The Bowling Green Falcons (1-3) and Akron Zips (1-3) meet up to start the conference season after a tough non-conference slate which put both teams in the hole early.
Both these squads come into this game looking to start off on the right foot and prove their programs are going in a good direction, as this will be the likeliest chance either of these teams will have at a victory this season.
Akron and BGSU are at different points in their respective builds. The Zips are in a Year 0 situation under Joe Moorhead’s stewardship, looking to put down the building blocks towards a better future, while the Falcons are in their fourth season under Scot Loeffler, with 2022 expected to be a show-me year with most of the roster being brough in by the current staff. A win here for BGSU would certainly help prove there’s hope to be had.
Those storylines alone make this an intriguing matchup in MAC East play, even before the improved play of both sides over the last four weeks.
- Time and Date: Saturday, October 1, 2022, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time.
- Network: ESPN+ (A subscription is required for viewing.)
- Location: Summa Field at InfoCision Stadium in Akron, Ohio
- Spread/Total: Bowling Green is a nine-point road favorite, with an over/under of 51.5, per OddsShark.
- All-time series: BGSU leads the series 18-10 all-time, with Akron winning the last two contests.
Getting to know the Falcons
The Falcons are coming into Saturday’s game with some questions surrounding the QB position after Matt McDonald sat out the Mississippi State game with an injury. Camden Orth, an LIU transfer, performed admirably in his stead, finishing 17-of-28 for 172 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with short prep.
Regardless of who is under center, this is a BGSU team which has shown flashes of competence on the offensive side of the ball despite the numbers.
BGSU is 113th of 131 teams in total offense, at 305 total yards on average per game, while placing a respectable 88th in passing offense, with 880 pass yards and 12 touchdowns through the air to just one interception between Orth and McDonald. The rushing game is not particularly utilized, with 85 yards average per game and just three scores via the run— with two of those three scores either by McDonald or tight end Harold Fannin Jr.
It must be kept in mind two of their games have been against Power Five sides which handled them fairly easily; in two contests against similar competition, the Falcons scored 45.5 points and 404 total yards per game, indicating they can keep pace.
If McDonald is healthy, he could have a field day on a vulnerable Akron defense; so far this season, going 676-of-119 for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns (with no interceptions) through the air, with 77 yards and a score on the ground as well.
There have been 13 passcatchers with at least one reception and seven with at least one scoring reception, showing BGSU isn’t afraid to spread the ball around. Topping the charts is Alabama A&M transfer Odieu Hilare, with 14 catches for 164 yards and three touchdowns, who has come to be reliable possession receiver. Ta’ron Keith is both BGSU’s most reliable receiver (at a team-leading 16 receptions for 125 yards and two scores) and their second-leading back, with 81 yards on 20 carries. Jaison Patterson is the team’s starting running back, with 83 yards on 31 attempts.
Defensively, this team can be charitably described as a work-in-progress, never allowing less than 31 points and ranking 128th of 131 teams in total defense, allowing 520.0 yards per game and 23 touchdowns.
The Eastern Kentucky game was a particular embarrassment, with the FCS squad outgaining BGSU by nearly 100 yards through the air, picking up 11-of-17 third-down conversions and converting on all seven red zone visits.
Obviously, BGSU will look to improve upon their work up to this point against the Zips.
Five Falcons are already at 20+ tackles on the season, with linebacker Chris Bacon atop the tackle charts at 27 stops. The team totals 24 tackles-for-loss for 114 yards, including 14 sacks, a top-five mark in the country. 13 players have registering at least one TFL and 10 players have at least one sack; former NAIA product Demetrius Hardamon has been the team’s havoc leader, with 3.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks.
Three players tie for the team lead with an interception apiece, while safety Jordan Anderson also has three pass break-ups, leading the defense.
Sami Sir is the teams’ punter, averaging 38.6 net yards per punt, while placekicker Mason Lawler is 2-of-3 on attempts thus far.
Getting to know the Zips
The Zips have already looked a lot better than at any point over the last three seasons, showing some promise on both sides of the ball over their last four contests. They’ve gone from pathetic to mediocre, which is honestly a compliment considering where this team was by the end of last year. The short-term issue at present is this team is still very much in development.
They’re just behind BGSU in total offense, coming in 115th at 301.5 yards per game, but the biggest difference between them and BGSU is their struggles to convert any opportunities to points. They’ve scored just five total touchdowns in four games (compared to 15 for the Falcons), settling for a lot of field goals instead. Even that proved to be an issue early on, as Cory Smigel started the season 1-of-4 with a long of 25 yards. He was eventually replaced by Noah Perez, who has proven to be a lot more reliable at 4-of-5, with a long of 41 yards.
DJ Irons leads the offense under center, currently at 92-of-146 for 919 yards and three touchdowns with an interception. When sack yards are taken out of the equation, he’s also an impressive runner, with 160 yards on the ground.
Four receivers have notched double-digit receptions for the Zips, carrying the load for the offense. Pitt transfer Shocky Jacques-Louis leads the way with 297 yards on 21 receptions, scoring once. Penn State transfer George Daniel is right behind him, with 231 yards on 21 catches. LSU transfer Alex Adams hauled in his first touchdown as a Zip last week, adding onto his 12 catches for 111 yards.
Minnesota transfer Cam Wiley carries the load at running back, with 50 carries for 170 yards and two touchdowns, while also proving to be a reliable backfield receiver with seven catches for 73 yards.
Defensively, the Zips showed some moxie against the Flames last week, allowing 21 points and just 309 yards of offense, while forcing six punts and getting a takeaway. It was much improved from the efforts of their other three games, as this unit typically allows 483 yards per game, as well as 21 opposing touchdowns.
The Zips have 12 players in double-digit tackles already, which may not be too big a surprise considering how much the defense has been on the field. Akron struggles in big play generation, with just six sacks and 10 pass break-ups as a unit— though they’ve also nabbed four interceptions, showing there’s potential if they’re allowed to settle in.
The first player to keep in mind is veteran linebacker Bubba Arslanian, whose 43 tackles nearly double the next-best tackler on the team, with his two tackles-for-loss putting him second on the table. His presence is essential in the middle of the field.
Akron’s biggest threat on the defensive line is Wyoming transfer Victor Jones, who has 18 tackles, a team-leading four tackles-for-loss, a sack, a pass break-up and a QB hit. Zach Morton has also emerged in rotation roles at the EDGE position, with five tackles, 1.5 tackles-for-loss and sacks, an interception, two pass break-ups, a QB hit and a forced fumble.
Darrian Lewis (25 tackles, two tackles-for-loss, one interception), Tyson Durant (10 tackles, one interception, kick block) and KJ Martin (18 tackles, pass break-up) have been pleasant surprises in the secondary with the absence of Charles Amankwaa.
Sacred Heart transfer Noah Gettmann has been a pleasant surprise as a defensive weapon at punter, with a 41.6 net yard average per boot on 30 attempts, including a long of 62 yards. He has four 50+ yard punts, seven punts inside-the-20 and 10 fair catches forced, neutralizing opponent special teams units.
What to Expect
This will not be a pretty game.
Both teams have struggles in very different areas of the field, which will cause some issues considering the talent levels of these two squads. BGSU’s offense looks good, but their defense is lacking. Akron’s defense has potential when everything is working, but the offense has issues crossing into plus territory.
The last six games in this matchup have not been particularly close contests either, with the winning team gaining victory by a two-possession lead in all six games, with the teams splitting it 3-3. Akron’s swept the last two games with a vastly inferior team, as well, complicating matters.
The patters probably holds this go-around as well, as both teams have been in “play not ot lose” scenarios for so long, it will be hard to re-adjust, and that could have an affect on the psyche as soon as adversity arises.
Regardless, it will make for a potentially strange contest if you’re looking for something to watch at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday.