The division has been clinched and along with it a spot in next week’s Mid-American Conference championship. After that, a trip to a bowl game.
Kent State, ranked in The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 1973, has rarely had it so good. And, it would appear there is little to be gained today in a conference finale against Ohio.
Truth is, everything’s at stake for the Golden Flashes.
A win over the Bobcats would complete the greatest regular season in Kent State football’s 90-year history. It would also bolster the school’s bowl resume, send the team’s seniors out in style and make coach Darrell Hazell an even hotter commodity than he is already.
It would be easy to coast to the finish line. Hazell won’t allow it.
“This game is like every other game on our schedule,” said Hazell, who in just two seasons has moved Kent State to the top of the underrated MAC. “We owe it to our seniors who take their last step in Dix Stadium. We are going to play. We are all competitors. We are going to play every single contest as hard as we can to win the football game. We are going to do everything we can to win.”
The 23rd-ranked Golden Flashes (10-1, 7-0), who will face No. 24 Northern Illinois in the MAC title game next week in Detroit, are trying to finish off a season unlike any other at Kent State.
They’ve already eclipsed the school record for wins set by the 1973 team that was coached by Don James and included Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Lambert and Alabama coach Nick Saban, a skinny safety back in those days. There hasn’t been an 8-0 team in the MAC East in conference play since Miami in 2003.
Hazell is weary of the Bobcats (8-3, 4-3), who knocked off Penn State to open the season and were ranked just a few weeks ago before dropping three of their last four.
“We are not going to do anything we haven’t done for the past 11 weeks as far as preparation,” he said. “It is a good Ohio football team that has lost three games in the MAC. They are very dangerous. We have to do a good job in all phases to be successful.”
That’s been the key all season for Kent State.