MANHATTAN — In most seasons, a winless Kent State football team would be easy for anyone to overlook.
The Golden Flashes, of the Mid-American Conference, haven't played in a bowl game since 1972 and generally only face BCS-conference opponents on the road in exchange for large payments.
Most of that will hold true today when they take on Kansas State at 6:10 p.m. in front of a sellout crowd at Snyder Family Stadium, but the Wildcats don't see any reason to take their adversary lightly.
Even though Kent State enters the game with two losses and the nation's 119th-ranked offense, they have an intriguing early-season resume. During a 48-7 defeat at No. 2 Alabama, the Golden Flashes forced five turnovers. Last week, they hung with Louisiana-Lafayette until the end of a 20-12 loss in a rain storm.
"If you look at record and statistics, they played a great Alabama team and a Lafayette team that beat us two years ago," said senior safety Tysyn Hartman. "So they did not win those two games, but those are two quality teams that they have played."
That doesn't mean they won't once again be overmatched against K-State, but it's hard to imagine the Golden Flashes being intimidated by a large crowd or superior talent.
The difficulty and strange circumstances of their early schedule also make them difficult for K-State to prepare for. Alabama's defense stymied Kent State from start to finish. Heavy rain limited their versatility against Louisiana-Lafayette.
"We just haven't seen what would amount to a normal game for them up to this point in time," K-State coach Bill Snyder said. "So I don't really know how good of a football team they truly are."
For that reason, Snyder has told his team to treat Kent State like any other opponent on the Wildcats' schedule.
It's a request that is easily understood when he shows his players Kent State's defensive accomplishments. The Golden Flashes allow 320.5 yards per game and rank 18th nationally in turnover margin.
"They have a history of being very talented and a complete defensive football team," Snyder said. "You don't get four interceptions off of Alabama... I mean, they'll go the rest of the season against some of the best teams in the country and that won't happen. To get five turnovers against Alabama speaks very highly of what they're capable of."
After the problems K-State faced during a 10-7 season-opening win against Eastern Kentucky, of the Football Championship Subdivision, it knows the approach it needs to take today.
"We've got to be ready to play," said junior quarterback Collin Klein. "It doesn't matter who it is, we have to make sure we come out and execute our plan and good things will happen. If we don't, anyone can beat you."
TURNOVER TROUBLE: Kent State is good at forcing turnovers. K-State committed five turnovers in its first game. The Wildcats will need to make sure they hold on to the ball and make the Golden Flashes work for good field position.