October 10, 2012
Army vs. Kent State: Analysts Square Off
Kent State will march into Michie Stadium on the campus of West Point with an impressive 4-1 record. While the Army Black Knights, who are coming off of an exciting 34-31 win over Boston College will be looking to stay on the winning track.What team has the more potent offense?
Both teams have solid rushing attacks that will challenge each teams' defense.
The question becomes ... which defense will prevail and which offense will stay true to form on Saturday.
Either way, this has the makings of an all out brawl and quality match-up.
Let's see what analysts A.M. Allan of GoBlackKnights.com and Jeremy Birmingham
Staff Writer for KentStateReport.com have to say about Saturday's upcoming contest in our weekly "Analysts Square Off" feature.
Army's offensive performance last week against Boston College is indicative of what the Black Knights can bring against any opponent's defensive if they play error free football. Army, who is the nation's leading rushing offense with an impressive 397.20 average per game is operating at a high pace. As opponents have found out, this crew can wear a defense down ... emotionally, as well as physically while trying to stop the triple option and there is no reason to think that Kent State's defensive will not be looking at at 350 plus rushing day from the Black Knights once the dust settles.
Of course, it still comes down to putting points on the board and both teams have been successful in that category.
Kent State has registered highs this year of 45, 41 & 41 against Ball State, Towson and Eastern Michigan respectively. While Army has scores of 40, 37 and 34 versus Northern Illinois, Wake Forest and Boston College respectively.
I give the slight edge to Army
Army's offense has been moving with the ball with military efficiency through their first give games this year, chewing up yards on the ground at an incredible 397 yards per game, which is, as one might suspect, the best in the country. Of course, at just over 54 yards a game passing, the Black Knights rank 119th of 120 teams nationally. Still, the combination is good enough to put Army 36th in total offense nationally; while Kent State, at 401 yards per game, is 66th. However, what Kent State lacks in total yardage, they make up for in balance - they are averaging 201 yards per contest on the ground and 200 in the air - and that is why I give Kent State the slight edge. Yes, Army's triple option attack is incredibly potent, but I'm a fan of being able to beat your opponent by land and by air.
Who is the offensive x-factor and why?
Slotback and Mr. Dependable Malcolm Brown. With all the attention and focus on the trio of Trent Steelman, Raymond Maples and Larry Dixon, the senior running back will be the difference maker on Saturday for the Army offense. Look for Brown to break the century mark for the first time this season.
The biggest single threat for Kent State this season has been tailback Dri Archer, but at this point he's an integral part of the game plan, and therefore not an "x-factor" per se. The biggest question - as any Golden Flashes fan can attest to in the last two years - is which Spencer Keith shows up. Keith has been able to avoid the turnover bug for the most part (he's thrown two interceptions on the year) but he's struggled with his accuracy, completing only 53% of his attempts. In Kent State's 45-43 win against MAC foe Ball State, Keith was threw the ball 31 times, amassing 294 yards and three touchdown passes, his career high. Army gives up an almost 465 yards per game, and if Keith "shows up" and takes the pressure of the tailback tandem of Trayion Durham and the aforementioned Archer, it puts KSU in excellent position to improve to 5-1.
Which team has the better defense?
We would hard press to say that the Black Knights are better defensively than any opponent remaining on their 2012 schedule. However, there has been a weekly maturation with this unit, especially with the change over in the format of the front line. They won't ever get confused with the Houston Texans' defense, but one thing is for sure, the Army defense will be "resilient" from the beginning to the final whistle.
That being said, I call this one even.
Defense has not been a strong spot for either Kent State or Army this year, and this weekend's contest is likely to expose both units as weak once more. That being said, there's little doubt that Kent State is decidedly "better" than the Black Knights as a defensive team on the whole. Kent State is giving up just over 26 points per game on the year, but have been able to come up with plays at key points to secure some victories. In fact, KSU is 7th nationally in turnover margin at +9 through five games. Army by contrast, is 101st, turning it over 10 times while only forcing 5 turnovers themselves. The 37.2 points per game allowed by Army is 107th nationally, and they've been gouged for more than 500 yards twice this season.
Who is the defensive x-factor and why?
Freshman DT, T.J. Atimalala who has his coming out party last weekend against BC, where the 6'0", 270 pounder registered his first collegiate start. With time, the game will slow down more and more for Atimalala and as it does, he has the potential to be a force. On Saturday, don't be surprised if his presence isn't felt throughout the contest.
Kent State has not yet allowed a point in the first quarter this season, while Army has given up an average of 11.2 per game in the opening frame, a trend that if it continues could put the run heavy Black Knights in a bit of bind. Kent State's running game, while not as productive as Army, is capable of grinding a game to a virtual halt on the back of Durham, their 6-foot, 260 pound tailback from Cincinnati, who averages 20 carries a game. For Kent State, the biggest challenge is finding a way to slow down Army's running attack, which no one has been able to do. Army averages nearly six yards per carry, while Kent State's defensive front seven, led by 2010 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Roosevelt Nix, has been keeping their opponents to just above four yards per carry. Who controls the line of scrimmage will dictate who comes out in front.
Who has the edge on special teams?
Kicker Eric Osteen has done an excellent job in handling the kickoff job, where 80% of his kicks are for touchback and when they are return, the coverage team has been solid. On the other hand, freshman Daniel Grochowski has been consistent, although against Boston College last week, he registered his career long of 46 yards.
Kick returner Stephen Frazer, who averages 21.0 per return is still a question mark due to a hip pointer he suffered against BC.
But the difference maker is Kent State's Dri Archer who is a threat to return one every time he touches a kickoff.
Edge goes to Kent State
Kent State's Dri Archer currently leads the MAC in all-purpose yards per game, averaging 230 yards every time out. He's returned three kickoffs on the year - two of them from 98 yards and one from 99 - for touchdowns and he leads the country with a whopping 47.7 yards per kick return. Army's kick return coverage has been burnt once for a touchdown already this year, and they are giving up over 25 yards per return, which puts them 115th nationally. One area of concern for Kent State is senior kicker Freddy Cortez who, despite becoming the all-time field goal leader in KSU history this year, has only connected on 8 of 12 attempts, missing 75-percent of his tries longer than 40 yards. If a game of these two high powered offensive comes down to field goals, Army may have the advantage - but if it comes down to athletes and explosiveness, the edge belongs to Archer and Kent State.
Which team will control the game offensively?
This is really a cut and paste response from week to week with the Black Knights. By virtue of their offense style, Army will look to maintained control of both the clock and the ball. The nation's leading rushing offense also averages 33:18 in the time of possession category, which is 9th in the nation. However, those number are only effective when the net result is the Black Knights putting up scores, not turnovers at the end of their time consuming drives.
I give the edge to Army
Again, this one comes down to turnovers. If Kent State can do what they've done all year long and force turnovers, Army could find themselves in some trouble. Kent State's offense, if it's run with balance and ball security, should be able to keep Army's offense from spending too much time on the field, and in doing so, eliminating the Black Knights ability to shorten the game. That being said, on the road anything can happen, and with Army coming off their first win of the year, in dramatic fashion against a BCS conference team, I expect a dog fight.
Which player is the sleeper for Saturday's game & why?
Although Kent State has a solid ground attack, don't be surprise to see them pass early and often. As such the Army secondary will be tested and with the return of senior Josh Jackson to the line-up, freshman Chris Carnegie may the guy that Kent State goes after. However, the 6-foot-0, 180 pounder is a baller and will no doubt be up to the challenge. Look for Carnegie to take his game to that next level and officially lose the 'frosh' association.
Army will no doubt be primed and ready to try and stop Archer, who's scored 11 total touchdowns on the year, and Durham, who leads KSU in rushing. That could lead Spencer Keith in control of the football game and if that's the case he will be looking to his wide receivers for help. One of them, Josh Boyle is a true freshman from Venice (Fl.) and he currently leads Kent State in receptions and yards on the season (18 receptions, 254 yards), including a career best six grabs against Kentucky in the Flashes' lone defeat of the year. If Kent State is forced to air it out, look for Boyle to be the primary target for Keith.
Predict the final score.
Both defenses will be pushed to the brink in a game where turnovers and key plays will determine the winner.
Army's offense will play an almost error free game, allowing for them to win the T.O.P. battle and the scoreboard.
Kent State 24
I think that we're all in for a fun, high scoring football game that will feature some great athletes playing the game as hard as they can. Overall, I think that Army, despite last week's victory, doesn't have enough on the defensive side of the ball to contain Archer and Durham, and that Kent State will be able to emerge with a 35-31 victory against the Black Knights.
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