Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#173 Kent State vs.
#174 Auburn
Saturday, September 14, 2019 at 7:00pm EDT
Written by David Hess

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#173 Kent State University
#174 Auburn University
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The Mid-American Conference meets the Southeastern Conference on Saturday evening as the Kent State Golden Flashes duke it out with the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama. This will be the first-ever meeting between these teams.

The Golden Flashes enter this game at 1-1 after dispatching of Kennesaw State at home by a score of 26-23 in OT, while the Tigers are at 2-0 after they beat Tulane by a score of 24-6.

Can The Golden Flashes Keep It Close?

The Kent State Golden Flashes have not tasted victory more than three times in each their last five years and they are off back-to-back 2-10 seasons. We may see more of the same thing from them this year, but we do note that they are in the 2nd year of Sean Lewis’ systems and have 15 starters back. The Golden Flashes started their season with a 30-7 loss at Arizona, covering the 24.5 point spread in the process. In their next game, they beat Kennesaw State by a score of 26-23 but needed OT to do so. Kennesaw State is an FCS team, so what will happen now that Kent is facing an SEC team? We shall see.

KSU has nine starters back from an offense that averaged just 23.9 ppg last year and the returns are not all that good as they have averaged just 116.5 ppg (114th in the nation) and 268.5 ypg (124th). Now they have to face an SEC defense, which is one of the best in the nation. Kent had just 337 yards of total offense against an FCS school, including just 192 yards through the air. Dustin Crum was efficient as he hit 17/23 passes for 192 yards with a TD and no INT’s but will have to be far better in this one. Crum is still in a battle with Woody Barrett for the starter’s role so we should see both in this game. It is interesting to note that Barrett was on the Auburn roster in his freshman year. He re-shirted that year. Whoever gets the start in this one will have a tough task against the best defensive line in the nation.

The Golden Flashes have six starters back on defense and it played pretty well in the early going. Last year, they allowed 36.7 pg and 467 ypg, but so far this year, they have given up just 26.5 ppg and 446 ypg. The yards are an issue, but Auburn has not shown the ability to get their offense on track in the early going so far and that could allow the Golden Flashes to hang around for a bit. Still, we note that the run defense is a soft spot for KSU as they have allowed 211.5 ypg on the ground so far and that will play into the hands of the Tigers, who love to run the ball and are usually good at it. After this contest, the Golden Flashes will begin MAC play with a home game against Bowling Green.

The Offense Needs A Jump

Last week, I stated that the Auburn Tiger could be in for a flat game against the Tulane Green Wave and that is what happened. Yes, they won the game and covered the 15-point spread, but it was still a very lackluster 24-6 win. Auburn is now 2-0 and will need to play much better once SEC play starts up. The Tigers also beat Oregon this year, which was a huge win, but they struggled mostly on offense in that game and then scored just 24 against a non-power Five team. The offense needs a jumpstart, especially since they have seven starters back from a team that put up 30.9 ppg last year. They did have Jarrett Stidham a year ago, but Bo Nix has more than enough talent to lead this team. The Tigers averaged 222 ypg passing last year, but just 192 ypg passing this year so far.

Nix led the Tigers to a huge come-from-behind win over Oregon in their opener but was just 19/37 for 207 yards and a TD against a bad Tulane defense. The good news for the offense is their ground game, which put up 206 yards against the Ducks, followed by 172 against the Green Wave. JaTarvious Whitlow has rushed for 206 yards through two games after running for 96 yards and a TD against Tulane. The Tigers need their running game to click as it will open up the passing game. That could be good news for them here as Kent has struggled against the run in the early going.

On the defensive side of the ball, he Tigers as they have allowed just 277.5 ypg (30th) and just 13.5 ppg (24th) so far. The defense could have a field day against a Kent State offense that has struggled through their first two games of the year. The Tigers allowed Tulane just 223 yards of total offense, including just 103 yards through the air on 10/34 passing. The Run defense has been tough in the early going as the Tigers have allowed just 105 ypg on the ground so far. Auburn has a massive edge in the trenches as their defensive line has been rated as the best in the nation by Phil Steele, while Kent has the 7th rated offensive line in the MAC. That is something to watch. The Tigers have massive edges all over the field, but they need to b be careful as on deck is a road game against Texas A&M. Could the Tigers get caught looking ahead? You’ll have to read further to find out.

Update (9/13/19): Leading wide receiver Seth Williams is out with a shoulder injury.

“He’s s a guy you can’t replace. He’s the real deal,” head coach Gus Malzahn said Thursday night on his weekly radio show. He indicated the Tigers will likely play multiple wideouts in Williams’ absence.

Best Bets for this Game

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Last week, I stated that Auburn was in a tough spot as they were coming off a huge win against Oregon and that would put them in a letdown spot. The Tigers won the game 24-6 and they covered, but it was still a very lackluster effort from them. This week, they are also in a bad spot as they could be peeking ahead to a road game with Texas A&M next week. It will be their conference opener and a very tough road game for the Tigers. They do want to be sharp heading into that game but also want to be healthy and well-rested, which gives Kent state a great shot at the backdoor cover in this one. The Golden Flashes already played a Power Five team on the road (Arizona State) and they lost that game by just 23. Their defense has not been horrible in the two games this year and the Auburn offense has not looked that good at all. I feel that Kent will make just enough stops to get the cover in this one.

Prediction: Kent State +35.5

Full-Game Total Pick

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I will look for this game to go Under the total. Auburn has a very tough defense and they will look for their defense to win this game as they don’t want to use too much energy on offense with Texas A&M coming up. Last week, they scored just 24 points on a bad Tulane defense and the Golden Flashes have not looked terrible in defense in the early going. They held an explosive ASU offense to just 30 points in their opener. Kent has nine starters back on offense, but they scored just seven points against the Sun Devils and Auburn has one of the best defenses in the nation. I can’t see Kent scoring a ton in this one. Maybe 10 points. The defense and the fact that Auburn should call off the dogs late in the game will allow Kent to not only cover the game but keep it under the total as well. This is one of my better plays of the weekend so play it with confidence. The Under is 18-6-2 in Auburn’s last 26 non-conference games and that seals the deal for me.

Prediction: Under 53
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Written By David Hess

David has always had a fascination with numbers and sports, so he combined the two to become a handicapper and a writer for us here at Winners & Whiners, along with StatSalt. All the information that David puts in his articles are well-researched and his predictions are well-thought out. He is a big fan of all the major pro sports and the colleges making David a very versatile and a constantly winning handicapper. David has been writing for the past 10 years and has been handicapping for over 20 years. He will help you beat the Man, so be sure and follow along.