I don't know if you know this, but there's a school in Akron, Ohio that happens to field a football team. They haven't really been competitive since Charlie Frye's heyday but they're still part of the conference, so let's see what we're working with. Come on along after the jump and we'll get the preview party started...
Last Season: Do we really have to discuss last season? There were very few things that went right (as evidenced by their 1-11 record). The Zips allowed opponents to score on 87% of their red zone trips, and allowed twice as many of those trips as they made themselves. Enough to make Zippy hide his face in his pouch.
Returning Players: The offense returns three-fifths of their offensive line and QB Patrick Nicely, but after last season's results it's hard to say if we should be more excited about the incumbents or the freshmen. The defense lost three of their front seven, and sophomore safety ShelDon Miller will be moving to linebacker to fill the opening created by Mike Thomas' graduation - a big hole (Thomas was the team's second leading tackler last season alone).
New Faces: I don't know about any impact newcomers, but there are some interesting additions. OL Vinnie Rizzo transferred in from Nassau Community College (the #4 JUCO last year) and will be competing at RG. L.T. Smith will be competing for that vacant free safety job (Miller's old spot), but he was a WR in high school who has converted to safety since arriving at Akron. The most interesting to me is incoming freshman Bre' Ford from Bethel Park High School in Bethel Park, PA - he set new school records for rushing yards (3,653) and touchdowns (52) - but the Akron coaches are playing him into the rotation at...wait for it...free safety! Meaning the top RB on the depth chart touched the ball four times last season.
Game(s) to Circle: The only game on the whole schedule that I would dare circle is against VMI at home on September 24th, largely because it will likely be their only home win on the season (also Temple, CMU, Ohio, FIU and Kent) and, depending on how Eastern Michigan and Buffalo go this season, maybe their only win period.
Did You Know: Back in the day, pre-WWI, the BF Goodrich Company (yeah, the tire people) made sneakers. In fact, they had a popular rubber sneaker called the Zipper. Through a fan submission contest, that was picked as the team nickname, which was then shortened to "Zips" in the '50's.
Prediction: In a perfect world, the Zips would go 4-8 and look much improved. Unfortunately, this is the real world, so I'll go ahead and say the Zippers finish the year at 2-10.