Kent State was picked in a poll of Mid-American Conference media members to finish last in the East Division.
The Golden Flashes (1-5, 0-2) go into their 2:30 p.m. game on Saturday at Miami tied with Bowling Green for last in the division.
The RedHawks (2-4, 2-1) are third, with two road wins over division rivals, but RedHawks coach Chuck Martin wouldn’t be a coach if he didn’t remind folks of the MAC’s vast upset potential.
“We have five MAC games left,” he said during his Monday media session. “There’s a chance we could win every one. There’s a chance that we could lose every one.”
Miami is coming off an impressive 41-17 win at defending division-champion Akron , but the RedHawks lost their only conference home game – a cliff-hanging 40-39 defeat at the hands of Western Michigan – and are 0-3 this season at Yager Stadium. Kent State, in its first season under coach Sean Lewis, led Illinois late in the third quarter before losing, 31-24, in the opener. Ohio, the preseason poll favorite to win the MAC championship, needed a touchdown in the last two minute to pull out a 27-26 win last Saturday at Kent State.
“This a crazy improved Kent State team,” Martin said. “They should’ve-could’ve-would’ve beat Ohio. They’re playing a tough schedule, but they’ve been playing good all year. It’s just that nobody’s noticed. They have a new coach who likes to spread the field.”
Sophomore quarterback Woody Barrett, a Florida native originally recruited by Auburn before he transferred to a junior college and then to Kent State, leads the Golden Flashes offense.
“He’s big and strong and really fast,” Martin said of the 6-foot-2, 236-pound Barrett. “He’s dynamic. He would’ve been the highest-touted recruit in our league out of high school. He can really hurt you.”
Kent State junior running back Justin Rankin leads the MAC with an average of 131.0 all-purpose yards per game, but the Golden Flashes will be meeting a Miami defense that allows an average of 123.5 rushing yards per game – the fewest in the MAC.
“They have a new staff, and their offense is new and improved,” senior linebacker Brad Koenig said. “They like to play fast – up tempo – and it will be a difficult challenge. We’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Meanwhile, Kent State is tied for last in the MAC with an average of 508.8 total offense yards allowed per game and 11th with an average of 318.8 passing yards allowed per game.
“Their defense definitely can run really well, but they’ve been a little bit susceptible against the pass,” Martin concedes.
Helmet fundraiser: The response by the public to Miami’s placing ribbons in nine different shades on helmets for Saturday’s game, representing nine different cancer awareness efforts, was so overwhelming that the program has made the helmets available as a charity fundraiser via an online auction at 32auctions.com.
Five helmets are available through the auction. Bids start at $250 and increase in $25 increments. The auction ends on Sunday at 5 p.m. A silent auction for one helmet will be held during Saturday’s game in the southwest corner of Yager Stadium.
Helmets are also available via “Buy Now” at a price of $2,000. The helmets are very limited.
Those that win the auction or purchase the helmets directly will have the option of what colored ribbon they receive on the helmets.
All proceeds go Swoop’s Stoop, a student-athlete organization that partners with Cincinnati Children’s Hospital to provide opportunities to children and families who are battling cancer.
The helmets also were scheduled to be part of ESPN’s weekly “Gear Up” segment on the network’s Saturday morning “SportsCenter.”
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