PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS vs. AKRON ZIPS: 0-0 (0-0), tied for first in the MAC East
ALL TIME SERIES NOTES: Penn State has won all three meetings between these two schools, including their contest during the labor day weekend of 2006, when the Lions dropped the Zips 34-16 in the remnants of Hurricane Ernesto.
PREVIEW: The Nittany Lions will open up their 123rd season of college football by hosting the Zips at noon on Saturday. Last year, Penn State opened up their Rose Bowl campaign with a dominating 66-10 victory over Coastal Carolina. All-time, Penn State is 101-19-2 in season openers, including victories in the last seven. A win over the Zips would give Penn State more non-conference wins against them than any other team since the 1993 season.
LAST WEEK: This is the opening game of 2009 for both teams. Last year, Akron went 5-7 during the season.
GETTING TO KNOW THE ZIPS: J.D. Brookhart is in his sixth year ad coach of the team, and ha compiled a 27-33 record while there. On the field, they are led by quarterback Chris Jacquemain, a senior who threw for 2,748 yards last season with 20 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. While Akron will be deep at the wide receiver position, Alex Allen will be starting at running back, despite injury problems last season. Akron’s real strengths are both the offensive and defensive lines. On the o-line, the Zips return four starters who started all twelve games last year. On the defensive side, Akron will run a new 4-3 style defense this year, changing from a 3-3-5. Two of the three starters are returning on the second and third levels combined. For as deep as the lines are expected to be, the linebackers and the secondary are this team’s major question marks. Only three of the seven will be returning starters, and they are expected to be the worst two unites in the entire MAC at those respective positions.
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Chris Jacquemain will have to throw for a load of yards to keep the Zips in this game. The running game is not there, and against the secondary that we all expect from Penn State, throwing is probably the best options anyways. The way this game sets up defensively for Penn State could either be a nightmare or it could be the best possible scenario; an afternoon where the unite gets a lot of reps and some solid experience to build on for the rest of the season.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS TO WATCH: Almondo Sewell is the leader of this defense, and his pass-rushing abilities off the edge will be counted on heavily with their weak second and third layers. The defense also posses an interesting proposition for Penn State; logic says the running game will be very active against an undersized defensive unit, but at the same time we need to establish our wide receivers early this season. The more I look at this game, the better I feel about the offense’s chances.
WHO NEEDS TO STEP UP; AKRON: As we mentioned, Jacquemain needs to be the man in this one. Otherwise it’ll just be a long afternoon.
WHO NEEDS TO STEP UP; PENN STATE: The entire secondary could use a good performance. The two areas of concern are there and the wide receivers, and while they both should give us some hope on Saturday, the defensive concern for me outweighs the offense.
WEATHER FORECAST: Sunny with higs in the mid to upper 70’s.
QUICK HITTERS: A few interesting notes about the game;
- Daryll Clark would need just 207 yards to eclipse PSU’s best passing performance against Akron; Anthony Morelli threw for 206 in 2006.
- In the three game series, Penn State has outscored the Zips 152-50.
- Akron starting running back Alex Allen and Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark both attended Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio. They are one of five high schools who will have alma mater on both sides of the field.
- Saturday’s game will begin the silver season for Beaver Stadium, which opened 50 years ago, September 17th.
POINTS OF VIEW: A look at what some of my fellow Penn State bloggers are saying…
Black Shoe Diaries has a Q&A with Akron blogger Mike Rasor
The 22,000 sounds cautiously optimistic about Saturday
Zombie Nation makes me claim that I didn’t even look at their prediction for this game before I wrote my own, I swear
AROUND THE BIG TEN: Later on tonight, Indiana will re-open their stadium after being part of a $58 million renovation (to all IU sports facilities) against Eastern Kentucky. On Saturday, seven games kick at noon, six of which will be in home stadiums. Ohio State hosts Navy, Iowa hosts Northern Iowa, Northwestern hosts Towson, Michigan State hosts Montana State, and Toledo will travel to Purdue, in addition to the PSU/Akron matchup. The only conference team playing on the road this week will be Minnesota, who will play Syracuse at the Carrier Dome. At 3:30, Michigan will host Western Michigan in what has now become a must-win in the aftermath of alleged practice-time allegations earlier this week. Also at 3:30, Illinois and Missouri will square off in their annual game in St. Louis. The last game of the day features Wisconsin, who will host Northern Illinois at 7:00 in Camp Randall Stadium.
AROUND THE NATION: The season kicks off tonight as 16th-ranked Oregon travels to take on 14th-ranked Boise State; kick is set for 10:15pm. On Saturday, 9th-ranked Oklahoma State will host 13th-ranked Georgia in Stillwater at 3:30. Later on, 3rd-ranked Oklahoma will host 20th-ranked BYU at the new Cowboys Stadium. The game of the week kicks at 8pm in Atlanta, where 5th-ranked Alabama takes on 7th-ranked Virginia Tech in the Chik-fil-a Kickoff game. Week one will conclude with a primetime game on Monday night when Miami travels to Tallahassee to play 18th-ranked Florida State in an ACC contest.
PRE-SEASON PREDICTION: 37-17, Penn State.
CURRENT PREDICTION: Looking at this game a little closer, I feel much better after prying into Akron’s defensive situation. Offensive questions will probably go away for a few days after this one, as I expect the Lions to put up some points. It could be a classic game where the defensive gives up a lot of yards but doesn’t break; which is better than nothing. I only see Penn State being a little better than I did two weeks ago, but it still doesn’t feel like they are a top-ten team. Yes. It’s not a big change, but I’ll give the Lions another field goal in this one, Penn State wins it 40-17.