On paper, this is a matchup Illinois should be able to take care of business.
After a horrible 2-10 season, including a 1-7 record in the MAC, Kent State made a coaching change, hiring 31-year-old Sean Lewis to take the reins.
Lewis comes from an up-tempo offensive background, working under Dino Babers for six years, including co-offensive coordinator duties last year for one of the fastest offenses in the nation. Before his coaching career, he also played collegiately at the University of Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez.
Lewis brings extensive experience running a spread-heavy, dynamic offense that averaged 87.8 offensive snaps per game — tops in the nation. For comparisons sake, Illinois ran 63.8 offensive snaps per game, which ranked 121st in the nation. While not having the same personnel this season as he had last year, Lewis will push the pace and make Illinois rotate its depth heavily.
He'll also have a few skilled options at quarterback as well. Woody Barrett, a widely heralded player from the class of 2016 who originally committed to Auburn, transferred to KSU after redshirting and has landed in the lap of someone who may be able to tap into his tremendous ceiling, both as a runner and a passer.
He's not yet been named the starter, however, due to the fact that another fantastic athlete is battling for that title. Dustin Crum, a sophomore who rushed for 310 yards last year, is another gifted athlete who can beat you with his arm or his legs. His arm is not as refined as his competition, but he could run Lewis' style of offense if called upon. He has similar traits to Cam Thomas.
They'll rely on Justin Rankin, the junior tailback, to take some of the load as well. A jack of all trades, Rankin can catch the ball out of the backfield exceptionally well, and adds another playmaker to what should be the strength of the team.
The Golden Flashes run a 3-4 base defense, as well, and will lean upon some upperclassmen linebackers, such as seniors Jim Jones and Matt Bahr, to make plays against Illinois and quarterback AJ Bush.
Lewis has some work to do, and the non-conference schedule does him no favors (Illinois, Penn State, Ole Miss), but if Woody Barrett lives up to his sizable potential, and the defense, with its experience, makes some plays, this team could be fun to watch. Let's just hope they haven't figured it out Week One.