Ranked No. 17 in BCS, Kent State Battles Northern Illinois Friday For MAC Championship
For the first time since 2003, two ranked teams will meet in the Marathon Mid-American Conference Championship Game Friday night when No. 18 Kent State and No. 19 Northern Illinois collide at Ford Field in Detroit on ESPN 2. Both teams went unbeaten in conference play (a program first for Kent State) and clinched title game spots a week early. The Golden Flashes are seeking their first MAC crown since 1972, while the defending champion Huskies are making their third straight title game appearance. If Friday's winner finishes 16th or higher in the Dec. 2 BCS standings, it earns a trip to a BCS bowl (Rose, Sugar, Orange, Fiesta).
Facts In A Flash
• Kent State is the first East Division team to go 8-0 in MAC play since 2003 (Miami). It is also the Flashes' first East title since the MAC split into divisions in 1997.
• The Golden Flashes carry a program record, 10-game winning streak and have won 12 straight games against current MAC teams.
• Kent State's No. 17 ranking in the BCS Standings is its highest in school history in any poll.
• At 11-1, the Flashes have shattered the 90-year program record for victories in a season set by the (Don) James Gang (9-2) in 1973.
• Kent State and NIU are among five FBS teams to have won 15 of its last 17 games overall.
• The Flashes rank second in the FBS with a +20 turnover margin and 35 turnovers gained.
• Kent State ranks 11th in the FBS in rushing offense.Over their last eight contests, the Flashes are averaging 276.2 rushing yards a game.
• Junior Dri Archer leads the nation in kick return average, is fifth in all-purpose yards and tied for ninth in scoring. He is Kent State's single season record-holder in touchdowns with 21.
• Behind freshman Anthony Melchiori, KSU ranks 14th in the nation in net punting (40.1).
• The offensive line has allowed just three sacks in the last eight games.
• Sophomore Trayion Durham is tied with Archer for the team lead with 14 rushing touchdowns.
• Junior Roosevelt Nix is second among active FBS players in career tackles for loss (51.0), ranks fourth in forced fumbles (10) and 15th in sacks (20.0).
Friday's game can be seen on ESPN2 and Watch ESPN with Carter Blackburn (play-by-play), Rod Gilmore (color) and Jemele Hill (sideline). It is the 11th Kent State game to be broadcast on either an ESPN affiliate, Comcast affiliate, SportsTime Ohio, CBS Sports Network or the BIG EAST Network.
How Times Have Changed
The Golden Flashes have accomplished in two seasons (16 wins) what once took 12 years. In a 12-season span from 1989-2000, Kent State combined for only 16 wins (16-115-1).
Since Last Year
From 2011 to 2012, No FBS team has made a bigger turnaround in the win column than Kent State. Only Ohio State and Middle Tennessee have matched the Golden Flashes' with having six more wins than last year's total.
• The Huskies have won 11 consecutive games, including eight of their last nine by double digits.
• NIU leads the MAC and ranks ninth in the nation in rushing offense at 245.0 yards per game.
• The Huskies also lead the MAC in both scoring at 40.5 points per game and total offense (482.3 ypg).
• NIU's defense ranks 15th in the FBS in points allowed at 17.5 per game.
• The Huskies are coming off a dominant 49-7 road victory at Eastern Michigan, behind four scoring plays of 20 yards or more.
• Northern Illinois also ranks in the nation's Top 20 in sacks (T-14th), passing efficiency (13th) and turnover margin (19th).
KEY PLAYERS TO WATCH
• Junior quarterback Jordan Lynch ranks fifth in the nation in rushing (134.3 ypg) and 12th in passing efficiency (157.34). Lynch has thrown 23 touchdowns and just four interceptions with a 63.6 completion percentage. He has also run for 16 touchdowns, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
• Sophomore Tommylee Lewis returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown at Eastern Michigan. Lewis is also second on the team with 40 catches for 474 yards and five touchdowns.
• Junior tailback Akeem Daniels had four rushing touchdowns at Eastern Michigan. He gained 112 yards on only 12 carries. Daniels has run for eight touchdowns with a pair of TD catches. He is averaging 6.3 yards per carry.
• Senior receiver Martel Moore had nine grabs at EMU for 116 yards and a score. On the year, he leads the Huskies with 67 catches for 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns.
• Senior defensive end Alan Baxter has a team-high 9.0 sacks to go with 54 total tackles.
• Junior safety Jimmie Ward leads the Huskies with 84 tackles and three interceptions.
• Senior defensive end Sean Progar has 8.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception.
The All-Time Series
Northern Illinois leads the all-time series with Kent State 16-7 and has won the last five meetings. The Huskies have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including a 40-10 victory last season in DeKalb. NIU's defense recorded eight sacks, three turnovers and a touchdown. The Flashes' last series win came in 2001.
Prior to Nov. 11, Kent State was only ranked in the AP Poll one other time in school history. Last week, the Flashes were in the BCS standings for the first time in school history. This week, Kent State's No. 17 ranking is program's highest and higher than any other non-BCS conference program. The Flashes first ranking came in November of 1973, leading up to No. 19 Kent State hosting No. 17 Miami in front of Dix Stadium's largest crowd ever.
Prior to Rutgers, the Flashes had never beaten a ranked team in 22 tries.