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2019 MAC Football Week Two Game Preview: Akron Zips vs UAB Blazers

The Akron Zips look to rebound in week two against last years’ Conference USA Champs, UAB.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 14 Ohio at Akron Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

AKRON

Akron (0-1) looks to turn the page on a 42-3 loss to Illinois as UAB (1-0) travels to Akron for a showdown at noon on Saturday, Sept. 7th on the CBS Sports Network.

After the dust settled on last week’s loss to Illinois, I tried to make sense of what happened and how Akron might do this week against UAB.

The personnel decisions had a hand in the loss to Illinois, with Akron relying heavily on youth and inexperience. Akron played at least 15 freshmen, including 11 true freshmen.

Eleven Zips made their first career starts against Illinois, not including the punter Jonah Wieland’s debut, where he attempted seven punts for a 30.4-yard average. Kicker Jerry Fitschen, who attempted his first career field goals, scored the Zips only points going 1-of-2 on the day.

On defense, Akron started at least two freshman defensive linemen and three freshman defensive backs and played other freshman defensive backs who didn’t start. Not surprising on the youth movement in the defensive backfield, where Akron’s roster is made up of mostly underclassman.

On offense, the Zips’ right and left tackles Landon Forman and Austin Sample made their starting debuts along with wide receiver Dustin Burkhart. Illinois defense finished with six sacks, twelve tackles for loss, and three QB hurries.

Akron players projected by some media or fans to be starters did not start but did play such as defensive lineman Justin Sampson and Deandre Brimage and wide receiver Andre Williams.

At least three projected senior starters did not play last week vs Illinois, CB Alvin Davis (#9 All-MAC player for 2019), DT Davon’te Jest, and LT Trevor Brown.

It remains unclear if Davis, Jest, or Brown will play vs UAB.


UAB

Head coach Bill Clark, his staff, and players have simply done a tremendous job in getting the program through the last five years with as much success as they’ve had.

UAB, due to funding issues, did not compete in football in the 2015 and 2016 season. The coaches and players who remained at UAB though, not playing, prepared to win when football returned in 2017.

UAB’s first year back was successful with an 8-5 record and a bowl appearance against the Ohio Bobcats. In 2018, UAB won the Conference USA title with an 11-3 record and finished the season with a 37-13 win in the Boca Raton Bowl against a very good defensive team in Northern Illinois.

Phil Steele has UAB in a four-way race for first place in the USA West Division in 2019.

UAB won its first contest of the year, beating FCS opponent Alabama State Hornets 24-19.


How Akron Can beat UAB

I expect Akron will rebound week one and show more of what they can be about against UAB.

If Akron is a winner vs UAB, these are some UAB players they will have to keep in check.

QB Tyler Johnston:

Johnson is a dual-threat QB and Akron has to be prepared to limit his effectiveness on the speed option, QB draws, and scrambles. Johnson had 12 attempts last week for 64 yards and picked up some first downs via the run.

UAB is not afraid to throw the deep ball, taking several deep shots last week when it saw what it liked in Alabama State’s defensive formations. QB Johnson threw a nice deep ball last week, connecting on big pass plays of 37, 28, and 23 yards, all to different wide receivers. Johnson nearly connected on a few other long throws.

RB Spencer Brown

At 233 pounds, Brown is a load to deal with and is closing in on UABs all-time rushing yardage record, needing only 185 yards to surpass former Minnesota Viking sixth round draft choice QB Joe Webb for first place. UAB had to replace several starters on its offensive line but Brown still rushed for 77 yards last week on 23 carries.

DL Garrett Marino

The senior defensive lineman had 9 tackles last week against Alabama State and was awarded Conference USA Defensive player of the week honors.

Akron will rebound on offense across the board this week and its not just that they face a team in UAB who is replacing seven defensive starters: Akron is more talented than what we saw last week.

The offensive line should play better this week, especially if Trevor Brown returns.

I expect QB Kato Nelson will have more time to throw and will find emerging wide receiver Nate Stewart and Jeremiah Knight with more regularity.


Prediction:

UAB 34, Akron 23