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A regular season-ending matchup between defending Mid-American Conference East Division champion Kent State and preseason East favorite Ohio was expected to have title implications of some sort when the 2013 college football campaign commenced way back in late August.
As things have turned out, that's not the case.
The Golden Flashes' chances of repeating ended for all intents and purposes when they let a late lead slip away at Ball State on Oct. 12 and fell to 1-3 in the MAC.
The Bobcats, on the other hand, rolled into November with just one league loss after scoring 97 points in back-to-back wins over Eastern Michigan and Miami. They promptly got buzz-sawed in two straight marquee matchups, scoring just three points while allowing 79 in stunningly lopsided losses at Buffalo and Bowling Green.
Now, instead of competing for titles as they'd hoped, Kent State and Ohio find themselves attempting to save face as the '13 campaign nears its end. They'll have a chance to do just that on Tuesday, when the Flashes (3-8, 2-5 MAC) and Bobcats (6-4, 3-3) battle in an 8 p.m. game at Peden Stadium that will be televised live by ESPN2.
Last year, the Flashes completed a perfect MAC regular season with a 28-6 victory over the Bobcats. This year, they'll be looking to finish a difficult season on a positive note with a win at Ohio.
"I think any time you can get a MAC win it's huge, especially against a very good football team like Ohio," said KSU coach Paul Haynes. "You want to play well, give yourself a chance to win, and send these seniors out in their last time in a Kent State uniform with a good memory."
Kent State snapped a five-game losing streak by defeating winless Miami 24-6 on Senior Night last Wednesday at Dix Stadium. The Flashes rushed for 300 yards, and redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Reardon played a turnover-free football game after throwing five picks in losses to Buffalo and Akron.
Kent State's defense was also staunch, limiting the RedHawks to just 176 total yards and 10 first downs.
Meanwhile, Ohio is still reeling from the 49-0 shutout absorbed at Bowling Green in its last game on Nov. 12 -- after dropping a 30-3 decision at Buffalo the previous week.
"Obviously, the last couple games have been tough on us. Losing is something that we've not done a lot of here for quite some time," said veteran OU coach Frank Solich, whose squads have won 61 games since 2006. "When you lose by margins that we have the last two games, that sets you spinning even more. We have to stay unified and not question everything. There is solid ground this program is built on top of, and we have to continue to keep moving it forward."
The Bobcats have collapsed on both sides of the ball, getting outgained 460-172 by the Falcons and 421-233 by the Bulls.
What in the world happened to Ohio?
"I can't answer that, not being there," said Haynes. "I think they came up against some pretty good football teams as of late. I've seen some good things from them on film. They're a tough, physical football team."
Senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton (6-foot, 207 pounds) was enjoying a stellar season until the past two games. After throwing for 17 touchdowns in his first eight games, he's completed just 29-of-58 passes for 219 yards and no TDs with one interception the past two weeks.
Tettleton's favorite target, senior Donte Foster (6-1, 200), had 716 yards receiving with six touchdowns in the first six games, but has managed just 16 receiving yards in the past two contests while battling an injury.
Ohio's defense was also holding its own until the last two games, allowing a respectable 21.75 points per game before disaster struck. The unit is led by 6-1, 230-pound sophomore linebacker Ben Russell (team-high 66 tackles, 61⁄2 tackles for loss, 3 sacks); 6-4, 250-pound freshman lineman Tarell Basham (8 TFL, 6 sacks); and 6-1, 172-pound safety Xavier Hughes (4 interceptions).
Haynes expects to see the Bobcats of old, who are 4-1 at home, and hopes that his Flashes are able to compete with a team that he still considers one of the MAC's best.
"The win is important, but actually playing good football is important too because it kind of catapults you into your off-season," said Haynes. "You don't want to place everything on just a win because you're playing a good football team. Of course a win is what you're striving for, but as long as you play good football, don't turn the ball over and do the things that you want to do, you can at least come out of that game feeling good about the direction you're going in."
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