2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 4 - South Alabama at Kent St
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Sept. 24 at Kent State 33 … South Alabama
CFN Analysis: The offense is still a concern and the defense hasn't been nearly the aggressive force or the rock against the run it needs to be, but at least the team got a win. South Alabama moved the ball too easily through the air, but the biggest concern is the lack of passing game down the field with Spencer Keith only throwing for 94 yards on a 10-of-19 day, and the running game not doing too much to pick up the slack. The defense was fine, but not stellar. It did a good job of getting off the field, but it's going to have to get into the backfield far more to have a shot against Ohio.
South Alabama (2-1) at Kent State (0-3) Sep. 24, 3:30
Here's The Deal …This is the first meeting between the two schools, which is not surprising since South Alabama is still tyring to get its program off the ground from its inception in 2009. Even more quirky is the fact that this will only be the Jaguars second meeting against a NCAA FBS team, and their first ever game following a loss-falling to North Carolina State last week (yes, that's not a typo).
This is an FCS team looking to make a jump to the Sunbelt Conference in 2013 when they'll become a FBS team. Kent State has had football in its blood since 1920, but it is also trying to head in new direction. First year head coach Darrell Hazell has had a rough road thus far as the schedule makers have done him no favors with games at Alabama, and the game last week at Kansas State. Both games against BCS teams have not gone well for the Golden Flashes, and they'll now be looking to pick a fight with someone their own size-or smaller. Each team could use a victory as a springboard towards program progress.
Why South Alabama Might Win: For only being in existence for two plus years, South Alabama is actually not that bad. The big unknown is how it would stack up against a quality opponent, and though the Jaguars got beaten rather soundly by North Carolina State, it wasn't a complete blow out with the overall yardage being fairly close. USA has some pretty gifted athletes because it sits smack dab in the middle of SEC country where it can pick off some of the fruit that drops of of the big boy tree. It has done a solid job finding some diamonds in the rough to be competitive ahead of schedule.
Let's also remember that Kent State is in a bit of remodeling phase at the present moment. Yes it has played two tough road games against the likes of Alabama and Kansas State, but the offense barely registered a pulse in either game.
And it's not like they Golden Flashes have anything to hang their hat on.
Even against the one opponent that the they hung in there against (Louisiana) they only managed a meager 72 yards on the ground and a less than stellar 114 through the air. The worse stat of all: Kent State went the wrong way to the tune of -49 yards rushing against Alabama. South Alabama should be able to hang around with its athleticism and have a chance to sneak away at the end for a chant of USA! (and yes, their colors are red, white, and blue).
Why Kent State Might Win: Throw the stats out. We have all seen the movie before. Said new program is trying to get its feet wet against lower level competition and does quite well before time to turn the spotlight on. For South Alabama, that spotlight was last week against the Wolfpack of NC State, and the sequels will keep coming for this horror flick until it passes through adolescence. Yes Kent State has looked like a salmon swimming upstream on the offensive side of the ball, but almost every non-BCS program in America would have a statistical nightmare if the menu called for a game in Tuscaloosa, followed by a second helping in Manhattan, Kansas.
There is hope.
Though NC State couldn't get much done on the ground, it was able to have its way through the air when needed with four touchdown passes. If there is one element to the Golden Flashes game that has the most potential to do harm in this one, it's through the air. Hazell has installed a spread out passing attack, and the team has a veteran quarterback in Spencer Keith to go with a talented wide out in the person of Junior Tyshon Goode. This combination should be able to move the chains consistently enough to take advantage of the out-manned secondary of USA. Look for a decided advantage on the Kent State sidelines because of the level of competition and difference in athlete for where these programs are. Enough to where the Golden Flashes could pick up their first win of the season.
What To Watch Out For: South Alabama is going to try and take the air out of the ball by establishing the run and keep the game close for the entire duration. It'll do it by going to the home grown product, 5'10" red-shirt freshman Kendall Houston. He is a small back, but has shown decent vision and allusiveness through the first three games. He'll be looking to add to his 5.7 yard average per carry as he gets plenty of touches mixed in with a "show-me" passing game.
For Kent State, the man that will be tasked with slowing down the running game, and putting some pressure on the QB is a beast by the name of Roosevelt Nix. The reigning MAC defensive player of the year isn't going to clog up a lot of traffic at 6'0", 255lbs., but he is quicksilver off the line, and when not greeting the QB, has a knack for shedding blocks to get to the ball carrier. Look for the Jaguars to try and key on him by calling running plays to the other side and double teaming the pass protection. They'll still have its hands full, and if he goes off for a big day, we'll probably be talking about a Kent State victory. Ultimately, whoever can win the battle on the defensive and offensive lines is going to have the upper hand in this one.
What Will Happen: On namesake and pedigree alone, you would think this would be a walk in the proverbial park for Kent State. Not so. Expect this game to be surprisingly close throughout. Kent State will find some success spreading out South Alabama and move the ball much more consistently than in its previous three games. KSU will even manage to put a respectable offensive performance together and score a few touchdowns. South Alabama will surprise Kent State with the level of talent that it has and come out with a balanced attack, leaning more on the ground game to control the clock. The Jaguars will win the time of possession battle, chew up more yards rushing than Kent State, but still walk away with their second ever loss (both to FBS schools in back to back weeks). In the end, the Golden Flashes will have more big plays in the passing game, and disrupt the ground game just enough with their DL play to pull this one out and tally their first victory of the year.
CFN Prediction: Kent State 24 … South Alabama 20
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