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Way Too Early Football Predictions: It's time for Akron to be a MAC contender

Akron's last legitimate shot at a MAC East title came in 2008. That could change in the upcoming season.

Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

If someone had told you this five years ago, you would have called that person delusional: Akron football will win a bowl game in 2015.

Well, it happened. After years and years of losing teams, the University of Akron's football program had a winning season and a bowl win. Only one of those things had happened since 2005 and the other one never had before. From losing to Gardner-Webb in overtime and trailing at Western Michigan by 60 points in a game to Famous Idaho Potato bowl champs, it's been a wild ride that hopefully can continue to get better.

Expectations are much different now. Akron has found a quarterback and some other skilled offensive players to become a better offensive team. The defense loses a lot of talent, but there are still numerous returning stars to go along with some nice additions, so a giant drop off in production isn't likely to happen. Plus, Chuck Amato is the defensive coordinator, that speaks for itself.

The biggest difference from last year will be the strength of schedule. The 2015 schedule doesn't hold a candle to 2016's, so last year Akron proved to be better than the bad, but can they prove to be as good as the best? We'll find out in five short months.

Now for the game-by-game predictions! (Here are the ones I made last year, I was off by two games and the combined margin of victory was 10 points)

WEEK 1 - Saturday, September 3 - vs VMI

The current Zip win streak began back on November 7, 2015. They've won five in a row and have a great shot to extend the streak to six against Virginia Military Institute. The Keydets went 2-9 in 2015, including a season opening loss at Ball State by a 48-36 final. Their only wins came against Morehead State and Mercer. Akron last played VMI back in 2011, and even that Akron team won in a blowout.

Prediction: Akron wins, and it isn't particularly close. 1-0 (0-0 MAC)

WEEK 2 - Saturday, September 10 - @ Wisconsin

Oh hey, Paul Chryst. I remember the last time you played Akron, do you? One of the biggest wins in Akron football history came on September 27, 2014 when the Zips came out of Heinz Field with a 21-10 victory over the Pitt Panthers. Akron's run game was dominant and their defense was crippling. Chryst should have his team ready for an upset minded team like Akron this time, though. Even if he doesn't, Wisconsin is a pretty good team. They went 10-3 and beat Southern California in the Holiday bowl, ending the season at No. 21 in the AP Poll. Akron's last trip to Camp Randall stadium came back in 2008 in a 38-17 loss. I pretty much expect another game like that.

Prediction: Badgers pull away in the second half to win by three scores. 1-1 (0-0 MAC)

WEEK 3 - Saturday, September 17 - @ Marshall

When the Rakeem Cato led Thundering Herd came to InfoCision Stadium in 2014, the game was pretty much over before halftime. Like Wisconsin, Marshall went 10-3 last season, but they went .500 against MAC teams, losing at Ohio and winning at Kent State despite the Flashes lighting up the scoreboard for 29 points. Freshman Chase Litton took most of the snaps at quarterback for the Herd, throwing for 2,605 yards and 23 touchdowns to just 8 picks. Running back Devon Johnson was the main factor in Akron's 2014 loss to the Herd, but his eligibility is up. I think this game will be much closer than that one, but can Akron pull off a huge road win against a former rival? It's too early for me to tell, but I expect Marshall to win.

Prediction: It goes down to the last few minut an evenes, but the Herd pull out a ten-point win. 1-2 (0-0 MAC)

WEEK 4 - Saturday, September 24 - vs Appalachian State

App. State is a great opponent for a MAC team to play in the nonconference portion of the schedule. They've got a nice fan base and college football fans know who they are (see: beating Michigan as an FCS program). 2015 saw the Mountaineers go 11-2 and 7-1 in the Sun Belt. ASU shared two common opponents with Akron last season, Louisiana and Ohio. They both beat the Ragin' Cajuns, but App. State was able to beat Ohio in the Camellia Bowl on a last second field goal, whereas Akron lost to the Bobcats by two. The Mountaineers like to run, and Akron has a strong defensive front. This one could be pretty fun.

Prediction: Akron grinds out a seven-point win to go into rivalry week at .500. 2-2 (0-0 MAC)

WEEK 5 - Saturday, October 1 - @ Kent State

"So rock me momma like a wagon wheel

Rock me momma any way you feel
Hey momma rock me
Rock me momma like the wind and the rain
Rock me momma like a south bound train
Hey momma rock me"

-Darius Rucker

Ah, the Battle for the Wagon Wheel. It's been back and forth the last three. Akron took the Wheel back in 2013 before losing it in 2014 and winning it back in the series finale in 2015 to clinch a winning season for the first time since 2005. As far as the game being played on the first of October, that's probably how it should be. Akron and Kent aren't normally in the run for a league title in November, so playing it early ensures 1) decent weather (hopefully, it is Northeast Ohio though) and 2) neither team has been eliminated from postseason consideration. Some of the best games in the rivalry have been played in the earlier part of the season, so there's another bonus. As far as the game goes, Akron hasn't had much success in Dix Stadium in a while. Kent State wasn't very good in 2015 and they only have five wins in the past two years. They struggled mightily on offense, which led to the offense being held without a touchdown in half of their games. Could they improve? Sure, but will they beat Akron? I don't think so.

Prediction: Tommy Woodson does it with his arm and feet, Zips win by two scores. 3-2 (1-0 MAC)

WEEK 6 - Saturday, October 8 - vs Miami

For the longest time, it didn't matter which team was good or which team wasn't, Akron wasn't going to beat Miami. Then the Don Treadwell thing went down and all of a sudden Akron has three straight wins over the RedHawks. They've all been pretty good games, too. Last year over half of Miami's roster was made up of freshman with some of those freshman being good, young players. They may still be a year away from making a run at bowl eligibility, but Chuck Martin will make sure this is a good game. I think Akron will win, but it is Miami, so I wouldn't be surprised if Miami ends up on top in this one because, well, it's Miami.

Prediction: Like the last three, it will be close throughout, but the better Akron team wins it with experience. 4-2 (2-0 MAC)

WEEK 7 - Saturday, October 15 - vs Western Michigan

Akron and Western Michigan haven't met on the gridiron since Rob Ianello and Bill Cubit frequented the sidelines for each team. Both Akron and Western fans are trying to forget about those days, so we'll move on without saying anymore.

Say what you will about P.J. Fleck, but the guy is straight up ELITE. He's got one of the most talented and experienced squads in the MAC and just went 8-5 and got the first bowl win in program history, so did Akron. BUT, as of right now, I see WMU making it to Detroit to play for a MAC title. Akron will have a shot to do the same, but they aren't in the meat grinder that is the MAC West, like the Broncos. If Akron wants a shot at a MAC title, this game is huge. It won't determine if they win the East or not, but in order to win the MAC you have to beat teams like Western Michigan.

Prediction: Broncos get out to early lead and never look back, winning by 14. 4-3 (2-1 MAC)

WEEK 8 - Saturday, October 22 - @ Ball State

I could make a Mike Neu name pun, but I can't think of a Neu one.


This is a pivotal game for the Zips. If they do end up going into Muncie with a 2-1 MAC record, people may start to believe that Detroit is a possibility. 2015 was rough for the Cards. The expectations were a little high, but their defense was too much of a liability. Basically, they're in rebuild mode. Akron hasn't won a game in the series since 2004 and the most recent game against Ball State ended catastrophically as Woodson threw four second half picks to lose by 14. Like I said though, Ball State is in rebuild mode and Akron is looking for an East division title.

Prediction: Akron controls the pace and wins by 17 heading into midweek play. 5-3 (3-1 MAC)

WEEK 9 - Thursday, October 27 - @ Buffalo

After just three days of rest, the Zips pack up and head to New York to take on the Buffalo Bulls. Everyone, and I mean everyone was shocked when Akron beat Buffalo 42-21 last year to lock up win number six, especially after Buffalo dominated Akron a year before in Buffalo. The Licata era in Buffalo is over after a long run and Lance Leipold has a full FBS season under his belt. Akron will only be on three days of rest, so that won't make things any easier. That said, Rob Ianello is still on staff at Buffalo, need I say more?

Prediction: This really is a hard one to predict, but I'll take Akron by seven in a really close game. 6-3 (4-1 MAC)

WEEK 10 - Wednesday, November 2 - vs Toledo

Last time Akron played Toledo, Akron actually won. It was the win that made people believe in Terry Bowden and got fans to buy in to what he is doing. It knocked Toledo out of a bowl game and sent the Akron seniors out with a Black Friday win.

Even though that was in 2013 with a different coaching staff, UT is still the more talented program. They just beat a really good Temple team in a bowl game, so it's not like they aren't good even though they crumbled last November. They just haven't been able to win the big game. Can Akron win? Absolutely. Will they? I don't see it happening.

Prediction: Toledo's talent lifts them over Akron by thirteen, Zips fans complain about having midweek games on the schedule. 6-4 (4-2 MAC)

WEEK 11 - Wednesday, November 9 - vs Bowling Green

Is this the year that Akron FINALLY beats Bowling Green? It hasn't happened since 2005. That game gave Akron life and they went on to win the MAC East.

The 2015 matchup was not pretty, not at all. It was close after a few possessions but lapses on offense, defense, and special teams allowed Bowling Green to dominate, 59-10. Heisman snub Matt Johnson only threw for 357 and they still won by 49, that's how bad it was.

Things are much different, though. No more Dino Babers, Matt Johnson, Travis Greene, Roger Lewis, experienced offensive line, or Gehrig Dieter for the Falcons will make a huge difference. They could still be really good though, even when they're in "rebuild" mode.

Prediction: Akron ends a decade-plus long drought against the Falcons in a ten-point midweek triumph. 7-4 (5-2 MAC)

WEEK 12 - BYE, Extended Week

The midweek #MACtion throws a big wrench in teams' schedules come the last few weeks of the season. After playing four games from October 22 to November 9, the Zips will finally get a little bit of time off. It's a bit late in the season for most coaches, but heading into such a big game, it isn't so bad after all.

WEEK 13 - Tuesday, November 22 - @ Ohio

Like Bowling Green and Ball State, Akron hasn't been able to beat Ohio in a long time either. The last time they beat Ohio was in midweek play way back in 2007. The last two have been pretty close, with both Ohio wins combining for five points. Frank Solich's Bobcats are famous for folding in November, but went on the road to beat Northern Illinois in the regular season finale. Yeah, Ohio won AT NIU in November, that's #MACtion. Akron was oh so close to ending the Bobcat losing streak last year. After two quick Ohio scores, they had numerous opportunities to win, but couldn't punch it in falling 14-12. Hopefully the Thanksgiving week matchup will be dry and not a monsoon like the 2015 game. I wouldn't be surprised if this one ends up sending the winner to Detroit to take on the West division champion.

Prediction: I don't think I have a choice, I'm taking Ohio. They'll be pretty good in 2016 and have beaten Akron constantly. Bobcats kick a late field goal to win by three. 7-5 (5-3 MAC)


As long as Akron can go at least 6-6, I wouldn't worry too much. However, with a year of experience and confidence to win games, the Zips should be thinking MAC East championship, and then MAC championship if they do make it that far. It's a big step, but I think the East division championship is there for the taking. It's April, though. November is still pretty far away. When you play in the MAC, you want to play for a trip to Detroit on weeknights in November. The Zips are in shape to do so in 2016.