Ohio-Kent St. Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- Kent State will get a chance to play for its first Mid-American Conference championship in 40 years.
The 23rd-ranked Golden Flashes, though, have business to take care of before that happens.
Kent State will try to extend its program-record nine-game winning streak Friday when it hosts Ohio in the regular-season finale for both teams.
After moving into the rankings for the first time in 39 years with a 48-32 victory at Miami (Ohio) on Nov. 10, the Golden Flashes (10-1, 7-0) clinched their first MAC East title last Saturday with a 31-24 road win over Bowling Green.
Kent State went 5-7 in each of the last three seasons and hasn't been to a bowl game since 1972, the year of its only MAC title.
"We definitely had some doubt before this year, and that's just because of our history," senior quarterback Spencer Keith told the school's official website. "Now every game there is never any doubt in our minds. We go into every week believing we will win."
Before facing West champion and No. 24 Northern Illinois in the conference title game Nov. 30 at Detroit, the Golden Flashes will try to win for the 15th time in 17 games.
Kent State is expected to give plenty of carries to Dri Archer, who ran for a career-high 241 yards and two touchdowns last Saturday. The junior running back, averaging 10.3 yards per carry, leads the Golden Flashes with 1,284 yards and 14 TDs.
Sophomore Trayion Durham is not far behind with 1,079 yards and 13 rushing scores, but he was slowed with a quad injury last weekend after totaling a career-best 172 yards versus Miami.
"Their rushing game has really been dominant," Ohio coach Frank Solich said of Kent State, which is 11th in the FBS with 244.6 rushing yards per game.
That doesn't bode well for a Bobcats defense that's allowed an average of 245.3 rushing yards in three games this month after yielding a season-high 357 in a 52-27 loss at Ball State on Nov. 14.
Ohio has dropped two straight and three of four after moving up to No. 25 in the AP poll following a 7-0 start.
"We've not been able to put the four quarters together (lately), and that's what we need to do in order to make this a game against Kent State," Solich said.
In their last four games against ranked teams - all losses - the Bobcats (8-3, 4-3) have been outscored 142-28.
If Ohio is going to avoid a third consecutive road loss, junior running back Beau Blankenship will likely have to have a big game. Ranked 12th in the FBS with 123.2 yards per game, Blankenship ran for a career-best three TDs against the Cardinals.
He's 80 yards shy of passing Kalvin McRae for the team single-season record with 1,435.
Junior Tyler Tettleton, the Bobcats' all-time leader with 469 completions after going 22 for 30 with 236 yards against Ball State, threw for 276 yards and two scores in a 17-10 home win over Kent State on Oct. 1, 2011.
Tettleton has 16 TDs and just two interceptions this season, but the Golden Flashes have a MAC-leading 21 INTs after picking off three passes last Saturday.
Kent State, winner of seven straight at home, posted a 28-6 victory in the Bobcats' last visit to Dix Stadium on Nov. 26, 2010.
Updated November 19, 2012