Akron vs. James Madison: Game Preview

Robert Mayer-US PRESSWIRE

Terry Bowden and the Zips look to get their first win of the season against FCS foe James Madison in their home opener.

Akron fell to the UCF Knights in their first match-up 38-7 in what was never a real contest.  The result was not a surprise, but it still led to me listening to the sad song of the week.

There's a touch of irony in this song as the immortal Blake Bortles eviscerated the Zips throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns.  The experienced quarterback had no problems with the porous Zips' defense playing pitch and catch the whole game.

You have to look for little victories in a game like this and they were tough to find.  Quarterback Kyle Pohl was accurate in his debut at starter, but only threw for 98 yards and did not lead the Zips for a score all game.  Nico Caponi was the star of the defense with two sacks and a forced fumble.  Conor Hundley and D.J. Jones ran the ball well in garbage time after Jawan Chisholm was not a factor at all in the first three quarters.

There is a lot more optimism for the Zips' chances this week as they take on James Madison from the FCS.  Akron's lone wins in 2011 and 2012 both came courtesy of FCS opponents and it's necessary to get this win in 2013 before going after that coveted second win.  While James Madison is inferior to UCF, nothing is a gimme for the Zips and FCS teams are coming off a banner week. Akron and James Madison are no strangers to the FCS-over-FBS upsets.  It was a day for sad kangaroos in 2010 when Akron lost to Gardner-Webb.  Also in 2010, James Madison pulled off one of the more memorable FCS upsets defeating the ranked Hokies of Virginia Tech.

There are things the Zips will need to improve on if they are going to get the win in this week's game.  The running game was non-existent early and only picked up when the game was out of hand.  If Chisholm struggles again, Terry Bowden needs to insert Conor Hundley and D.J. Jones earlier to give the offense a boost.

Progress in the running game early should open up the passing game for Kyle Pohl.  Bowden played it conservative in the opener and, while accurate, Pohl only averaged about six yards per completion against UCF.  Bowen plans to loosen the reigns and let Pohl air it out this week.  It is too early to switch to Hirschman, but Pohl will need to succeed this week to get a win this week and give the team confidence for the rest of the season.

The defense did not take very long to display the same Achilles' heel from a year ago.  On the second play of the season, the Zips allowed a 91 yard touchdown pass to Bortles and the Knights.  The one positive from the defense was the aforementioned Nico Caponi and the Zips' ability to get pressure on the quarterback.  UCF is one of the best offenses the Zips will play this year so improvement this weekend is expected by default.  I hate to beat a dead horse, but the Zips have to avoid giving up big plays or they'll add another tally to the win column for FCS teams this season.

PREDICTION

Akron is the bottom of the barrel in the FBS until they prove otherwise and James Madison ranks 15th in the FCS poll.  JMU is definitely a prime candidate for another FCS upset and Akron cannot take them lightly.  I think this came will come down to the wire with the Zips pulling out the 28-24 victory in their home opener.

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