The Akron Zips will have to figure out what life after Thomas Woodson will be like. They got a glimpse last season, with Kato Nelson getting a few starts, including a monster game in the big upset against Ohio, which helped propel the Zips to the conference championship game. Regardless of the quarterback situation, the Zips need to figure out how to run the ball to give the new signal caller help. Receiver Kwadarrius Smith could help loosen some defenses up with his big play ability.
On defense, Akron needs to figure out how to stop the run, and the pass. They return one of the best players in the MAC on either side of the ball, with linebacker Ulysees Gilbert III. There are also three returning linemen and talent in the defensive backfield. This probably wont be a shut down defense, but there could be flashes of brilliance.
Let’s take a way too early peak at each of the Zips games, shall we?
Sept. 1, @ Nebraska Cornhuskers
The Zips will certainly have their work cut out for them in this road game. The entire state of Nebraska has caught Frostmania, and the usually rabid fanbase will be frothing out of every orifice, instead of just the mouth. The easy prediction is a Nebraska blowout, but not so fast, reader.
There have been more than one team that falls flat on their face in a coach’s debut. Along with all the noise that normally overwhelms a player on opening day, there are a boat load more with a new coach. Everything from new terminology to a complete change in demeanor. Another added hindrance is the desire to be perfect, so little mistakes can snowball quickly. I am not going out on a limb and predicting an Akron win, but do not be surprised if this game is close.
Nebraska 38, Akron 21
Sept. 8th, Morgan State
I am not going to pretend to know anything about Morgan State, and don’t even know their mascot. After a brief google search, I learned why. They have been terrible for about 45 years. However, the school name did kind of ring a bell, and my research showed why. A bunch of historical players played there. Frenchy Fuqua for you Steeler fans and LeRoy Kelly for you Browns fans are two of the biggest. Unless they are transported to the modern team via time machine, this one shouldn’t be close.
Akron 38, Morgan State, 14.
Sept 15th, @ Northwestern Wildcats
The fighting Fitzgeralds have been a pretty good team in the Big Ten recently, including a top 25 season last year. This recent success has fueled a renewed interest in the football team that harkens back to the days when Morgan State was good at football. The Wildcats lost a great running back, but return their quarterback, provided he comes all the way back from injury.
I think Akron will have a chance to make some big plays in this game to keep it slightly interesting early, but the Wildcats will take home the win rather convincingly.
Northwestern 41, Akron 14.
Sept 22nd, @ Iowa State Cyclones
The fighting Matt Campbells went 8-5 last season, but two of their wins were really impressive. On the defensive side of the ball, they are coached by Jim Heacock, who was regularly one of the top coordinators in the game when he coached at Ohio State. The defense was playing well at the end of the last season, and should still be a solid force. This will be a tough game for Akron, though probably not as tough as the Northwestern one.
Iowa State 31, Akron 17
Oct. 6th, Miami RedHawks
The Zips open their conference slate against the Miami RedHawks, which is a senior laden team that lost a lot of close contests last season. I jumped on the Chuck Martin bandwagon with their 2016 winning streak, and I saw nothing last year to make me jump off. With the rough non-conference schedule combined with an opening game against Miami, this Akron team could be in trouble before the midpoint of the season.
Miami 38, Akron 14
Oct. 13th, @ Buffalo Bulls
Like a lot of the MAC, the Bull has some quarterback injury issues last season, but Anthony Johnson showed he has the potential to be a first round pick at receiver. Tyree Jackson has solidified himself as a starter at QB, and the offense could be potent while the defense has Kalil Hodge. The Zips could play good football and still find themselves sitting at 1-5 the first half of the season.
Buffalo Bulls 44, Akron 28.
Oct. 20th, @ Kent State Golden Flashes
The good news for Akron is that they could be playing bad football and still beat Kent. I know Kent could be improved, but I am going to have to see it to believe it.
Akron 38, Kent 17.
Oct. 27th, Central Michigan Chippewas
This game with the Chippewas could be a shootout, with both offenses taking advantage of weaknesses in the opposing defenses. I am going to give the edge to Akron, simply because they might be riding a positive wave after the Kent win.
Akron 41, CMU 38.
Nov. 1st, Northern Illinois Huskies
A short week after a shootout against a quality opponent likely means the good times end at 2 games. A tough Huskies defense will make for rough sledding for any team, especially one like Akron that has been inconsistent and lacking in depth.
NIU 38, Akron 3.
Nov. 10th @Eastern Michigan Eagles
The Eagles seem to be a legit team now, and weather could be a factor at this point in the season. This particular Eagles team should be stout on defense and able to run the football, which would play right into a mudders hands.
EMU, 17, Akron 3.
Nov. 17th, Bowling Green Falcons
The bad luck of scheduling could continue here, since Bowling Green looks to be improved with a young offensive that may be clicking this late in the season.
BGSU 31, Akron 21
Nov. 23, @ Ohio Bobcats
The Zips finish the season at Peden Stadium, where the Bobcats will certainly be thirsty for revenge. Ohio should also be a pretty good football team with Nathan Rourke at the helm.
Ohio 38, Akron 17.
So the season ends with the Zips only getting 3 wins. The Zips should have an explosive offense, and an exciting secondary. Big plays on offense and defense could lead to some competitive games that the Zips otherwise would not be in. I wouldn’t be completely shocked if the last game against the Bobcats was for a bowl birth, but 6 wins are unlikely.