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MAC Kickoff Countdown #11 Akron

Mac Kickoff Countdown: 

#13 Eastern Michigan
#12 Miami

It's hard to picture 2010 going worse for Akron than 2009. Not only did the Zips field a terrible team but the program itself was plagued by what seemed to be a scandal a week early in the year. Coaches leaving amid accusations of secondary recruiting violations, players leaving the team, and players being arrested put a black mark on what should have been an exciting season for Zip's fans.

Given Akron's history (Coach Owens made a veritable career at Akron by squeezing in a single winning season every three or four years) one might think that the Zips may have given Brookhart another chance, but the combination of off the field issues and a new pressure to live up to the investments being made in the program signaled a need for change.  So with the six year J.D Brookhart experiment over and done with Akron begins a new era under former Notre Dame coach, recruiting expert, and texting newbie Rob Ianello.
Year Wins Losses Percent

The Zip's are not so far removed from success that fans have forgotten what it's like to win, if you're a grad student at Akron, or just in your third senior year, you probably remember the Zip's being one of the better teams in the conference. There was a three year span from 2003-2005 where the Zips were in the mix every year, and once won the Eastern Division. They were in control of their own destiny late in the 2008 season before a crushing 4OT loss to Buffalo sent them into a tail spin.

Last season Akron got smacked around by just about everyone. Aside token wins over Eastern Michigan and Morgan State all the Zips have to hang their hat on was bringing home the Wagon wheel and knocking Kent out of the MAC East race.

Akron's chances of winning last season were usually choked out by their defense. The Zips offense, which had troubles of it's own, could not overcome the four plus touchdowns given up per game by the defense (And that's counting a no-no against Morgan State). The worst part for Akron was that in three of their losses they were ahead, or tied, at some point in the third quarter before the wheels came off. The Zips problems started in the opponents backfield where their .95 sacks per game was last in the conference.
Rank Name Sacks
1 Kent St. 2.75
2 Northern Ill. 2.62
2 Temple 2.62
4 Central Mich. 1.93
5 Buffalo 1.83
6 Toledo 1.67
7 Ohio 1.64
8 Bowling Green 1.54
9 Eastern Mich. 1.42
9 Western Mich. 1.42
11 Ball St. 1.25
12 Miami (OH) 1.17
13 Akron 0.92

The offense never really got over the loss of Chris Jacquemain, When he was forced to quit early in the year the Zips passing game took a nose dive for a span of weeks.

Akron Quarterbacks, in order of appearance
Chris Jacquemain 26 44 320 59.1 7.27 4 1 145.6
Matt Rodgers 39 69 405 56.5 5.87 1 6 93.2
Patrick Nicely 120 222 1349 54.1 6.08 6 6 108.6

Matt Rodgers never caught on and Patrick Nicely took a several weeks to get into his rhythm, he broke out against Syracuse but he was terribly inconsistent throughout the year..

This year Akron has several excuses to struggle. They have a new coach who brings with him new defensive and offensive systems, they open with three of their first four games against BCS conference competition and two of those are on the road, and they lose the bulk of their receiving experience. But the lack of pass rush may be addressed by ditching the ill fated 3-3-5 concept, a scheme which has never really worked well at Akron (and has rarely worked anywhere else). With the 3-3-5 gone and the potential for Patrick Nicely to be a little more careful with the ball Akron's woe's may be near an end.
4-Sep Syracuse
11-Sep Gardner-Webb
18-Sep at Kentucky
25-Sep at Indiana
2-Oct Northern Illinois
9-Oct at Kent State
16-Oct at Ohio
23-Oct Western Michigan
30-Oct at Temple
6-Nov at Ball State
17-Nov Miami (OH)
26-Nov Buffalo

In their favor the Zips do have several key games at home against teams who are in something of a rebuilding phase. They have an opportunity to close the year with two home wins against Miami and Buffalo. If Ball State has even close to the number of problems this year as they did last Akron could easily close out with three straight wins. Throw in a surprise against WMU, and  nearly sure thing against Gardner Webb then the Zips may be looking at six wins *If* they take the Wagon Wheel again.

But the above series of wins is the best possible scenario for Akron. With Kent poised to have its first Bowl eligible season in years, Miami sporting the best young Quarterback in the MAC, and Ball State bringing back Lewis for his fifth season there are probably too many things that have to happen for Akron to be a factor.

The fate of the Zips 2010 season rest on two sophomores, The a fore mentioned Patrick Nicely developed well as the season went on, Ideally he should not have been asked to take the helm so early in his career but he did seem to make the most of it. Nicely will be the player that the Zips offense lives or dies by this season so his unexpected play last season may pay dividends this year but he won't have Andre Jones, Dashan Miller around this year.
OU 9 23 98 39.1 38 0 0 74.92 3 18 6 16
@BUF 17 34 200 50 26 0 2 87.64 6 0 0 8
@SYC 16 25 191 64 46 1 0 141.38 9 -35 -3.9 2
@NIU 11 27 124 40.7 21 0 0 79.32 4 -19 -4.8 0
KSU 19 34 261 55.9 59 2 1 133.89 6 20 3.3 10
TEM 15 29 99 51.7 11 1 1 84.88 5 -3 -0.6 2
@BGSU 22 32 259 68.8 34 2 0 157.36 7 33 4.7 20
EMU 11 18 117 61.1 25 0 2 93.49 2 32 16 29

On the defensive side of the ball Akron All-MAC linebacker Brian Wagner who may go into this season as the best linebacker in the entire conference. Last season he seemed to be everywhere on the field, the sole bright spot for a Zips defense that was shredded by just about everybody. He was not a huge presence in the backfield, but then again nobody on Akron's defense was. But he played the ball very well once it made it across the line of scrimmage.
No Yds TD TDs
Ast Solo AssTFL SoloTFL YdsTFL Ast Solo Yards PassDef Fumbles QBHurries
2 33 1 1
60 72 6 4 18 0 1 4 3 2 2

As stated above, there is an outside chance the Zips put some serious wins up during Coach Ianello's first season but it's a remote one. Switching to the 4-3 won't magically make your defensive line any better than it was last year, and even son of Krypton Brian Wagner is going to need some help up front. There is also reason to question weather or not an improved Patrick Nicely will matter if he does not have someone other than Jeremy LaFrance at wide out.

The offensive wild card is going to be the line, it's talented and experienced but it has not lived up to it's potential. If Ianello can get the most out of them Akron might sport a reliable enough running game to make their offense two dimensional.

Akron's Dream season sees six, maybe seven wins off the performance of two very young stars, they don't win the division but they will be bowling with a run of three straight wins late in the year. Akron's nightmare sees an improved Ball State team, Zach Dysert, and the rebuilding Bulls close their season out 0-3 which would limit the Zips to two, maybe three games.

My demotivational poster this season for Akron is related to their coach, it might be a bit lazy to reuse this but I am moving into a new house this week: