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2019 Week 10 MAC Preview: Akron Zips @ Bowling Green Falcons

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Bowling Green’s most winnable game left on the schedule is also the Zips’ greatest hope to snap losing streak.

NCAA Football: Bowling Green at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Another week passes and the Akron Zips remain the worst team in the FBS. One of three remaining winless teams, along with Rice and New Mexico State, the Zips have found themselves on the wrong side of consecutive shutouts. After a 21-0 blowout in Akron at the hands of Buffalo, the Zips looked completely listless against a struggling Northern Illinois team, falling 49-0 in DeKalb.

Year one of the Tom Arth era has been a trying time for a team which competed in Detroit for a MAC Championship as recently as two seasons ago. Bowl eligibility is out of the question, but with the schedule dwindling down to a close, Akron’s hoping to collect one victory and send the seniors off on a better note. Three of the Zips’ final four opponents are .500, meaning a matchup with 2-6 Bowling Green may be their best shot at avoiding their first winless season as a member of the FBS.

Bowling Green’s season didn’t come paired with high expectations, and the Falcons sit at a lackluster 2-6. But the Falcons’ rivalry game against Toledo showed the untapped potential Scot Loeffler’s team has pent up inside. Bowling Green remarkably held Toledo’s explosive offense to just seven points three weeks ago, but the Falcons were unable to capitalize and allowed a combined 87 points in losses to Central Michigan and Western Michigan.

It will be a battle between rookie head coaches and two of the bottom 10 scoring defenses in college, but one team is certain to leave with a win to raise spirits. For Bowling Green, bowl eligibility for the first time since 2015 is a long shot, but it technically remains in play with four games looming on the schedule.


Players to Watch

Grant Loy, QB, Bowling Green: Loy’s first start of the season was a resounding success. Although Bowling Green primarily beat Toledo with a ferocious defense, Loy completed 67% of his passes and delivered a 66-yard passing touchdown and 15-yard rushing touchdown in the win. Loy has rushed for over 60 yards in each of his three starts, averaging 88.7 rushing yards in those games. He’s thrown five interceptions in his last two outings, but playing a defense that allowed 274 yards rushing yards last week may cause Loy to frequently explore his options outside the pocket.

Bryson Denley, RB, Bowling Green: Andrew Clair has sat four-straight games due to a foot injury, and the rushing game hasn’t come easy for the Falcons this season. But junior running back Bryson Denley is picking up the pace in recent weeks, as he’s averaged at least 6.0 yards per carry in each of his last three outings. Denley has yet to receive more than 13 handoffs in a game this year, but given his success in limited action, the Falcons may consider increasing his usage rate.

Zach Gibson, QB, Akron: Three different quarterbacks saw playing time in the 49-0 loss to Northern Illinois, with Gibson making his second start of the year after Kato Nelson (currently serving suspension) went down with an injury against UMass. The three passers posted QB ratings of 2.2, 1.4, and 0.1, completing 7-of-26 passes for 51 yards and two interceptions. Saturday must be a bounce-back game for Gibson, who thrived with down-field throws in his debut versus UMass.

John Lako, ILB, Akron: His team may be 0-8, but Lako is still one of the best players in the MAC. After the graduation of longtime star Ulysees Gilbert, Lako has stepped up in the run-stopping game and is three tackles away from consecutive 100-tackle seasons. He has registered 6.5 tackles for loss, and even though the Zips’ are winless, the defense has looked solid at times — such as allowing 21 to Buffalo and 26 to Kent State — and a lot of that can be traced to the man in the middle.

Jamari Bozeman, FS, Bowling Green: Bowling Green hasn’t exactly been known for its defense since Dino Babers left for Syracuse, but Bozeman is looking to add a spark to a unit which has struggled through the years. Two weeks ago, the defense’s senior leader registered 14 tackles against Central Michigan and he’s the best tackler out of the Falcons’ secondary. Bozeman also has seven passes defended this year and should be instrumental in breaking up an Akron passing offense which completed under 27% of passes last week.


Game Notes

Time and Date: Saturday, November 2 at 2 p.m. ET

Network: ESPN+

Location: Doyt-Perry Stadium — Bowling Green, OH

Spread: Bowling Green (-6.5)

ESPN FPI: Bowling Green has 71.7% chance to win

All-time series: Bowling Green leads, 17-8

Last meeting: Bowling Green 21, Akron 6 — November 17, 2018

Bowling Green upset Akron at InfoCision Stadium last November, stifling the Zips’ offense in a 15-point win. The Falcons lost to the MAC East champion Zips in 2017, but Bowling Green won 8-straight matchups from 2007-2016.


Prediction

Bowling Green has not been good this year, but Akron has been much worse.

The Zips average 10.8 points per game (129th in FBS), and the offense particularly struggles in the rushing department, where they rank dead-last with 55.9 yards per game. Only Syracuse and Old Dominion allow more sacks per game than Akron’s offensive line, which yields an average of 4.25, and only Hawaii and New Mexico State turn the ball over more often than Akron (2.4 giveaways per game).

Bowling Green beat MAC West favorite Toledo at the same venue it will meet Akron on Saturday. Only one of the Falcons’ six losses was by fewer than four touchdowns, but Bowling Green has the home field advantage, the stronger offense, and an impressive under its belt. Falcons shouldn’t have too much difficulty pushing for win No. 3 this weekend at Doyt-Perry.

Prediction: Bowling Green 23, Akron 10