When it comes to scheduling, Kent State has made an interesting decision, one that is hard to criticize but easy to sympathize.
The Golden Flashes have a recent trend of scheduling three non-conference Power Five road games that usually provide lopsided results, a bit of ridicule, but plenty of dough.
This year, Kent State’s four non-conference games are at Washington and Oklahoma, which have been played, home on Saturday against FCS Long Island University, and then at defending national champion Georgia on Sept. 24.
A way to help the athletic budget for many G5 schools is to schedule away games at P5s that will offer a guaranteed payout to come to its stadium and get the tar beaten out of them. All for the sake of filling their stadium and their pocketbooks.
According to the Athletic, Kent State will receive $5.2 million for the three away games at Washington, Oklahoma, and Georgia this year. While that may be tip money for the Alabamas and Georgias of the world, it means everything to a Mid-American Conference school such as Kent State.
To be honest, the recent trend of scheduling the heavyweights hasn’t hurt Kent State (other than in the loss column).
Last year the Golden Flashes lost their three P5 away games to Texas A&M (41-10), Iowa (30-7), and Maryland (37-16). Kent State was able to still win the MAC East before losing to West champ Northern Illinois, 41-23 in the MAC championship.
In 2020 Kent State only played four games during the COVID season, all against MAC teams.
The 2019 season provided road losses at Arizona State, Auburn, and Wisconsin and the Golden Flashes finished 6-6 in the regular season (5-3 in the MAC) and were bowl eligible for the first time since 2012. Kent State then beat Utah State 51-41 in a wild Frisco Bowl game to finish 7-6.
One could suggest that these lopsided non-league matchups prepare Kent State for the MAC schedule. Let’s face it, we’re guessing that Kent State won’t face a better team on its schedule this year than Georgia.
Even this year, while the first two games were kind of lopsided, an opening 45-20 defeat at Washington wasn’t the end of the world.
This past week a 30-3 loss to Oklahoma wasn’t great for those who love Kent State offensive football, but again, there have been bigger blowouts in these P5 vs. G5 payment games.
Yet sometimes the heavyweights show some compassion. This past week Georgia hosted FCS Samford and won 33-0. Figuring the talent discrepancy at both schools, nobody would have been surprised if the score was double that total.
The key stat was 92,746.
That was the attendance at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium.
Both teams received a good payday for the game, and everybody left seemingly happy.
For the sacrificial lamb team, these games have to be looked at with a pair of rose-colored glasses.
Kent State will no doubt take solace that it led 3-0 against Oklahoma late in the first half until the Sooners scored a TD with 18 seconds remaining in the second quarter. So being down 7-3 at half to a powerhouse team is certainly something to build on. Oklahoma may have lost some key players and coach Lincoln Riley to the transfer portal, but the Sooners are still considered a quality team. So by any measure, being down 7-3 at halftime was a positive showing for Kent State.
Of course, they also kept score in the second half and that one favored Oklahoma 23-0.
Still, there were positives, such as graduate safety Nico Bolden recording a career-high 12 tackles.
Josh Smith, who figures to have a fairly busy day when Kent State visits Georgia, averaged 43 yards on six punts against the Sooners.
Of course, losing those first two games puts a little more pressure on Kent State to win this week against an LIU team that lost to the MAC’s Toldeo 37-0 in its opener and to FCS giant Villanova, 38-21 this past week. LIU did pick off four Villanova passes, so the Golden Flashes can’t just think they can cruise through the Sharks’ secondary.
Still, facing LIU will be a chance to sharpen the offense. Kent State quarterbacks Collin Schlee and backup Devin Kargman have completed 50 percent of their passes with four interceptions and two touchdowns.
Again, receivers who may have had trouble getting open against Washington and Oklahoma could find some room against the LIU secondary. After the next two games against LIU and Georgia, Kent State will then play eight straight MAC games to end the regular season.
Sure the Flashes are taking some early season Ls. But if the last few years are any indication, they should be ready once the MAC season begins.