2012 Record: 11-3 (8-0 in MAC)
Head Coach: Paul Haynes (first year as head coach)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 GoDaddy.com Bowl: lost to Arkansas State 17-13
Stadium: Dix Stadium in Kent, OH (capacity = 20,500)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 15th out of 55 mid-major teams
Revenge: 10/5 vs NIU
Tough Out of Conference Foes: 9/14 at LSU, 9/21 at Penn State
Stat to Fear: converted just 35.03% on third down (11th in MAC)
Stats to Cheer: +1.43 turnover margin (1st in MAC, 4th in Nation), had 68 plays of 20 or more yards in 2012 (2nd in MAC)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 53rd out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense 5, Special Teams 1
Key Defensive Returnees: S Luke Wollet (119 tackles, 4 INT), DT Roosevelt Nix (56 tackles, 6 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Dri Archer (1429 yds rush, 16 TD, 8.99 ypc, 39 rec, ), RB Trayion Durham (1316 yds rush, 14 TD), WR Josh Boyle (28 rec, 3 TD), WR Chris Humphrey (26 rec)
CFBZ: Kent State had a fantastic year in 2012 but fell a bit short in the last two games of the year against NIU and Arkansas State. What areas do they need to improve if they want to take that next step and win a MAC Championship?
Allen Moff: Northern Illinois was better on both sides of the football, so to get to that level Kent State has to improve across the board - talent, strength, you name it. There's an overall talent gap that has to be closed.
CFBZ: Most college football fans know who Dri Archer is. Who are the other stars of this Kent State team?
Allen Moff: Roosevelt Nix is a big-play defensive tackle who should shine under defensive-minded head coach Paul Haynes, Luke Wollet is one of the of the MAC's top safeties, and 245-pound tailback Trayion Durham also rushed for over 1,000 yards last year.
CFBZ: Looking at the schedule, what games do Kent State fans have circled on the calendar?
Allen Moff: The Flashes will host Northern Illinois in a MAC title game rematch on Oct. 5. And you always circle your rival, at Akron on Nov. 2.
CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?
Allen Moff: A title should not be required to make the 2013 season a success - we're talking about a program that had only managed one winning season since 1987 before last year. I believe if the team survives an extremely difficult schedule in the first half of the season and closes the season by playing games with title implications, that would make the season a success. I also think a bowl bid is required for the season to be considered a success - after tasting the postseason for the first time in 40 years last year, fans don't want to miss the postseason again.
In 2012, the Golden Flashes greatly exceeded our expectations and because of that season their coach Darrell Hazell was hired by Purdue. Kent State hired Arkansas DC Paul Haynes as his replacement. In his one year at Arkansas, Haynes certainly did not light the world on fire (the Hogs were 12th in the SEC in points allowed and total defense). But in his defense, Arkansas was a mess in 2012. A better measure of Haynes would be to look at Ohio State and their defensive performance from 2005 to 2011. He was DB coach at Ohio State and was then promoted in 2011 to co-DC.
You can't talk about Kent State without talking about Dri Archer. If you haven't heard the name then run over to youtube and learn about him now! In 2012 Archer ran for 16 TDs, caught 4, had 3 kickoff returns for TDs (in only 17 attempts) and even threw one. He's an all around talent and teaming him with Trayion Durham in the backfield caused problems for teams last year and will do so again this season.
Spencer Keith will no longer be under center and Paul Haynes has been slow to name a starter to replace him. Going into this season only senior David Fisher gained experience last year as he threw 23 passes and completed 14. Haynes will look for somebody to be a "game manager" and get the ball to Archer and Durham. The offensive line loses it's three most experienced players and only two players (C Phil Huff and RG Pat McShane) have started double digit games in their career. Inexperience at QB and on the line is a big question mark for the Golden Flashes heading into the fall.
On defense, Kent State loses their best two linebackers and two starters from the secondary. The good news is that Roosevelt Nix returns and he will be a handful. Another positive, is that despite losing a lot of talent in the back seven, Kent State has talent and players that should be able to step up and perform and keep the defense as one of the better ones in the MAC.
The MAC will be very interesting this season and that early game with Bowling Green will be a lynchpin for Kent State's season. The Falcons return the most starters in college football and with the youth that Kent State will have on the field (especially on the OL against a stout Falcons defense) that could spell trouble. If Kent State slips up that could put them at 1-3 after four games with NIU looming. On the other hand, if the Golden Flashes can beat the Falcons, like they did in 2012, it will set up the season nicely. Another game to watch is the Oct 12th game against Ball State as the Golden Flashes will be coming off of the NIU game and could be either looking at a letdown game or trying to recover from a physical game against Jordan Lynch. I like the talent this Kent State team has but they will find a tougher road to the MAC Championship Game this season. When I look at the schedule I see a window of seven to nine wins so let's settle on eight as our prediction. Will that get them to the MAC Championship? Depends on what type of seasons Bowling Green and Ohio have.
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