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Game 5 preview: Akron Zips

September 30, 2011

This is not quite a must-win game for EMU, but it’s close. Akron is the consensus worst team in the MAC, and widely considered one of the worst in the nation. For EMU to show improvement over 2010, they need at least three MAC wins. In all likelihood, those three wins will have to come against Akron, Buffalo, Kent State, and Central Michigan. Akron seems to be the weakest of those weak teams, and it’s hard to imagine the Eagles winning at Central Michigan after losing at home to Akron.

In 2010, under first-year head coach Rob Ianello, the Zips were arguably the worst team in the MAC, losing their first 11 games, including one to Gardner-Webb, before managing a win against Buffalo to close the season. So far this year they managed not to lose to their FCS opponent, Virginia Military Institute (last winning season: 1981), so I guess that’s something. EMU has no common opponents with Akron, but are connected through opponents that have met. EMU lost at Penn State, 34-6, Akron lost to Temple, 41-3, and Temple lost to Penn State, 14-10. Transitively, EMU is about 14 points better, plus a few points to adjust for EMU losing on the road while Akron and Temple lost at home.

Offensively, Akron’s passing game is probably on par with EMU’s, though they have an excuse, since quarterback Clayton Moore is a redshirt freshman. Based on his stats so far this year, I’d say he’s like Alex Gillett without the running ability (yikes!); his rushing average is -24.5 yards per game. Moore does have a clear go-to receiver in sophomore Keith Sconiers, who’s caught 35% percent of the passes for 45% of the passing yards this year. But after Sconiers there’s a huge drop off.

Unlike EMU, Akron’s run game is almost as weak as their passing game. The main ball carrier is redshirt freshman Jawon Chisholm, who’s carried 77 times for 396 yards (5.1 yards per carry) and one touchdown. Chisholm is pretty much it, as the next two ball carriers have combined for just 104 yards.

Akron’s scoring defense ranks last in the MAC, allowing a whopping 38.8 points per game, nearly double the 20.3 allowed by EMU. The Zips allow averages of 4.7 yards per carry and 7.3 yards per pass attempt, both worse than EMU. Akron also has one of the worst red zone defenses in the conference, allowing a touchdown 79% of the time; by comparison EMU has only allowed touchdowns on 54.6% of red zone possessions.

As for special teams, we’ll just observe that EMU is statistically superior in every aspect: kickoff returns, kickoff coverage, net punting, and net punt returns.

I pointed it out this morning, but it bears repeating that Akron is the consensus worst team in the MAC and one of the worst in the country. The point spreads favor EMU by about 9 (it’s been more than a decade since the Eagles were a double-digit favorite), while the Sagarin rankings suggest a 10- to 13-point win for EMU at home. It’s taken the Eagles two years to dig out of the MAC cellar, and if they want to avoid sliding back down, they need to win this game. I think that not only will EMU win, but it will not be close. Let’s say 24-10.

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