Noon, Sept. 3 TV: ESPN | Ohio Stadium (102,329)

Coach: Rob Ianello, second season (1-11 at school and overall)

Last season: 1-11 overall, 1-7 Mid-American Conference (tie, fifth, East Division)

Returning stars

The Zips have three linemen returning who started every game in 2010: right tackle Jake Anderson and guards Zac Kasparek and Mitch Straight. Defensive back Manley Waller is the impact player on defense. He totaled 52 tackles (six for loss), had two interceptions, broke up five passes and also blocked a kick as a sophomore. Anthony Holmes is another sophomore defensive back on the rise.

Newcomers to watch

Clayton Moore, a sophomore who transferred from Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi, could be special because he replaced a good quarterback in Patrick Nicely. Nicely threw for 1,753 yards and 10 touchdowns in 12 games last season. Moore, a former Ole Miss walk-on, threw for 2,395 yards and 23 touchdowns in leading Gulf Coast to the junior-college state championship. Ianello said Moore got the job because of his accuracy. Defensive linemen John Griggs (junior) and Dajour Morris (true freshman) are expected to step into the lineup.

Keys to the offense

The Zips must clean up their act after committing 22 turnovers and converting only 35 percent on third down. That won't be easy without tailback Alex Allen, who ran for 877 yards (4.7 yards per carry). The top three receivers also are gone. Broderick Alexander and Jawon Chisholm, who have zero varsity experience, have been getting most of the snaps at tailback.

Keys to the defense

Ianello has said building a team is like building a home, and he has "foundation" players in Waller and Holmes. Problem is, there are not enough of those players. Akron must button up against the run, as opponents averaged 4.3 yards per carry and 164.1 yards per game last season. The Zips also yielded an average of 264.1 yards passing per game.

Special teams standouts

Long-snapper Adam Steiner and punter Zack Campbell return. Campbell averaged 37.2 yards per punt last season.

Question marks

Akron's kicking game was awful in 2010. Missed extra points against Gardner-Webb and Ball State cost the team chances to win. True freshman A.J. Fox of Youngstown Cardinal Mooney and T.J. Marchese, a junior from Dublin Coffman, are the top choices to take over the job.


Akron has been picked to finish seventh in the division. This is not a quick rebuilding job, especially after former coach J.D. Brookhart left the program in shambles. Ianello said his second year is about "Here's how to do it" after telling them "Here's what to do" in 2010. It will be difficult for the Zips to win more than one or two games.