It has been a rough start for Akron this season with losses to Ohio State and Temple by a combined score of 83-3. The Zips were shutout 42-0 by the Buckeyes in the season opener as a 31.5-point road underdog and hammered by the Owls 41-3 as a 15-point home underdog. The Zips lack of offense in their first two games is an understatement as they are currently ranked near the bottom of D-IA in just about every major category. The only bright spot has been wide receiver Marquelo Suel, who has 110 yards receiving on just five catches. The Zips haven't won a road game since 2008, dropping their last 15 in a row.
Cincinnati had little problem in its season opener with a 72-10 pasting of D-IAA Austin Peay as a 41-point home favorite. It was a totally different story last week as the Bearcats were on the receiving end of a 45-23 pounding by Tennessee as four-point road underdogs. They actually hung with the Volunteers through the first quarter in a 14-14 tie, but their defense had no answer for a Tennessee attack that racked up a total of 531 yards of total offense. Bearcat quarterback Zach Collaros responded with 230 yards passing and two touchdowns and running back Isaiah Pead added 155 yards on the ground, but it was not nearly enough to keep pace with the Vols.
Pead is averaging 11.5 yards per carry, the most in the nation by any back with at least 20 attempts. Opponents are having a lot of problems getting him on the ground. The Bearcats could use a lopsided win on Saturday to rest their starters late in the game. Their following game is next Thursday at home against North Carolina State, their last chance to prove themselves before heading into conference play. While the most glaring area of deficiency in the loss to Tennessee was the secondary, several other areas were addressed for improvement. One of the biggest was the failure to pressure the quarterback. Tyler Bray threw the ball 41 times, but Cincinnati had three hits on him. The Bearcats had several missed tackles as well that led to some pretty big plays.
The lack of success on the ground highlights a long list of issues for the Zips who have shown little life on offense through it's first 2 games. So far Akron has only 77 yards rushing. That comes with an equally poor average of 1.4 yards per attempt. Jawon Chisholm has show signs of promise, but the young back has not seen much daylight without corutesy from the offensive line, or lack thereof. Usually when a ground game is ineffective the passing attack will pick up the slack, but Akron's two quarterbacks have been inconsistent.
Clayton Moore has seen the bulk of the work in both contests, but he has completed less than 50.0 percent of his throws for only 246 yards. He has yet to throw a touchdown and has been intercepted twice. However, coach Ianello has no choice but to stick with the young gunslinger because backup Patrick Nicely has not been much better off the bench. Nicely has also completed less than 50.0 percent of his throws and does not look comfortable under center. The latter is understandable when considering the offensive line has already surrendered 13 sacks.
The Akron defense has been equally ineffective. Ohio State and Temple both ripped right through the Zips, and the results are not good. After just two games the defense has surrendered 529 rushing yards and six scores on the ground. The majority of those numbers came last week against Temple, as the Owls dissected Akron's front line for 305 yards and four touchdowns on 6.2 yards per attempt. Akron's numbers against the pass are better (202.0 ypg), but that is likely because the opposition has enjoyed such a large lead that throwing the ball would just be insulting. Cincinnati's defense should be much better prepared this weekend against a suspect Akron squad. With a solid bounce back from Collaros and company, look for Cincinnati to rebound and perform at a high level in this one. The Bearcats should be able to light up the scoreboard against the Zips, and this one could get ugly sometime late in the third quarter. Best of luck however you play!