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Akron Zips vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview

The Zips came oh so close to upsetting their Big Ten opponent in 2013 and will get another chance to pull off that upset in Happy Valley Saturday.

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Akron went into the Big House to take on the Michigan Wolverines last year and came just four yards short of the biggest win in school history.  They may have not gotten the win, but they showed they can hang with the Big Ten and Penn State cannot take the Zips lightly this Saturday.  Terry Bowden spoke on how the Michigan game of last year may help the Zips prepare for the Nittany Lions.

(h/t George Thomas)

It also helps that Akron is in a much, much better place than they were a year ago when they faced Michigan.  The Zips have won five of their past six games dating back to last season and were clicking on all cylinders last week against the Howard Bison.  It may have been against an FCS opponent, but a 41-0 victory is impressive regardless of opponent.

Kyle Pohl is again the focal point of the Zips offense as he was last week and will be every week.  The junior quarterback started hot and looked strong throughout going 22-for-35 with 308 yards and four touchdowns.  He was also the Zips leading rusher with 48 yards.  Pohl spread the ball well and 10 different players ended up with a reception and four different receivers had touchdowns.

The running game could not keep pace with the passing game and the Zips running backs finished with 21 carries for 65 yards.  Akron will have to be more successful running the ball to maintain balance.  Kyle Pohl had plenty of time to throw against Howard, but if the Zips struggle again in the running game, the Nittany Lions will have a field day rushing the passer.

Penn State has their own second year starter in sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg and he is something special.  Hackenberg and the Nittany Lions defeated the UCF Golden Knights last week in Dublin, Ireland needing all 60 minutes to do it.  They ended the game on a 36 yard field goal set up by a Hackenberg drive to win 26-24 in the final seconds.  Hackenberg finished 32-for-47 for 454 yards and a touchdown including a pretty 79 yard touchdown bomb to Geno Lewis.  Hackenberg will likely find a lot of success against an inexperienced Zips secondary on Saturday.  If the Zips offense manages to keep Hackenberg off the field combined with a few well-timed interceptions and sacks from the Akron defense, the Zips will be in a good position to pull off the upset.

Be sure to check out some more coverage of this game as Hustle Belt's own Brandon Hickey asks Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries' some questions about the upcoming match-up.