Former MAC foes will meet up Saturday night at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia when the Marshall Thundering Herd hosts the Kent State Golden Flashes. The Herd will be looking for its second win of the season against MAC competition with a Week 1 win over Miami (OH) under its belt already.
But Marshall comes into this contest following its first loss of the season which resulted in a 37-20 road defeat at North Carolina State of the ACC in a game that was much closer than the final score suggests.
The Herd’s offense produced 451 total yards against the Wolfpack defense, becoming just the third team over the past two seasons to account for at least 451 total yards against NC State (Louisville and Clemson).
Kent State is coming off its first win of the season in Week 2 at home against Howard where the Flashes prevailed 38-31 following a blowout loss to Clemson in Week 1 on the road.
Marshall and Kent State have met 36 times in their long history with each other and each team has won 18 times. However, the series has been very one-sided in favor of the Herd in recent memory with Marshall having won the last 11 meetings dating back to 1980.
This is the return game of a home-and-home series that began in 2015 at Kent State where Marshall defeated the Flashes 36-29 in double overtime. Despite both teams coming in with identical 1-1 records, they come in with different momentum.
The Herd fought an upper-echelon ACC team from start to finish in Week 2 while doing some great things. The Flashes, albeit in a winning effort, did not look impressive against an FCS team and only won by seven points at home.
The current spread sees Marshall as a 14-point favorite over Kent State and ESPN’s Football Power Index only gives the Flashes a 17.9 percent chance of getting the road win over the Herd.
A key matchup to look for in this game will be how Marshall’s run defense performs against Kent State’s run-first offense. The Flashes have run the ball 97 times in two games compared to only 21 pass attempts in their first two games.
The Herd’s defense has been pretty stout against the run so far this season, but a team that almost solely runs the ball will present a different challenge. If Kent State can establish the run consistently throughout the duration of the game, it can make things interesting.
But if the run game doesn’t get going and Marshall adjusts to it, it could be a long day for the Flashes. The Herd hasn’t lost to Kent State since 1978 and the Flashes haven’t won in Huntington since 1974, so history will be heavily against Kent State in this game.
But the most recent meeting between these teams in 2015 saw the would-be 10-3 Herd escape by the skin of its teeth against a team that finished the 2015 season 3-9 overall. Upsets happen all the time and Kent State’s unique offense will present Marshall’s defense with a different challenge.
Both teams will be playing for a lot because 2-1 looks much better than 1-2 and this game could be a major swing game for the rest of the season. Marshall and Kent State kicks off at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Huntington and will be televised by Stadium in local markets only as well as CUSA.tv.