Soon after Kent State concluded its 2022 season with a 5-7 record, Sean Lewis stepped down as head coach. About a week later, the Kenni Burns era began.
But in the wake of that transition, many are skeptical of how well the Golden Flashes will play in the MAC.
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Kent State Football’s MAC Title Odds
Kent State’s odds to win the MAC are +15000, via BetMGM.
Kent State Football’s Over/Under Win Total
Kent State’s win total Over/Under is 2.5, with Under 2.5 at -105 and Over 2.5 at -115.
Kent State Football’s Schedule
8/31 at UCF
9/9 at Arkansas
9/16 vs Central Connecticut State
9/23 at Fresno State
9/30 vs Miami (Ohio)
10/7 at Ohio
10/14 at Eastern Michigan
10/21 vs Buffalo
11/1 at Akron
11/8 vs Bowling Green
11/18 at Ball State
11/25 vs Northern Illinois
Bold indicates MAC contests.
Kent State’s Offense Aiming To Rebuild
The 2022 Golden Flashes were fun to watch on offense, ranking second in the MAC in total offense (417.9 yards per game) and fifth in scoring offense (28.4 points per game).
But many of Kent State’s top playmakers from last year are no longer on the roster.
Marquez Cooper, the best running back in the MAC, is now at Ball State. Collin Schlee, Kent State’s leading passer who made the All-MAC third team last year, went to UCLA.
This is also the case for Kent State’s pass catchers. Devontez Walker, who led the Golden Flashes in receiving yards, touchdowns, and catches, transferred to North Carolina. Dante Cephas, another All-MAC first-teamer in 2022, left for Penn State.
All six of Kent State’s offensive all-conference players from a year ago are gone. That includes offensive linemen Marcellus Marshall and Sam Allan.
But Kent State did make some additions to address these losses.
Former Colorado State running back Jaylen Thomas joins the team after playing in 33 games for the Rams. Ali Fisher, who transferred from Buffalo, was added to Kent State’s wide receiver room.
And at quarterback, Jaren Lewis transferred from Kansas State. He played four games for the Wildcats, completing 12 of 23 passes for 154 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions during that time.
Kent State hopes that some of these additions and its up-and-coming younger players can keep its offense playing at a high level.
Kent State’s Defense Looking For Fresh Start
Kent State’s defense was a weakness in 2022. The Golden Flashes ranked last in the MAC in yards allowed per game (433.2) and ninth in points allowed per game (29).
The Golden Flashes also lose their three leading tacklers from 2022. Second-team All-MAC defensive back Nico Bolden was the leader among them with 103 tackles.
Zayin West, a defensive end who paced the team with 11.5 tackles for loss, and Saivon Taylor-Davis, another defensive lineman who tallied a team-high 7.5 sacks last year, are also gone.
But there are some skillful players coming back. D.J. Miller Jr., a graduate student defensive back, is the team’s leading returning tackler after he tallied 63 tackles a year ago. Senior linebacker Khali Saunders chipped in 55 tackles and five tackles for loss. Graduate student linebacker Khalib Johns also recorded four sacks and seven tackles for loss while adding 21 tackles.
Kent State also addressed every level of its defense in the transfer portal.
At defensive line, Mattheus Carroll from Virginia Tech, Marcus Winfield from Delaware State, and Javier Duran from Tarleton State are new to the team. Linebackers Nicholas Giacolone, who used to play for New Mexico State, and Devin Nicholson, who transferred from Missouri, have been added to Kent State’s roster.
The Golden Flashes’ secondary will also see some new faces. That includes Dallas Craddieth from Iowa and Naim Muhammad from West Virginia.
Each of these new players made impacts on their former teams to varying levels. But time will tell if they will be even more productive at Kent State and if they can mesh to become an above-average defensive unit.
Kent State Football Season Prediction
Kent State won’t win the MAC, and winning even more than one game will be difficult.
The Golden Flashes lost a lot of talent from a year ago. While they did make some additions in the transfer portal, they likely won’t be a contender in the conference.
They begin the year with non-conference games against UCF, Arkansas, Central Connecticut State, and Fresno State. That third matchup could be the only game the Golden Flashes will be widely expected to win.
From there, Kent State’s MAC slate isn’t much more favorable. The Golden Flashes have to play five of the top seven teams with the best odds to win the conference.
Considering everything that’s changed this offseason, this will be considered a rebuilding year for Kenni Burns and his staff as they try to establish their preferred culture and identity. The important part won’t necessarily be the Golden Flashes’ record this year, but rather how they perform in 2024 and beyond. Signs of potential this season will be crucial, and victories should be considered an added bonus.