One of the many beautiful things about MACtion is that it brings more attention to games like Kent State vs. Akron. This is a matchup between a pair of 1-7 teams playing for the “Wagon Wheel” trophy, and while this game would’ve taken a backseat on Saturday, it is centerstage tonight.
Even with it being centerstage, I’m here to explain why the viewers of this game will be watching a low-scoring affair.
Kent State and Akron have a lot in common this season. For starters, neither of them has picked up a conference win, and their lone wins on the year have come against FCS opponents. For Kent State, they lost a large portion of their team to the transfer portal, and the results have been as expected. Following their 24-6 loss to Buffalo in week eight, the Golden Flashes now rank 133rd in points per game and 123rd in points allowed per game.
With an offensive success rating that ranks 133rd in the country, Kent State has not scored more than 17 points against an FBS opponent this season. Michael Alaimo has been under center for most of the year, but he was benched for Tommy Ulatowski in their most recent loss. It’s unclear which signal caller will get the start tonight, but with the team ranked 118th in EPA for pass plays, it’s best not to expect much from the Kent State passing game.
Despite having a rush play percentage of 55.97%, the Golden Flashes running game has not been much more successful. Averaging 3.2 yards per carry and 92 rush yards per game, the team has been searching for the explosiveness they lost when Marquez Cooper transferred. It won’t be easy to find it tonight, either, since Akron’s lone strength as a team is their defense.
Akron might be ranked 96th in points allowed per game, but their defensive success rate is 41st in the country. The Zips are inside the top 50 for success rate on both running and pass plays, but that has not mattered much since they lost their starting quarterback, DJ Irons, to injury. Between that injury and overall struggles, Akron is currently 127th in offensive EPA.
The point total for this game is currently set at 38.5, and I’ll be taking the under for my pick. Scoring is not something these teams have done a lot of this season, and the fact that Akron has a competent defense likely means Kent State’s inability to find the endzone will continue tonight.
As I mentioned earlier, Kent State is a very run-heavy offense, but not only have they had no results with that play style, but tonight they’ll play an Akron defense that is 38th in defensive success rate on rush plays. The Golden Flashes have not shown any ability to sustain scoring drives this season, with a third down conversion percentage that ranks 129th. With their inconsistent quarterback play likely to continue tonight, I don’t see Kent State being able to contribute much to the total.
Akron has only found offensive success on the ground this season with Lorenzo Lingard. The running back has the Zips ranked 61st in success rate on rush plays, but even if he has a big night against a bad Kent State defense, it still won’t be enough to affect the total. Zips quarterback Jeff Undercuffler Jr. has a 2:6 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season, so since Akron only has one offensive strength, I don’t see them being able to run up the score tonight.
Under 38.5 (-110)