jarvis, Kent State led the MAC in rushing by a landslide. The kicking game was awful, and it directly led to Akron's 30-27 double-overtime victory at Dix Stadium. The defense was so-so, but free safety Brian Lainhart led the league with six interceptions.
What they lost: The departed Edelman was a fantastic player. He was a gutsy rusher who could move the ball down the field without much help. Kent also lost Edelman's top receiver, Shawn Bayes. Martin will miss linebacker Derek Burrell, who was second in the MAC in tackles.
2009 outlook: Two things are certain: Kent State has one of the conference's best running backs in Jarvis, who will play his final year for the Flashes. Second, the team has a very sturdy defensive line. Running a 4-3 scheme, KSU has three linemen on Phil Steele's All-MAC teams. Now we move to the uncertainty: Kent will conduct its first quarterback competition in three years. Giorgio Morgan and Anthony Magazu will compete for the job, but it probably will belong to the strong-armed Morgan. In the spring, the offensive line struggled to protect the quarterback. That could be another challenge. The Flashes also must solve their kicking problems. Marching Nate Reed out to the huddle simply didn't work in 2008. Junior Will Kandray will get a shot this year.
How the Flashes will test the Zips: Talk about a trap game! Knowing how Martin operates, he will (and should) get his players incredibly fired up to steer Akron's inaugural season into a ditch. The Flashes' defense will take advantage of any and every Akron mistake.
How the Zips will test the Flashes: Unless KSU's quarterback is very efficient and a few receivers emerge, the Flashes will be very one-dimensional. Akron's revamped defensive line will likely excel at stopping that dimension.The Flashes will be a good run-stopping team, but Akron's strength is passing. The teams' talent levels are similar, but Akron's strengths are matched against Kent's weaknesses.
Way-too-early prediction: The common sense answer is that Akron will pass effectively, and Kent State will struggle as Jarvis attempts to be a one-man show. This is a rivalry game, so I won't be surprised to see the Flashes win -- even if they enter InfoCision Stadium without a win. Regardless... Kent State 13, Akron 31