2022 Non-Conference Opponent Primer: Kent State Golden Flashes – Hustle Belt | Hot Mobile Press

The Kent State Golden Flashes may have the most brutal non-conference schedule of any team in FBS.

A tough schedule is nothing new to Sean Lewis and the Flashes. Lewis has never played a home game against a non-FCS opponent in his coaching career at Kent State.

Kent State has a new habit of planning out the toughest opponents that are willing to take them on. In Lewis’ five seasons at Kent State, each season had three Power Five opponents and one home game against an FCS opponent.

Kent State has played road games against Texas A&M, Iowa, Auburn, Wisconsin, Penn State, Ole Miss and more for the past three seasons, with the exception of 2020, when no non-conference games were played. Kent State traded an easier route to a bowl game for game checks from P5 opponents.

The 2022 slate has road games against the Washington Huskies, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Georgia Bulldogs.

Washington and Oklahoma are under new management and Washington is changing with its roster and program, but Oklahoma is looking to compete for a Big XII championship this year. The Georgia Bulldogs are the defending champions and a fully functioning Death Star.

The number one priority for the Flashes in the first four weeks is to come out healthy. After that, a win is the minimum, but a second would be nice icing on the cake as it would mean a big upset for one of the three planned Power 5 teams.

Saturday, Sept. 3: Kent State at the Washington Huskies

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The Golden Flashes open the season with the Washington Huskies in Seattle. The two programs had never played each other prior to this season.

The Huskies fired head coach Jimmy Lake after an incident involving a player on the touchline that broke the camel’s back. Not long after, Kalen DeBoer was hired by Fresno State and Washington is moving forward.

The Huskies are their third coach in four seasons, which is difficult for roster continuity. Despite this, they give back much of their offensive performance and bring back some players who missed due to injuries.

Former Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is in line for the first week to take on the Flashes. He’s got talented wide receivers to throw at in Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan, and the core of the offensive line returns as of 2021.

Penix had a great 2020 season in Indiana. The highlight of the season was the two-point stretch conversion against Penn State, but 2021 was very volatile as he came back from a cruciate ligament tear. The 2020 version of Penix would be a game changer for the Huskies.

The Flashes must take advantage of a huskie secondary that sent two players into the NFL. Dante Cephas is the top target on the return, catching 82 passes for 1,240 yards and nine touchdowns. Running back Marquez Cooper is back on offense for the Flashes and he was as productive as Cephas from the backfield, rushing for 1,205 yards.

Dustin Crum is a major departure for the Kent State offense, but Collin Schlee will start for the Kent State offense, and he’s got a lot of hype in 2022. The high-tempo offense is here to stay and the hype surrounding Schlee suggests so that there might not be a big drop between the two quarterbacks.

This game is probably the Flashes’ best shot at earning their second win with all of the uncertainty and volatility in the Washington program. Washington will have a better roster and a road trip to play in Seattle is never easy.

Wilder things have happened.

Saturday, Sept. 10: Kent State at Oklahoma Sooners

NCAA Football: Alamo Bowl-Oregon in Oklahoma

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The Oklahoma Sooners have more questions than usual for the perennial Big XII contender in the 2022 season. How deep is the receiver room behind Marvin Mims? Is Dillon Gabriel the Answer at Quarterback? Is the offensive line improved enough to know if Gabriel is your man?

Can Brent Venables achieve results at the same level as Lincoln Riley?

The Sooners’ offense replaces two quarterbacks from last season, their top two rushers and four of their top five pass catchers. Two wide receivers were added via the transfer portal to support their brand new aerial attack behind home run hitter Mims.

Their defense is 15th in the return of production from an up and down defensive unit from a year ago. Venables was a defensive coordinator at Clemson for ten seasons and was one of, if not the, highest-paid assistant in college football. His immediate challenge will be to implement his system with new coaches and new players.

Kent State is Oklahoma’s second opponent, playing in Norman a week after UTEP. The biggest improvements teams make usually happen between week one and two, and this is improved on the Oklahoma side with as much revenue as the program has seen in the offseason.

The Sooners are a tough matchup for any team, but especially Kent State. The Kent State defense will need to make major improvements throughout 2021 to meet their goals for the season. The Flashes’ defenses broke down too often against MAC opponents. Even factoring in Oklahoma’s offensive turnover in players and plans, the Sooners likely don’t include major improvements.

Even if the offense clicks immediately behind Collin Schlee, they’re unlikely to match the number of points they need to score an experienced Sooner defense to last. A win for Kent State can be defined as good health, a few offensive drives that end in points, and no mental errors on defense.

Saturday, September 17: Long Island University Sharks in the state of Kent

NCAA Football: LIU in West Virginia

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Kent State finally gets a home game in Week 3 when they host the Long Island University Sharks. The Sharks are entering their fourth season at the FCS level and it’s been a tough transition.

In 2018, the D-II LIU Post Pioneers went 10-0 in the regular season and were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. The next season, they combined sports programs with LIU-Brooklyn, which was already at the Division I level. The show chose a new mascot and made the jump to FCS.

The Sharks went 0-10 in their inaugural season. The best way to get better at a new level is to keep competing and learning, but they were denied that opportunity in the 2020 season. They picked up their first FCS wins of the truncated 2020 season with a 2-2 record and went 2-8 in 2021, a feat that featured their longtime coach Bryan Collins, who has been with the team since their D-II days LIU was He resigned at the end of the year.

Former EMU head coach Ron Cooper is the current head coach, returning to head coaching after five seasons in other capacities. Cooper has work to do. In the FCS SP+ rankings, the Sharks are ranked 123rd out of 128 teams, with a 122nd defensive rank and 82nd in offense.

Kent State is a front runner in the MAC East and will want to show that here. LIU were expected to bring their roster up to FCS standards in their fourth year and under a new head coach. These teams are at different points in their growth cycles and it should be the first look at what’s coming out of Kent State in the MAC game.

Saturday, September 24: Kent State at the Georgia Bulldogs

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship – Georgia vs. Alabama

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Georgia is the icing on the cake of non-conference sundaes for the Flashes.

What is there to say? They are the defending national team champions, the only roster that rivals them is Alabama, and a two-loss season would be a huge disappointment to them.

“The Mailman” Stetson Bennett is returning for his senior season, and all three of his top targets from a year ago are back as well. Brock Bowers is Bennett’s favorite target playing from the tight end position, with 56 connections in 2021 for 882 yards and 13 touchdowns. The offensive line has three starters back for 2022 and will open up running lanes for fresh faces on the running back.

Zamir White and James Cook were both draft picks, and the three running backs behind them combined for 170 rushes and 851 yards. That’s an easy 5.0 yards per carry average. They’re good in the running back room.

Three starters on the defensive side of the ball remain from the nation’s best defense, but there won’t be a huge drop from last season. Georgia recruited five five-star players in the 2022 class, and four of the players are defensive players. The final five-star recruit is listed as an athlete and shares a number with a quarterback. Someone on the Georgia touchline will make sure they never step onto the field at the same time or that he plays defense. The Bulldogs will charge the defense with incredible talent.

These two teams met before in 1998, in which Georgia won 56-3. Kent State’s 2022 version is much better than the 1998 version, but the 2022 game could still end with a similar result.

Any positive result for Kent State, whether it’s a close game, a tight game too long, or an unlikely win, will inevitably be viewed by Georgia as a failure and not an indication of Kent State’s quality.

However, once the final horn of that game sounds, the Flashes will turn their attention to the Ohio Bobcats and the rest of the MAC schedule. The bills are getting paid, now it’s time to win some games.

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