The Kent State Golden Flashes finished the 2016 season losing three straight games and five of their last six and look for better things in the 2017
The Blue and Gold open this campaign in a place they call “Death Valley” facing the defending national champion, Clemson Tigers of the Atlantic Coast Conference. The second consecutive year KSU will play a defending champion on its schedule.
GOLDEN FLASHES – TIGERS PREVIEW POINTS
CLEMSON TIGERS (14-1, 7-1 ACC)
The Tigers won their second National Championship in their history (first since 1981) when they defeated defending National Champion Alabama 35-31 in the final seconds of the College Football Playoff Championship Game in Tampa Bay.
Clemson went 14-1 last season (7-1 in ACC play) their lone loss was at home to Pittsburgh 43-42. They won the ACC Championship Game defeating Virginia Tech 42-35. Then in the College Football Playoff, they shutout Ohio State at the Fiesta Bowl, 31-0
The Tigers are fifth in the pre-season national polls garnering seven first place votes in the Amway-Coaches Poll. Clemson is 25-7 in their last 32 season openers including last season’s 19-13 triumph at Auburn and are 15-7 in their last 22
They are led by Dabo Swinney who is in his ninth season at the South Carolina school. His record is 89-28 (52-7 at home) 7-1 in season openers. This is the first ever meeting between the two schools
Clemson is 4-0 lifetime against Mid-American Conference schools their last game was in 2007 defeating Central Michigan, 70-14
Last season, the Tigers had a high-powered offense averaging 39 points and 503 yards of total offense however QB DeShaun Watson has graduated and is with the Houston Texans and WR Mike Williams is off to the Los Angeles Chargers. Junior Kelly Bryant will be behind center for the season opener his first collegiate start
The running game will be led by junior C.J. Fuller who gained 211 yards a season ago in limited duty while fellow junior Hunter Renfrow, who had a big game against the Crimson Tide in January, leads the receivers with 44 catches for 495 yards and six touchdowns
The defense allowed just 18 points and 311 yards in 2016. They will be lled in 2017 by graduate student LB Dorian O’ Daniel who had 60 total tackles last season, 2 ½ sacks, and an interception as well as sophomore DE Clelin Ferrell who had 50 stops a season ago
The Tigers have a former Golden Flash on their roster April Goss who became the first female placekicker to score in 2015 in a KSU win over Delaware State is with CU as a graduate assistant in the Academic Learning Center for Student Athletes
The schedule gets tougher the next two weeks with Auburn at home and then at Louisville to open ACC play. Later in the season is a visit to Virginia Tech then home to Florida State before ending the season with in-state arch rival South Carolina
KENT STATE GOLDEN FLASHES (3-9, 2-6 MAC)
The Flashes will enter this season opener without head coach Paul Haynes who has taken a leave of absence for medical reasons and will not be with the team. Offensive Coordinator Don Treadwell will be interim head coach
In the preseason MAC football poll, KSU were picked to finished sixth in the Eastern Division. This is the second consecutive season the Flashes will play a defending national champion last season they lost at Alabama 42-0
This is the first of two games the Flashes will face against the Atlantic Coast Conference this season the other being at Louisville on September 23rd. In thir history KSU is 12-25 against the current teams in the ACC the last game being 2014 at Virginia 45-13
Offensively, they averaged 20.6 points and 309 yards per game a season ago.
Fifth year senior Nick Holley will be at the controls of the offense. Holley switched from wide receiver to quarterback after the game at Alabama and moved the offense the final eight games with an option style of offense. He led the team in rushing with 920 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. He completed just under 50 percent of his passes (72-of-146) for 868 yards and four scores.
Sophomore RB Justin Rankin will be in the backfield as well. He had a solid freshman campaign with 511 yards on the ground and three touchdowns while catching 28 passes to lead the team for 335 additional yards and a score.
The defense allowed 28.7 points and 386.5 yards per game last season. The numbers are a little bit misleading as it was this unit that kept the Flashes in many games especially during MAC play.
The strength is in the secondary led by junior S Juantez McRae who had 59 total tackles (33 solo) and an interception along with sophomore CB Jamal Parker who had three interceptions over the final two games of 2016 as well as 39 tackles (30 solo), and senior CB Jerrell Foster who also had three interceptions a season ago
Senior Nathan Puthoff will wear the number 54 jersey this season in honor of the late teammate Jason Bitsko