Alabama Football: All You Need to Know About Week 1 Opponent, Kent State*
*But didn't care to ask.
With a week to go before season kickoff, we felt it wasn't too early to start thinking about the Alabama Crimson Tide's first opponent, the Kent State Flying Muffins.
See? You probably had to read that twice before you remembered that the real mascot name for Kent State is the Golden Flashes.
There are things you may not know about the Tide's Week 1 foe.
For example, the band Devo, Lou Holtz, Drew Carey, Arsenio Hall and rocker Joe Walsh all call Kent State their alma mater.
But we're here to give you some information about the KSU football program and to provide all you need to know before the college football season kicks off.
Here then, meet the Flying Muff—er, Golden Flashes.
So, What Exactly Is a Golden Flash?
1920 saw the inaugural season of Kent State football. Since the school president raised silver foxes on his hobby farm, the school teams became known as the Silver Foxes.
But a scandal forced the president out seven years later, and the administration sought to change mascots.
The students chose the name Golden Flashes as the new mascot. A Golden Flash is a gold eagle.
And, due to some sort of laundry mistake, the original school colors of purple and orange faded to blue and gold. The students then chose the new, accidental colors over the original ones.
Sounds like something from an Andy Hardy movie: "Gosh, coach, that new-fangled washing contraption ruined the team's uniforms! Wait just a cotton-picking minute! Those new colors are even better! Willikers!"
Don James and Success
Two National Championship coaches and one Super Bowl champion linebacker converged at Kent State in the early 1970s.
Don James and two of his players, Nick Saban and Jack Lambert, along with current Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel, led the Golden Flashes to their only Mid-American Conference Championship in 1972, boasting a 9-2 record.
That year saw the program's only bowl appearance in the Tangerine Bowl (now the Capital One Bowl), but that trip saw the team lose to Tampa, 21-18. Nevertheless, James' short tenure at Kent State produced the Golden Flashes' best success on the field.
They've never finished higher than second in the MAC since James left. Coach James would, of course, move on to Washington where he would lead the Huskies to an NCAA title.
His protege, Saban, didn't do too poorly either.
New Coach, Same Ol' Results?
Kent State has a new head coach in Darrell Hazell. As he prepares for the season-opener at Alabama, the team's 20th head coach knows he now heads a program that has an overall win-loss record of 311-498 with 28 ties (a .388 winning percentage).
The first-year coach is in his first year as a head coach anywhere. Hazell has had a varied and widely-traveled coaching career, stopping at nine schools in 20 years before landing somewhat long term at Ohio State in 2004.
It was there he became an assistant head coach under the recently-departed Jim Tressel and was the receivers coach for the past five seasons. KSU has taken a chance in hiring him, and they hope some of the OSU mojo will rub off on the Golden Flashes.
The 46-year-old is a first-rate motivator and teacher, but trying to bring Kent State from the cellar of the MAC to challenge the likes of Ohio, Northern Illinois, Buffalo, Temple and the directional Michigan's may be too tall of an order for almost anyone.
Flashes in the Pan: KSU's Top Players
With the advent of Hazell, you can rest assured that the Golden Flashes will throw the ball. The new ball coach was a wide receiver in college, coached wideouts at Ohio State and has a pair of speedy ones in his new gig at KSU.
Tyshon Goode and Sam Kirkland bring some stability and experience to the receiver position this season. The couple combined for 115 receptions a year ago and racked up more than 1,300 receiving yards.
Throwing the ball to them is returning junior starter Spencer Keith, a 6'3", 215-pounder out of Little Rock, Ark. One of last year's team captains, Keith has almost 4,400 yards passing in his two years of experience, and you can be sure coach Hazell will turn him loose in 2011. Keith's also rushed for some TDs, and has also been known to quick kick and reverse the field position for his team.
Defensively, the Golden Flashes feature six senior starters—how's that for leadership?
But it may be deceiving, as the three top tacklers from last season are gone. The highest returning tackler from last year's 5-7 campaign is senior DB Norman Wolfe (75 tackles).
Last year's Kent State D gave up almost 23 points per game.
KSU by the Numbers
The Tide and the Flashes share one common opponent from a year ago. The third week of KSU's 2010 season saw the Golden Flashes lose to Penn State, 24-0.
That's the same PSU team the Tide beat 24-3, and the KSU-PSU game was the only one where the Golden Flashes faced a crowd of more than 36,000 all year long. In Happy Valley, the stadium saw a crowd of slightly more than 100,000 watch the Nittany Lions beat the Golden Flashes.
We wonder what the team will do this year when faced with more than 100,000 in Tuscaloosa.
KSU has not had a winning season for some time; the best they've managed recently was a 6-6 mark in 2006.
Statistically, the second quarter was the best for the team; they scored 76 of their 256 points in those 15 minutes. Conversely, the Golden Flashes came out from halftime with a letdown, managing only 37 points all season in the third quarter.
KSU faces four road games in the first six contests, but none will be as challenging as the one against the Crimson Tide.
As of this writing, Alabama is a 37-point favorite.
Who Are These Guys?
Kent State will be a tune-up game for the Crimson Tide. No doubt. The real test will come the following week when Alabama travels to Penn State.
So what should the average Tide fan look for against the Golden Flashes?
First, see how the new coach handles the big time. See how disciplined his charges are when faced with 100,000 fans screaming down their throats. That will tell a great deal what success his team will have this season and beyond.
Secondly, watch the Tide tweak several things in preparation for the upcoming clash with PSU. The game will probably be pretty vanilla when it comes to scheme on both sides of the ball.
Next, hope no one—on either side—gets hurt.
Finally, enjoy the fact that we'll get to see who these KSU guys are and, most importantly, who Alabama's guys are as the 2011 season kicks off.