One team will finally get their first conference win of the season Tuesday night as the Bowling Green Falcons host the Kent State Golden Flashes. The game will kick off at 8:00 EST on Tuesday, October 30, at Doyt Perry Stadium in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Oddsmakers have made Kent State a 1-point favorite on the road. Be sure to check out a full list of this week’s college football odds.
Both teams enter this game 1-7 on the season and 0-4 in MAC play. Kent State has struggled to find wins under first-year head coach Sean Lewis, who spent two years as an assistant at Bowling Green in 2014 and 2015. In fairness, the Golden Flashes played three non-conference games against teams from power conferences. Also, two of their losses inside the MAC have come by a single point. Kent State has both been challenged by a tough schedule and come close to winning a couple of games, which points to progress over the course of the season.
Bowling Green has an identical 1-7 record after also losing three non-conference games against power conference opponents. The difference is that the Falcons have lost three of their four conference games by double digits. Bowling Green also fired head coach Mike Jinks earlier this month, replacing him with interim coach Carl Pelini. The Falcons lost by 35 points in Pelini’s first game at the helm, so things clearly aren’t moving in the right direction for Bowling Green just a few years after they won the MAC championship in 2015.
Despite both teams having no chance at reaching a bowl game, they should be equally motivated to knock off their in-state rival. Bowling Green and Kent State play annually for the Anniversary Award. The Falcons have dominated this rivalry historically and have also won five in a row against the Golden Flashes. Kent State hasn’t beaten Bowling Green since 2012, although this year’s contest is set up to be a lot more competitive than the five games since then that have all been decided by at least 10 points.
In a game that’s essentially a PK, I feel more comfortable leaning toward Kent State. With a first-year head coach, it makes sense for the Golden Flashes to improve as the season goes along, something we’ve already started to see. On the other hand, Bowling Green hasn’t been invigorated by a midseason coaching change. Even in a rivalry game, it’s fair to worry about how motivated the Falcons will be in this game, which is what is pushing me toward Kent State.
Obviously, both teams have serious flaws, but one area where they differ is their ability to run the ball. While the Golden Flashes are by no means a juggernaut on the ground, they have a functional running attack behind Justin Rankin, who’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Woody Barrett is also a big part of the Kent State rushing attack. Fortunately, the Golden Flashes aren’t always reliant on their quarterback doing most of the rushing. That’s the sign of an offense that should at least be capable of moving the ball against a lackluster defense.
Fortunately for the Golden Flashes, the Bowling Green defense is as lackluster as they get. The Falcons are giving up nearly 48 points per game, which is next to last in the country. Playing the likes of Oregon and Georgia Tech early in the year certainly didn’t help that average. However, against MAC opponents, they are still giving up 45 points per game. Even in their only win of the season against FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky, Bowling Green allowed 35 points, which is the lowest point total they’ve allowed all season.
Assuming that trend continues, the Falcons will have to score more than 35 points to beat Kent State. I’m not sure that’s a realistic goal for a team averaging just 27 points against MAC teams. To be fair, quarterback Jarret Doege is in the midst of a good year, throwing 10 touchdowns to just two interceptions in conference play.
However, Doege is all the Falcons have going for them on offense. Bowling Green is gaining just 3.2 yards per rush on the ground and is barely averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game. That’s not enough balance on offense to feel confident in them scoring 30-plus points.
Meanwhile, the Kent State defense deserves a little bit of credit for their improved play recently. They’ve allowed 31 points or less in three consecutive games, all against MAC teams that are .500 or better in conference play. It may not sound like much, but it definitely signals progress from earlier in the season.
Of course, neither of these teams has learned how to win this season, which is why this game is a bit of a toss-up. However, Kent State has come far closer to winning a game or two after the past month. They are also a little more balanced and should be capable of taking advantage of Bowling Green’s flaws. In what amounts to a PK, I’ll take my chances with the Golden Flashes.