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2016 MAC Football Preview: Akron vs. Ball State

Will the Zips hold the top seed in the MAC East?

NCAA Football: Ball State at Indiana Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips (4-3) will try to fend off the Ball State Cardinals (4-3) and continue to hold the top spot in the MAC East. The Cardinals will be balling out in their all red Colour Rush jerseys at Scheumann Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as they try to hand the Zips their second straight loss.

The Cardinals have dominated this matchup in years past. Ball State has won the last three matchups, scoring 30+ in each of those games. There most recent matchup in 2014, was a 35-21 takedown by the Cardinals in Indiana.

If the Zips are looking to break their losing streak against the Cardinals they will have to contain the fourth leading rusher in the nation in James Gilbert. The Zips defense allow 203.4 rush yards per game, something Gilbert will try to take advantage of come game time. Gilbert rushed for a career-high 264 rush yards and three touchdowns last week against Buffalo. The MAC leading rusher has been on a tear lately, posting 524 rush yards and seven touchdowns in his last three games.

NCAA Football: Ball State at Northwestern Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

After Tra’Von Chapman threw for a mere 153 yards and two interceptions in Akron’s 41-0 loss to the Broncos last week, do not be surprised to see Thomas Woodson at starting quarterback against the Zips. Before getting hurt, Woodson was a top quarterback in the MAC. After getting into shape and losing weight this offseason, Woodson was poised for a much better year as the Akron Zips starting quarterback in 2016. This comeback has been halted by Chapman’s strong performances and injuries, but Woodson should have his chance to shine once again this Saturday. Whichever quarterback does get the start will face a tough Cardinal defense that has only allowed 24.0 points per game this season.

The Ball State defense will have to keep their eye on the duo that the Akron offense possesses. Jerome Lane and Jojo Watson, who have combined for 1,125 receiving yards this season. This is the most by a wide receiver combo in the MAC. Definitely something the Cardinal defense does not like to see considering they have one of the worst pass defenses in the MAC, allowing 277.7 receiving yards per game thus far.

Ball State has one of the worst red zone defenses going up against one of the best red zone offenses. The Zips have converted 90.0% of the time they have been inside their opponents 20 yard line. Meanwhile, Ball State’s defense are allowing opponents to score 88.2% of the time they find their way to the red zone. Ball State will need their elite pass rusher, Anthony Winbush, to find his way to the backfield quickly while Akron is in the red zone. Chapman and Woodson have been sacked a combined 16 times this season, so Winbush should be able to find at least his seventh sack in this contest against the Zips.

Ball State’s All Red Colour Rush Jerseys:

This will be a very tight battle between two different style offenses. You have Ball State who rely heavily on their run game, while Akron will look to go to the air consistently throughout this matchup. Akron will try to hold their top spot in the MAC East, and the Cardinals will try to ball out and win their first game in their new Colour Rush jerseys.