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The big 2014 Kent State football preview: The MAC Mad Libs team of the year

Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Kent State's win total dropped from 11 to four in 2013, and now the Golden Flashes must replace a couple of truly unique, talented stars. Depth is decent, however, and if they withstand a brutal early schedule, they could approach bowl eligibility.

SB Nation 2014 College Football Countdown

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1. Looking back up the hill

Each spring, I spend about three weeks previewing MAC teams. Inevitably we end up discussing the MAC life cycle, in which a once-downtrodden conference program is lifted up by a strong coach, who breaks through with a big year or a conference title, then either leaves or falters, leaving the school to start over again. Miami (Ohio) calls itself the Cradle of Coaches, but that really goes for the conference as a whole.

Money and prestige are equal for most MAC schools, and winning means recruiting the right low-two-star recruits (the ones destined for stardom, even if nobody knows it at the time), getting slightly ahead of the game tactically, and crafting a team that makes the fewest mistakes. The margin for error is minimal, both in terms of the execution on the field and the hiring of the right up-and-coming coach.

And as I inevitably say at least a couple of times each spring, a team's reward for making the right hire and winning some games is getting to make another hire. This year's MAC Life Cycle fill-in-the-blank gets filled in by the good folks in Kent, Ohio:

In [2011], [Kent State] hired [Darrell Hazell], who broke through in a way that previous coach [Doug Martin] could not. The [Golden Flashes] showed promise in [Hazell's] first year, then erupted in his second, starting the season [10-1] and reaching the MAC title game before they [lost to NIU]. [Hazell] was hired away by [Purdue], and the [Flashes] were forced to start over again, especially when stars [Dri Archer and Roosevelt Nix] graduated as well.

Sometimes you get lucky and find a replacement who is just as good. NIU is atop the MAC heap at the moment because the Huskies not only found Jerry Kill, but also found Dave Doeren to replace Kill and Rod Carey to replace Doeren. Now they have to replace ace quarterback Jordan Lynch as well. Toledo seems to have done a strong job in replacing Tim Beckman with young Matt Campbell.

Others aren't as lucky. CMU replaced Brian Kelly with Butch Jones and kept winning with star quarterback Dan LeFevour behind center, but Lefevour and Jones left, and Dan Enos has gone 19-30 in four seasons. Poor Miami (Ohio) found Mike Haywood to resurrect a flagging program, but he left after a second-year MAC title, and the RedHawks have gone 8-28 since. Ball State reached 12-1 with Brady Hoke, lost him to San Diego State and went 6-18 with Stan Parrish, then replaced him with Pete Lembo and won 19 games in 2012-13.

It's a roller coaster. And after a thrilling 2012 campaign, the Golden Flashes are back at the bottom of the hill.

2. Unique talent out the door

There was a particularly cruel element to Kent State's 2013 tumble: the stars had actually stuck around for another year.

On February 3, 2009, Signing Day, Dri Archer committed and signed to Doug Martin's Kent State Golden Flashes; an all-purpose back from Venice, Fla., Archer was given the lowest two-star designation by Rivals.com and was a mostly under-the-radar signing for a class that did not exactly blow people out of the water. Almost 10 months later, on November 24, Roosevelt Nix, a 5'10, 237-pound defensive tackle from Reynoldsburg, Ohio, committed as well. He had 35 tackles for loss as a senior, sure, but he was a 237-pound defensive tackle. A mid-two-star recruit, he was one of the more highly ranked members of Martin's final recruiting class.

In the end, these two nondescript signees did as much as Hazell in turning the program around. Nix became a 250-pound force at DT, logging 63 career tackles for loss and leading the team in the category for four straight years. He had 20 as a true freshman, then just kept on making plays as the talent around him waxed and waned.

Archer, meanwhile, was the headliner. He racked up 477 yards and four scores and proved a threatening kick returner as a true freshman and played a bit role in 2010, Martin's last season. After a redshirt year in 2011, however, he erupted for 1,990 rushing and receiving yards and 20 touchdowns and returned three kickoffs for scores. He battled through injuries as a senior in 2013 but still managed 854 combined yards, 10 touchdowns, and a return score. In 2012-13, he averaged a patently absurd 8.6 yards per carry; defenses knew he was going to touch the ball, and they couldn't stop him. And then he went to the NFL Combine and ripped off a 4.26-second 40-yard dash.

Even with these breakthrough seniors, Kent State slumped to 4-8 and its worst F/+ ranking since 2005. Now Paul Haynes has to figure out what to do without them.

2013 Schedule & Results

Record: 4-8 | Adj. Record: 2-10 | Final F/+ Rk: 106
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L 5-gm Adj. Avg.
29-Aug Liberty N/A 17-10 W 14.8 - 32.6 L
7-Sep Bowling Green 47 22-41 L 32.7 - 36.3 L
14-Sep at LSU 17 13-45 L 24.4 - 47.4 L
21-Sep at Penn State 61 0-34 L 6.2 - 28.1 L
28-Sep at Western Michigan 117 32-14 W 29.3 - 33.5 L -14.1
5-Oct Northern Illinois 60 24-38 L 26.4 - 30.4 L -11.3
12-Oct at Ball State 57 24-27 L 26.8 - 26.2 W -10.5
19-Oct at South Alabama 68 21-38 L 34.0 - 35.5 L -6.2
26-Oct Buffalo 80 21-41 L 32.3 - 41.0 L -3.5
2-Nov at Akron 108 7-16 L 21.3 - 25.2 L -3.5
13-Nov Miami (Ohio) 123 24-6 W 26.2 - 32.8 L -4.0
19-Nov at Ohio 104 44-13 W 34.7 - 11.1 W 0.6
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk Spec. Tms. Rk
F/+ -7.0% 90 -13.2% 113 -0.5% 81
Points Per Game 20.8 105 26.9 68
Adj. Points Per Game 25.8 88 31.7 98

3. It got better

As poorly as the 2013 season went -- and to be sure, a drop from 11 wins to four qualifies as "poor," no matter what -- it bears mentioning that the worst came at the start of the year. Kent State was truly awful in September but improved dramatically on both sides of the ball in October, then shored up the defense a bit more in November. Tight road losses to Ball State and Akron ensured that the Golden Flashes would not be bowling, but their level of play late was above average, even if the below numbers are a bit falsely boosted by one phenomenal performance against Ohio.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 4 games): Opponent 36.1, KSU 19.5 (minus-16.6)
Adj. Points Per Game (next 4 games): Opponent 31.4, KSU 29.1 (minus-2.3)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 4 games): KSU 28.6, Opponent 27.5 (plus-1.1)

If the players responsible for November improvement return, that late improvement can be sustained. And while the two biggest stars (Archer and Nix) are gone, Haynes does return 13 starters overall. The star power has taken a hit, but the decent depth could end up paying off.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.11 81 IsoPPP+ 98.6 70
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 39.3% 91 Succ. Rt. + 86.2 108
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 28.9 52 Def. FP+ 101.4 41
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.7 108 Redzone S&P+ 87.8 104
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 20.7 ACTUAL 17 -3.7
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 89 101 109 107
RUSHING 48 96 110 86
PASSING 102 98 96 103
Standard Downs 111 113 84
Passing Downs 70 74 61
Q1 Rk 93 1st Down Rk 110
Q2 Rk 84 2nd Down Rk 69
Q3 Rk 107 3rd Down Rk 82
Q4 Rk 66

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Colin Reardon 6'1, 202 So. 2 stars (5.3) 186 317 1957 12 9 58.7% 10 3.1% 5.7
David Fisher 23 46 281 2 0 50.0% 4 8.0% 5.4
Brett Maxie 6'2, 211 Sr. NR








Nathan Strock 6'2, 185 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5)








4. A little passing-downs magic ...

When you hand your team over to a freshman quarterback, you knon you're probably going to get some pretty impressive variance even if he does well. Colin Reardon was certainly not immune from such variance, and Kent State's fate was to some degree dictated by his own performance.

Reardon in wins: 69-for-110 (63%), 730 yards (6.6 per pass), 5 TD, 1 INT
Reardon in losses: 117-for-207 (57%), 1,227 yards (5.9 per pass), 7 TD, 8 INT

Reardon's full-season numbers weren't too impressive, but he did thrive in a way that could mean good things in the future: he made plays on passing downs. He showed some decent scrambling ability, and he was often able to find receivers like Chris Humphrey (who averaged a decent 7.2 yards per target despite nearly two-thirds of his targets coming on passing downs) and tight end Casey Pierce to move the chains after falling behind schedule. Passing downs conversions are a sign of poise and good decision-making, and Reardon's play on such downs was encouraging.

5. ... and too many passing downs

Kent State's problem, however, was that Reardon was asked to pull passing-downs rabbits out of his hat too frequently. Kent State's was a run-first offense that couldn't run the ball very well; big plays were too few and far between to account for the complete lack of efficiency on the ground. Coming through on passing downs is great, but you can't expect even really good quarterbacks to succeed at any grand level if they're too frequently in second- or third-and-long.

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
Opp.
Rate
Trayion Durham RB 6'1, 248 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 182 766 6 4.2 4.5 28.6%
Colin Reardon QB 6'1, 202 So. 2 stars (5.3) 78 413 2 5.3 5.0 39.7%
Dri Archer RB 68 527 6 7.8 8.7 45.6%
Anthony Meray RB 5'8, 195 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 54 248 1 4.6 5.4 27.8%
David Fisher QB 15 128 0 8.5 5.8 66.7%
Ernest Calhoun WR 5'6, 150 So. NR 5 59 0 11.8 18.0 40.0%
Julian Durden RB 5'7, 170 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 5 43 0 8.6 41.9 20.0%

6. Thunder with no lightning

Humphrey and Pierce return in the receiving corps and are joined by an exciting batch of redshirt freshmen. Plus, while the line has to account for the loss of two two-year starters, it still returns five players with starting experience (45 career starts) and actually did a decent job of keeping defenders out of the backfield while running on standard downs and passing on passing downs. Reardon's supporting cast outside of the backfield should be decent.

But his biggest asset in the battle to avoid second-and-long is the guy next to him in the backfield, Trayion Durham. For two years, Durham was the thunder to Archer's lightning, and he played the role particularly well in 2012. But with Archer limited to 68 carries last season, Durham was unable to pick up the slack. He showed minimal explosiveness, and while a big back can do just fine without 80-yard runs, his Opportunity Rate (percentage of carries gaining at least five yards) was also far too low for him to be effective.

If the line can better create opportunities, it will be up to Durham to provide a little bit more lightning and a little bit more effective thunder.

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Chris Humphrey WR-Z 6'1, 194 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 85 51 613 60.0% 24.6% 36.8% 7.2 -27 7.3 69.4
Tyshon Goode WR-X 81 45 458 55.6% 23.5% 44.8% 5.7 -131 5.2 51.9
Dri Archer SLOT 46 25 327 54.3% 13.3% 53.5% 7.1 -4 5.3 37.0
Casey Pierce TE 6'4, 235 Sr. NR 43 33 364 76.7% 12.5% 44.1% 8.5 -3 8.8 41.2
Josh Boyle WR-Z 5'9, 173 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 41 19 210 46.3% 11.9% 51.4% 5.1 -65 5.3 23.8
Trayion Durham RB 6'1, 248 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 22 18 147 81.8% 6.4% 61.1% 6.7 -48 6.4 16.7
Ernest Calhoun SLOT 5'6, 150 So. NR 11 8 42 72.7% 3.2% 57.1% 3.8 -49 3.0 4.8
Anthony Meray RB 5'8, 195 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 6 5 27 83.3% 1.7% 75.0% 4.5 -27 2.9 3.1
Tim Erjavec TE 5 1 19 20.0% 1.4% 100.0% 3.8 -7 5.3 2.2
William Woods WR-X 5'9, 179 So. 2 stars (5.2) 3 3 27 100.0% 0.9% 100.0% 9.0 -3 5.0 3.1
Mike Levandowski TE 2 1 4 50.0% 0.6% 100.0% 2.0 -10 1.1 0.5
Evan Shimensky WR 5'10, 175 Jr. 2 stars (5.3)









Brice Fackler TE 6'3, 230 So. 2 stars (5.4)









James Brooks WR 5'9, 200 So. 3 stars (5.6)









Brock Macauley TE 6'7, 240 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)









Kris White WR 6'1, 210 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)









Chris Overton WR 5'9, 155 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)








Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 91.7 2.96 3.61 35.0% 66.7% 17.1% 153.6 5.2% 2.4%
Rank 99 62 33 105 71 37 14 79 5
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals Career Starts Honors/Notes
Phil Huff C 29
Pat McShane RG 23
Terrell Johnson LT 6'4, 302 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 17
Jason Bitsko RT 6'3, 280 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 13
Reno Reda LG 6'6, 275 So. 2 stars (5.3) 6
Wayne Scott LG 6'3, 345 So. 2 stars (5.3) 5
Anthony Pruitt RG 6'2, 315 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 4
Max Plunkett LT 0
Alex Nielsen C 6'4, 287 So. 2 stars (5.3) 0
Jim Katusha RT 6'5, 275 Jr. NR 0
Jake Witucki OL 6'5, 284 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0

Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 1.17 74 IsoPPP+ 95.2 93
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 46.5% 100 Succ. Rt. + 87.4 107
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 28.5 98 Off. FP+ 95.5 101
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 4.4 85 Redzone S&P+ 84.8 105
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 15.3 ACTUAL 13.0 -2.3
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 71 102 107 95
RUSHING 95 114 122 118
PASSING 27 81 48 51
Standard Downs 105 110 89
Passing Downs 81 85 100
Q1 Rk 104 1st Down Rk 98
Q2 Rk 99 2nd Down Rk 108
Q3 Rk 115 3rd Down Rk 104
Q4 Rk 80

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 86.2 3.54 2.76 47.0% 80.6% 15.4% 109.2 5.9% 5.1%
Rank 116 121 17 119 119 107 45 30 101
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Mark Fackler DE 12 33.5 5.2% 3.5 0.5 0 2 0 0
Roosevelt Nix DT 11 31.5 4.9% 13.0 3.5 0 5 2 0
Nate Vance LEO 6'1, 230 Sr. NR 12 29.5 4.6% 3.5 3.5 0 0 0 0
Zack Hitchens LEO 12 18.0 2.8% 4.0 2.0 0 0 1 0
Andrew Christopher DT 12 15.0 2.3% 1.0 1.0 0 0 0 0
Chris Fairchild NT 6'2, 312 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 14.5 2.3% 2.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Nate Terhune NT 6'4, 265 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 9 12.5 1.9% 7.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Terrence Waugh DE 6'1, 236 So. 2 stars (5.4) 9 11.5 1.8% 1.5 1.5 0 0 0 0
Clay Miller LEO 6'4, 258 Jr. NR 10 5.0 0.8% 0.5 0.5 0 0 0 0
Marcus Wright DT 6'4, 258 Sr. NR 9 4.0 0.6% 2.0 2.0 0 0 0 0
Elias Sayre NT 6'5, 250 Sr. 2 stars (5.3) 9 3.5 0.5% 0.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Tyson Reinke DT 6'2, 254 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Zack Singer DT 6'3, 290 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Kalil Morris DT 6'3, 280 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)







7. For better and for worse, the line starts over

For years, Kent State's defensive front somewhat took on Roosevelt Nix's identity -- small but fast, likely to get pushed around but likely to spend a decent amount of time in the backfield as well. This comes with obvious advantages and disadvantages, but whereas Kent's offense regressed a bit in 2013, the defensive performance flagged rather significantly following the loss of two starters on the line (edge rusher Jake Dooley and nose Dana Brown, Jr.) and two at linebacker (including leading tackler Luke Batton). Without stalwarts around him, Nix's production suffered a bit, and the line spent a lot more time getting pushed around than getting into the backfield.

The pass rush still ranked in the nation's top 50 last fall, but it fell from 11th in Adj. Sack Rate in 2012 to 45th. The ability to stand up to run blocking, meanwhile, disappeared. If Kent State could leverage you into passing downs, the Flashes were able to make some plays. But those opportunities were few and far between because the run defense was lacking, to put it kindly.

Everything starts over this fall. Four of the top five up front are gone, including Nix. In their place is a more regularly sized lineup (Chris Fairchild certainly lends some heft to the nose tackle position, at least) that is almost completely devoid of proven play-making ability. Nate Terhune had an all-or-nothing fall, making just 12.5 tackles but logging more than half of them behind the line. But the end position is an enormous question mark.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Matt Dellinger MLB 6'1, 220 Jr. 2 stars (5.3) 12 53.0 8.3% 2.5 1.5 0 1 0 0
DeVante' Strickland OLB 6'1, 231 Sr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 36.5 5.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Darius Redmond OLB 6'0, 202 So. 2 stars (5.4) 11 27.0 4.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Danny Gress MLB 12 19.5 3.0% 1.5 0.0 0 0 0 0
Jake Houts LB 6'1, 225 So. NR 10 2.5 0.4% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Kentrell Taylor LB 5'11, 244 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Ryan Seibert LB 6'4, 211 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jordan Italiano STAR 5'10, 207 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 12 59.5 9.3% 2 0 0 1 2 0
Luke Wollet SS 12 56.5 8.8% 2 0 2 5 0 0
Darius Polk CB 12 47.0 7.3% 1.5 0.5 1 7 0 0
Keenan Stalls FS 6'0, 185 Jr. 2 stars (5.2) 12 41.5 6.5% 1 0 1 1 0 0
Nate Holley FS 5'11, 188 So. 2 stars (5.2) 12 30.0 4.7% 1.5 0 0 1 0 0
Dylan Farrington CB 6'1, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.6) 11 29.5 4.6% 0 0 2 3 0 0
Malcom Pannell CB 12 22.0 3.4% 1 0 3 4 0 0
Elcee Refuge STAR 5'9, 232 So. 2 stars (5.2) 12 5.0 0.8% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Fabrice Pratt SS 11 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Kerrick Rhone CB 5'10, 180 So. 2 stars (5.3) 5 1.5 0.2% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Adam Maxie CB 6'1, 176 So. 3 stars (5.5)
Demetrius Monday CB 5'10, 189 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6)
Eric Church CB 5'9, 190 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4)
Eldin Anu DB 5'10, 165 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)
Jerrell Foster DB 6'0, 180 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)








Erik Simpson DB 6'0, 175 Fr. 2 stars (5.4)








8. Depth, in case that matters

Outside of the line, the depth situation looks a lot more encouraging. Four of the five linebackers who made a tackle last year return, as do three of the top four safeties in coordinator Brian George's adjustable 4-2-5 alignment. The back seven hosts many of Kent State's more highly-touted recent recruits, and there is both experience and potential in this group. But it won't matter unless the line gets its act together.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
Anthony Melchiori 5'11, 186 Jr. 35 44.5 3 14 14 80.0%
Andrew Horning 6'1, 205 Sr. 24 35.8 1 17 10 112.5%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Anthony Melchiori 5'11, 186 Jr. 39 62.1 13 0 33.3%
Brad Miller 5'10, 195 So. 14 50.4 0 0 0.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2014
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Anthony Melchiori 5'11, 186 Jr. 20-20 7-11 63.6% 2-4 50.0%
Brad Miller 5'10, 195 So. 9-9 1-2 50.0% 0-2 0.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2014
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Ernest Calhoun KR 5'6, 150 So. 29 17.7 0
Chris Humphrey KR 6'1, 194 Sr. 10 7.4 0
Ernest Calhoun PR 5'6, 150 So. 12 5.2 0
Josh Boyle PR 5'9, 173 Jr. 2 3.5 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 81
Field Goal Efficiency 117
Punt Return Efficiency 51
Kick Return Efficiency 18
Punt Efficiency 12
Kickoff Efficiency 116
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 100

9. Kaboom

Technically, Dri Archer was Kent State's best offensive player in 2013, even if he was limited by injury. But punter Anthony Melchiori might have done more favors to the offense with his punting -- his nearly 45-yard average, with frequent fair catches and downed punts deep in opposition territory, made up ground in the field position battle after a few too many three-and-outs -- than Archer did with his legs. He wasn't much of a place-kicker, but that could come. He returns, and as sad as it might be to say, he should get plenty more opportunities to ply his punting trade.

2014 Schedule & Projection Factors

2014 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
30-Aug Ohio 108
6-Sep South Alabama 92
13-Sep at Ohio State 10
27-Sep at Virginia 63
4-Oct at Northern Illinois 51
11-Oct Massachusetts 123
18-Oct Army 101
25-Oct at Miami (Ohio) 121
4-Nov Toledo 53
12-Nov at Bowling Green 60
19-Nov at Buffalo 107
25-Nov Akron 118
Five-Year F/+ Rk -12.3% (95)
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 110
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -4 / -5.4
TO Luck/Game +0.6
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (7, 6)

10. The climb begins again

On Tuesday, we previewed a Buffalo team that plays just two teams projected better than 100th in the country. Kent State, meanwhile, plays six such teams, five of which are projected 63rd or better. This is a brutal schedule by MAC standards, and it could severely limit the rebound of a team that really did show some growth late last year.

The first five games are key; the Golden Flashes could legitimately start 0-5 (1-4 is perhaps most likely), but if they maintain their confidence after consecutive road trips to Ohio State, Virginia, and Northern Illinois, they could find plenty of wins on the back end. Early wins over Ohio and South Alabama are vital to a bowl bid, but if they can just get back to four or five wins after losing quite a bit of star power, that will be a sign that Haynes might have some good years in him moving forward.

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