Akron a dark horse in MAC
Miami at Akron
3:30 P.M., AKRON
Favorite: Akron by 5
Records: Miami 1-4, 1-1 MAC East; Akron 2-1, 0-0 MAC East
Series: Miami leads 17-9-1
Last meeting: Miami won 24-14 last season in Oxford.
Akron has had a fair amount of success lately. But not so much recognition.
The Zips made a surprising run to the East Division title and a spot in the Mid-American Conference championship game in 2017. They followed that up this season with one of the MAC’s two wins over a team from a Power 5 conference when they defeated Northwestern 39-34 on Sept. 15. And who knows what might have happened had the Zips’ game Sept. 1 at Nebraska not been canceled by lightning, especially since the Huskers, rebuilding under first-year coach Scott Frost, stand at 0-4?
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Instead of perhaps being able to boast about two wins over Big Ten teams, the Zips turn their focus to MAC play, facing their first challenge Saturday against Miami. It’s not like coach Terry Bowden would have wanted his players boasting about nonconference wins anyway.
“All W’s are not equal,” he said. “Nonconference games are important to get you to a bowl. But in our conference … the chance of getting in that final five (for a bowl spot) are slim. The most important thing is conference (play) and being able to be competitive and put yourself in a position to play for the conference championship.”
But about that elusive recognition. Entering the season, not even league media members thought much of the Zips’ chances to repeat in the East, picking them fourth, one spot behind the RedHawks. Since then, Akron has also defeated FCS Morgan State and was competitive until fading late in a 26-13 loss at Iowa State. The Zips are coming off their bye week.
“After playing Northwestern and Iowa State back to back, and really preparing for a Nebraska game that didn’t happen — but we had all the preparations for it — it was a good time for us to get a little rest,” Bowden said.
Rest would help the RedHawks, where injuries have contributed to their start.
With receiver James Gardner expected to miss the rest of the season and running back Kenny Young sitting out last week, it has put all the pressure on senior quarterback Gus Ragland, who was 22-of-32 passing for 294 yards against Western Michigan, including three touchdown passes. But a bigger concern for the RedHawks will be shoring up their pass defense, which gave up 439 yards and five touchdowns in a 40-39 loss.
An incomplete offense and a shaky pass defense is not a recipe for success against Akron, which had three defensive touchdowns against Northwestern (Alvin Davis Jr. has three interceptions) and which has improving sophomore Kato Nelson (45-for-82 passing, 662 yards, six TDs) at quarterback.
A positive start to MAC play will only help the Zips later, with games to come against division front-runners Buffalo on Oct. 13 and Ohio on Nov. 23, both on the road.
“The team is playing as we thought they would right now,” Bowden said. “But there is still a lot of room for improvement.”
Ohio at Kent State
3:30 P.M., KENT
The Bobcats (2-2, 0-0 MAC) have a chance to give coach Frank Solich his 100th win with the team. And it comes against the Golden Flashes (1-4, 0-1), who are giving up 39.6 points per game, tied for 120th in FBS.
Tulane at Cincinnati
The Bearcats (5-0, 1-0) are looking to remain one of three undefeated teams in the American Athletic Conference. The Green Wave (2-3, 1-0) followed up its lopsided loss to Ohio State with a 40-24 win over Memphis.
Capital at John Carroll
1:30 P.M., UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS
Capital (0-4, 0-3 OAC) is improving with quarterback Thomas Wibbeler having thrown for 1,399 yards this season. John Carroll (3-1, 2-1) is allowing opponents 199.0 passing yards per game.