How to Watch: Kickoff at noon on ACC Network.
Spread: Louisville -44 (Bovada)
Last Time: Larry Poole ran for a 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter, as the Golden Flashes held Louisville to 228 total yards in a 10-3 win. Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert was a part of the Kent State roster at the time, while current Alabama head coach Nick Saban served as an assistant under Don James.
Kent State leads the all-time series 9-8.
Meet Kent State:
Kent State enters tomorrow’s game with a 1-2 record, their lone win a seven-point victory over FCS Howard. The Flashes have yet to score a touchdown this season against FBS competition. They’ve only scored three against Clemson in the season-opener, and were shutout at Marshall last week.
Fifth-year head coach Paul Haynes served as a defensive backs coach under John L. Smith at Louisville in 2002, mentoring guys such as Anthony Floyd. He took over as head coach at Kent State after Darrell Hazell left for Purdue, but after a 13-37 record in four years, he has been on the hot seat.
Players to Watch:
- DB Demetrius Monday
The fifth-year senior was an All-MAC player in 2015, tallying six interceptions and being one of the team’s consistent playmakers on defense. Monday will likely shadow Jaylen Smith in coverage tomorrow, trying to limit Louisville’s big-play potential in the passing game. He leads a Kent State secondary that is the strength of their defense.
- QB George Bollas / Dustin Crum
With starter Nick Holley and backup Mylik Marshall out, Kent State is thin at quarterback right now. It would not be surprising to see snaps split between senior George Bollas and freshman Dustin Crum. Neither have the big play potential Holley had, but have big enough arms and decent power to hit a big throw if Louisville overcommits to the run. Bollas is only completing 33% passing in 2017, while Crum was 3-for-5 in last week’s 21-0 loss at Marshall.
Keys to the Game
- Louisville DL v. Kent State OL
The offensive line is key to running the option offense effectively; guards and tackles have to be able to pull and hit their blocks so that the quarterback can make the proper read, based on defensive alignment and playcalling.
Kent State’s hasn’t proven to be able to do that, consistently. Therefore, Louisville’s defensive line should be a difference maker in the game. If Louisville’s defensive line can set the edge or occupy gaps, that can free the linebackers (ex: Stacy Thomas and Khane Pass) to make a play on the ballcarrier.
Winning first down will especially be important, for Louisville’s defense. If Kent State has to play behind the sticks or face third-and-long situations, that can force them to pass the ball, which hasn’t been a strength for them (127th in completion percentage).
- Jaylen Smith v. Demetrius Monday
Kent State’s defense struggled to contain Clemson’s explosive offense, in part because of the overall athleticism at the skill positions the Tigers had. Though Monday is a serviceable cornerback, Deon Cain blew by him on a seam route for a 61-yard touchdown in the opener.
Expect Jaylen Smith to have the same potential. As Louisville’s best option to stretch the field, expect a lot of deep posts and vertical routes to test Kent State’s secondary in one-on-one situations. Louisville’s also had success with Dez Fitzpatrick over the middle, and they should continue to feed him the ball when possible.
- Exploring Louisville’s Depth Chart
Many expect Louisville’s next two games against Kent State and Murray State to be blowouts. Barring closer-than-expected contests from the Flashes and Racers, these are games where Louisville can get its backups some valuable game experience.
This is big for two reasons; first, Louisville will have to replace a lot next season. Lamar Jackson and Jaire Alexander may declare for the NFL Draft, and nearly every other starting defensive back will graduate. They’ll also have Stacy Thomas, Drew Bailey, James Hearns and Trevon Young all departing.
Second, Louisville still has areas to address this season. Until Alexander returns, the secondary will likely have position battles. With an impressive showing, guys like Russ Yeast or Cornelius Sturghill can work their way into more reps, or even become a starter. Also watch for guys like Cole Bentley and Colin Wilson. Those two were highly touted prospects in the 2017 class, but have yet to see any major action this season. Either guy could push for more reps, if they have standout performances on Saturday.
Lastly, most fans want to see backup quarterback Jawon Pass in action, tomorrow. Pass has yet to see the field in 2018, and has been the odds-on favorite to be the starter when Jackson leaves.