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2016 Week 4 Preview: Appalachian State Mountaineers vs. Akron Zips

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App State is coming off a major let-down and Akron has a chance to turn some heads.

NCAA Football: Akron at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

The Akron Zips host the Appalachian State Mountaineers at InfoCision Stadium in Akron on Saturday at 3:30 with a chance to turn some heads around the country. All that stands in their way is an App State squad who manages to make national headlines seemingly every year. This figures to be a fun game.

The Mountaineers started their season with a nail-biting loss at (alleged) powerhouse Tennessee and followed it up with a smacking of Old Dominion. Last week the perennial Cinderellas hosted the Miami Hurricanes in what was by far the biggest game in the history of their campus. It was supposed to be close.

It was not close.

The Canes dominated. They jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, winning 45-10. App State was out-gained by over 300 yards on the afternoon.

While Miami is probably not an equal measuring stick to predict what will happen in Akron, the Mountaineers had trouble all over the field. They gave up well over five yards per rush, Taylor Lamb couldn’t get it going through the air, and the team averaged about 2.5 yards per carry. It wasn’t good.

For as bad as App State was, Akron was prolific in their week three win over Marshall. Marshall isn’t exactly playing at the level they were when Randy Moss or Byron Leftwich were in town (shout-out to teams playing better when they were in the MAC), but Akron put up huge numbers in a 65-38 win.

First, the bad numbers: Akron has allowed over 500 yards of offense in two straight games. The loss at Wisconsin isn’t terribly surprising as the Badgers are dynamite at home and should just outmatch Akron anyway, but giving up 446 passing yards to Marshall is...well, bad. An optimist might see the final score and assume that Akron dominated so Marshall had to keep throwing the ball to have a chance, but that’s not quite accurate. Marshall led by 14 after a quarter and was within three scores for the whole 3rd.

In any case, Akron’s defense isn’t exactly scaring anyone right now.

Next, the good numbers: The Zips have recorded over 500 yards of offense in each of their two wins, including 524 last week. While the defense was getting gashed for yardage, they managed to force four turnovers and returned two for touchdowns. Akron also took a punt back for a score, giving them 21 non-offensive points in a game decided by 27 points.

More good things: In the absence of Warren Ball, Manny Morgan ran 18 times for 130 yards. It seems as though it won’t matter who’s getting the carries because those two guys have put up giant stats through the first three games - Ball was even off to a hot start against Wisconsin before getting hurt. If you prefer aerial stats, Jerome Lane is averaging 118 receiving yards per game and his QB, Thomas Woodson, has 10 touchdowns to only two INTs.

Appalachian State looked like they could be the darlings who take down big teams again this year, as everyone expects big things ever since the Michigan game a decade ago. They fought valiantly against a Tennessee team that I’ve openly bashed (the Vols struggled mightily against a banged up Ohio last week, which I predicted/bragged about predicting), beat a bad Old Dominion team, and got throttled by a pretty good Miami team. Call me crazy, but I don’t think they’re any better than Akron.

Akron has had one bad game and it was on the road against a very good team. In the wins, the Zips have done enough to make me a believer and make them the favorite to take the MAC East. Vegas has Appalachian State as six point favorites, and while they tend to know things that I don’t know, I’m calling their bluff.

Prediction: Akron wins a shootout on a late score, 41-38. Everyone finds the end zone in this slugfest!