The Kent State Golden Flashes finished the 2016 season losing three straight games and five of their last six and look for better things in the 2017
That said, it’s a pretty daunting view from the starting block. KSU opens the new campaign in a place they call “Death Valley.” If that’s not enough, the . . .
● The gridiron Tigers won their second National Championship (first since 1981) when they defeated defending National Champion Alabama, 35-31, in the final seconds of the College Football Playoff Championship game last January in Tampa Bay, Florida.
● Clemson went 14-1 last season (7-1 in ACC play); their lone loss was at home to Pittsburgh 43-42. However, Clemson won the ACC Championship game, defeating Virginia Tech, 42-35.
It was all-Tigers in the college football playoff opener as Clemson blitzed Ohio State, 41-0. They then went on to edge Alabama in the title tilt.
● Clemson is fifth in the pre-season national polls, garnering seven first place votes in the Amway-Coaches Poll
● CU is 25-7 in their last 32 season openers including last season’s 19-13 triumph at Auburn and are 15-7 in their last 22
● Dabo Swinney is in his ninth season as head coach at the South Carolina school. His record is 89-28 (52-7 at home), 7-1 in season openers
● This is the first ever meeting between the two schools
● Clemson is 4-0 lifetime against Mid-American Conference schools, with their last meeting being a 70-14 drubbing of Central Michigan in 2007.
● Last season, the Tigers had a high-powered offense, averaging 39 points and 503 yards of total offense. However QB DeShaun Watson has graduated and is with the Houston Texans, while WR Mike Williams is off to the Los Angeles Chargers. Junior Kelly Bryant will be behind center for the season opener in his first collegiate start.
● The running game will be led by junior C.J. Fuller. He gained 211 yards a season ago in limited duty. Fellow junior Hunter Renfrow, who had a big game against the Crimson Tide in January, leads the receivers with 44 catches for 495 yards and six touchdowns
●. Clemson’s defense will be led by graduate student LB Dorian O’Daniel. He had 60 total tackles last season, along with 2.5 sacks, and an interception. Sophomore DE Clelin Ferrell registered 50 stops in his redshirt freshman campaign.
● The Clemson schedule gets tougher the next two weeks, with Auburn at home and then at Louisville to open ACC play. Later in the season, there is a visit to Virginia Tech, then home to Florida State before ending the season with in-state arch-rival South Carolina
● The Flashes will enter this season opener without head coach Paul Haynes, who has taken a leave of absence for medical reasons. Offensive Coordinator Don Treadwell will be interim head coach.
● In the preseason MAC football poll, KSU were picked to finished sixth in the Eastern Division
● The is the second consecutive season the Flashes will play a defending national champion. Last season they lost at Alabama, 42-0
● Saturday is the first of two games the Flashes have against Atlantic Coast Conference foes this season. They are at Louisville on September 23. In their history, the Flashes are 12-25 against the current teams in the ACC. The most recent such matchup was in 2014 at Virginia (UV 45, KSU 13).
● Offensively, Kent State averaged 20.6 points and 309 yards per game a season ago.
● Fifth year senior Nick Holley will be at the controls of the offense. Holley switched from wide receiver to quarterback after the game at Alabama and moved the offense the final eight games with an option style of offense. He led the team in rushing with 920 yards and scored 10 touchdowns. Holly completed just under 50 percent of his passes (72-of-146) for 868 yards and four scores.
● Sophomore RB Justin Rankin will be in the backfield as well. He had a solid freshman campaign with 511 yards on the ground and three touchdowns while catching 28 passes to lead the team for 335 additional yards and a score.
● The KSU defense allowed 28.7 points and 386.5 yards per game last season. The numbers, however, are a little bit misleading as it was this unit that kept the Flashes in many games especially during MAC play.
● The Flashes defensive strength is in the secondary. junior S Juantez McRae had 59 total tackles (33 solo) and an interception. Sophomore CB Jamal Parker registered three interceptions over the final two games of 2016, as well as 39 tackles (30 solo). Senior CB Jerrell Foster also had three interceptions a season ago
● Senior Nathan Puthoff will wear the number 54 jersey this season in honor of the late teammate Jason Bitsko