When it comes to name coaches in the Mid-American Conference, you’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger one than Bowden. It’s college football royalty, and for the last few years it has touched the Akron ZIps in the form of head coach Terry Bowden. And though now, Bowden is known for his Akron teams, it wasn’t that long ago when he was known for a successful stint with the Auburn Tigers from 1993-1998 to the tune of 47-17-1.
On Saturday, Bowden takes his Zips to Alabama in a return trip for him that has significant implications for them. At 1-2, with blowout losses to the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Iowa St. Cyclones, and MAC play on the horizon, a win on Saturday would go a long way to prove to Zips fans that the hype and hope placed in Akron at season’s dawn was not misplaced.
In truth, Saturday is the first true test of the Zips in the 2017 season. Penn State and Iowa State were absolute disasters to the tune of a 93-14 combined score. That’s.... sub-optimal. The lone win for the Zips came against overmatched Arkansas-Pine Bluff. This week is the chance for the Zips to go on the road, against a talented Sun Belt team, and prove that they should be in the conversation for the MAC East, the weaker of the divisions in the MAC.
Troy hosts Saturday’s event at 2-1 with their own proving to be done. After wins against New Mexico State and Alabama State, after a season-opening loss to Boise State on the road, this is their opportunity to also prove that they are contenders for their conference, something that many were hoping would be reality when head coach Neal Brown was hired in 2015. Brown’s tenure with the Trojans has been successful by all measures, highlighted by a 10-3 2016 that would see Troy ranked in the Top 25, a first for the Sun Belt.
On paper, it’s a matchup that justifies the 15-point spread that the experts in Las Vegas have placed on the game. Troy’s offensive production numbers all exceed Akron’s and their defensive numbers do the same. Something to note, though, that gives me pause, is that Akron’s offense is an exceptionally talented bunch. Give me Thomas Woodson and Warren Ball in a shootout and I like my chances. It’s a Sun Belt/Mid-American Conference showdown, and you know crazy things are bound to happen. It goes down Saturday at 6:00PM.