This coming season is the biggest of the Terry Bowden era. Not that he should be fired if the Akron Zips fail to make a bowl game, but they are more than capable at this point. With numerous transfers and returning players, this could be one of the best Akron teams in recent memory. Let's check out what lies ahead for the Zips this season.
First of all, I speak for most Akron fans when I say THANK YOU, MAC SCHEDULE MAKERS! The 2015 MAC schedule for the Zips is nearly identical to last year's in that it doesn't include any of the top three teams from the West. The only change is that instead of Ball State as the second cross-division opponent, Central Michigan will make a trip to Infocision Stadium for the first time since 2011.
Also, Akron fans will agree with me when I say that midweek games suck when your team is playing. Attendance isn't very good, and you get home well after midnight.
Thank you, MAC.
Now for the game-by-game predictions.
September 5, at Oklahoma Sooners
I won't go into too much detail with this one. Oklahoma looked awful in its bowl game against Clemson, but this is a Big 12 team, and Akron doesn't even know who their quarterback will be yet. It will be a decent gauge to see how the season may go, but Norman is a hard place to win, especially if you're a MAC team going through growing pains. I'll say, with confidence, that Akron opens with a loss. 0-1 (0-0 MAC)
September 12, vs. Pittsburgh Panthers
This may be the hardest game on the schedule to predict. Can a MAC team that hasn't had a winning record in ten years beat an ACC team in two straight seasons? You have to think that the Panthers, even with a new coaching staff, will be ready for the Zips this time. The key for Akron will be to stuff Pitt running back James Conner once again. As much as I'd like to say that the Zips can pull off the upset again, I'm going to say that Akron loses by no more than two scores. I hope I'm wrong. 0-2 (0-0 MAC)
September 19, vs. Savannah State Tigers
Gee, how do you go 0-12 in the FCS? I'd like to see a tougher opponent than a winless FCS team, but a blowout win will be a good confidence booster going to Louisiana the following week. 1-2 (0-0 MAC)
September 26, at Louisiana-Lafayette Cajuns
Louisiana has been a leader of the Sun Belt for a couple of years now. Last time the two teams met, the Ragin' Cajuns came to Infocision Stadium and squeaked out a 35-30 victory. In 2015, the Cajuns won't have quarterback Terrance Broadway, but they are playing at home. A 1-3 start for the Zips would be a bit scary despite having an easy MAC schedule ahead. I'm picking Akron to win this one with defense. 2-2 (0-0 MAC)
What about these teams?
Ball State Cardinals
With the schedule out for 2015, let's take a look at BSU's opponents six months in advance.
What about these teams?
October 3, vs. Ohio Bobcats
Akron should have beaten Ohio in 2014, but the freshman quarterback made mistakes throughout the game. Akron plays well at home in MAC play, and Ohio has been trending in the opposite direction of the Zips over the past couple of years. Because it's a home game, I'll give Akron the victory here. 3-2 (1-0 MAC)
October 10, at Eastern Michigan Eagles
The Zips scored 31 unanswered points to beat the Eagles at home by a 31-6 final in 2014. I doubt Eastern will be as bad this year, but they still have a long way to go until they can be taken seriously in the MAC. Once again, the Zips will get off to a 4-2 start. We'll see if they can finish better than 1-5. 4-2 (2-0 MAC)
October 17, at Bowling Green Falcons
I don't buy the Bowling Green hype. Sure, they had a pretty good team in 2014, but they weren't that great. Obviously, they didn't have Matt Johnson, but James Knapke wasn't as much of a downgrade as he was expected to be. This will be an extremely difficult game to win, especially because it is on the road. This game could be huge in the MAC East race, and I am going to pick Bowling Green to win this one. 4-3 (2-1 MAC)
October 24, BYE
People overlook the importance of they BYE week. Akron's is placed perfectly. Football is physically tough, and the Zips will be well rested for Central Michigan.
October 31, vs. Central Michigan Chippewas
This is a tough game to pick because the teams have no recent history. Central Michigan is going through a regime change, and no longer has Thomas Rawls or Titus Davis. Again, Akron plays really well at home, and Central Michigan is basically an enigma right now. They could be great; they could suck. I don't think two people agree on how good the Chips will be in 2015. That said, the Zips will come out rested, and they will beat Central Michigan. 5-3 (3-1 MAC)
November 7, at Massachusetts Minutemen
Akron will travel to Amherst for the first time in 2015. They've beaten UMass twice in a row, including a 30-6 win in 2014. Quarterback Blake Frohnapfel didn't play in that game, and it showed. As far as 2015 goes, Akron's defense could be even better than is was in 2014. Frohnapfel isn't going to be able to help the Minutemen beat the Zips. Akron will win its sixth game for the first time in ten years. 6-3 (4-1 MAC)
November 14, at Miami RedHawks
Miami was a scary team in 2014. Andrew Hendrix was excellent, and they almost pulled off a couple of upsets in MAC play. They will be without Hendrix, Quinten Rollins, and Dawan Scott in 2015, so it will be a tough turnaround for them. Chuck Martin brought in a nice recruiting class, and could have Miami competing in the MAC in a couple of seasons. Due to all of the losses, I don't see Miami beating Akron. If Scott, Hendrix, Rollins, and David Frazier were returning, I would feel very differently. So, I'll take Akron in this one. 7-3 (5-1 MAC)
November 21, vs. Buffalo Bulls
I have no doubt in my mind that the 55-24 Buffalo win over the Zips in 2014 was a fluke. Buffalo threw the kitchen sink at the Zips, and Akron won't be caught off guard like that again. When competing for a MAC title, the adrenaline rises, and the Zips should be in that position in 2015. Buffalo returns a lot of players, but Lance Leipold is now the head coach. Can the Leipold transition to the FBS be that easy? I doubt it. Plus, again, Akron plays well at home, and their last two are at home. A win against Buffalo will put the Zips in position to go to Detroit. 8-3 (6-1 MAC)
November 27, vs. Kent State Golden Flashes
It's the best rivalry in the MAC. Last time the Zips got the Flashes at home on senior day, it was Thanksgiving day in 2005 with a game time of 10:00am. Akron won that game 35-3, and clinched a trip to the MAC championship game. In 2014, Kent State picked the best time to play its best game. Kyle Pohl was just 17-42 on Black Friday, and the Flashes took back the Wagon Wheel. In 2015, Kent may improve, but they don't have much going for them. Their punter is the place kicker. Also, Akron is undefeated in three Black Friday games at Infocision Stadium, so Akron is going to win this game. 9-3 (7-1 MAC)
I know, 9-3 is incredibly optimistic. It all comes down to the MAC schedule, which is to Akron's advantage. Akron is so close to stepping up in the college football world, and I think they will make the jump in 2015. I don't want to guarantee a bowl game, but the schedule doesn't lie. I look at the schedules of Buffalo and Bowling Green, and I see at least one game against Northern Illinois, Toledo, or Western Michigan on each of them.
If the returning players and transfers step up, the Zips can easily win the East. It all starts with the quarterback, though. If the quarterback is good, the Zips have a chance at making school history in 2015.