Having already played Wisconsin, the Akron Zips know what it's about when you play a BCS program. In fact they've played two and have come away with a spilt having defeated Syracuse on the road 42-28. While Bearcat fans know the quality of team in Syracuse is poor, a win against a BCS team is still a positive for any MAC program as they are not to defeat these teams.
The Zips will take the field with a 2-2 record but are not the same team the Bearcats defeated 20-14 in 2006. Believe it or not the Bearcats and Zips are tied in this series at 2 wins apiece and this marks only the second time Cincinnati has played in Akron.
The Zips program is in its final season of play in the Rubber Bowl as they'll open a new on-campus stadium next fall that will push their facilities to one of the best in the MAC.
Head Coach J.D. Brookhart enters the game with a 24-25 career record at the Northeast Ohio School and has given the Zips program stability since arriving from Pittsburgh where he served under former head coach Walt Harris.
One thing the Bearcats can be sure of is the Zips defense will be looking to take the ball away. So far this season the Zips look a lot like the Bearcats did a year ago as there defense has shown the ability to take the ball away creating 12 turnovers on the year (8 fumbles and 4 interceptions) and are ranked sixth in the NCAA in this category.
The problem for Akron is their offense has been just as willing to give the ball back having committed 8 turnovers of their own (5 interceptions and 3 fumbles). Against Wisconsin the Zips won the turnover battle 3-1 and against Army they won 5-1.
Miguel Graham and Bryan Williams are the key early members of the Zips defense as each has found themselves in the NCAA Top 20 in the turnover category. Graham has picked off 2 balls while recovering 3 fumbles so far this season. He's also third on the team in total tackles with 27.
Tyler Campbell leads the Zips in tackles with 37 and is followed by Kevin Grant who is having a banner season having posted 30 tackles (3 for loss & 2 sacks) while also having a pass breakup and a fumble recovery.
On offensive Brookhart will look to have a balance attack with quarterback Chris Jacquemain running the show. So far Jacquemain has passed for 960 yards and 7 touchdowns but has also thrown 5 interceptions on the year.
When running the ball three backs will have a chance to have a good day against the Bearcats as Dennis Kennedy is averaging 5 yards per carry and Andrew Johnson is posting just under 6 yards per carry. Alex Allen falls behind the pair with an average of 4.8 yards per carry and combined the Zips get good balance with 535 rushing yards with an average carry of 5.1 yards.
The Bearcats defensive backs will be tested by Deryn Bowser and Andre Jones. Bowser has pulled down 20 balls for 294 yards but is being overshadowed by teammate Jones who's pulled down 16 balls for 279 yards and 4 touchdowns.
Zips special teams have been good and bad early this fall. While Brookhart would like to see more from his punter in yards per punt the Zips have done a great job of keeping teams from having long returns giving up only 3.5 yards per punt return to rank 19-th in the country.
As stated before this is the last season for the Zips in the Rubber Bowl. After sixty-six years the stadium Akron purchased from the city for only $1.00 will see its final game. A new on-campus stadium (InfoCision Stadium) is set to open next September when Big Ten foe Indiana visits. The addition of the new stadium with the Zips already top-notched indoor practice facilities will take Akron from a program with questionable overall facilities to one of the best in the country.
While many may have looked at this game as an easy one for the Bearcats before the season started, Brian Kelly knows his team will need to show up and perform to earn another victory on the year.
Zips Not To Be Taken Lightly
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