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Akron vs NIU: A Primer

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As previously documented, Akon's been pretty decent occasionally but this year is not one of those years.  What has gone wrong for the Apron Kangaroos in 2009?

Join me after the jump as I answer this question and take a look at the Zips' run defense vs Northern Illinois' rushing offense.  What factors do you think will be important on Saturday?  Make yourself heard in the comments.

Akron (0-3) @ Northern Illinois (2-1)

Kickoff: Saturday, 11:00 AM, TV: ESPN+ (My50 Chicago) Radio: 670 the Score

Weather forecast: 12+ mph winds, high of 50

Spread: NIU by 12 points

Akron last week

14-28 loss to Syracuse

Yes, Syracuse.  And it wouldn't have even been that close if it weren't for a 98-yard kickoff return by Dashan Miller to start the second half for the Zips.  Akron was outgained 339-191 yardage wise and had zero yards on the ground.

The Syracuse Orange out-rushed Akron 234-0.  Extremely similar to what we did to the Miami Redhawks.

Akron so far this season

9/05 @ No. 9 Penn State 0-1 (0-0) L 31-7
9/12 Morgan State 1-1 (0-0) W 41-0
9/19 Indiana 1-2 (0-0) L 38-21
9/26 @ Central Michigan 1-3 (0-1) L 48-21
10/10 Ohio 1-4 (0-2) L 19-7
10/17 @ Buffalo 1-5 (0-3) L 21-17

The Zips like to hang with teams, but can never finish a full 60 minutes.  Whenever they get enough on offense to win, they go ahead and turn the ball over at critical junctures.  Their turnover margin is -.43 for 9th in the MAC.

Akron Injury Report

Akron's beleaguered starter at QB in Chris Jacquemain was kicked off the team after a violation of team rules after the Morgan State game.

His replacement, Matt Rogers tore his ACL against the Ohio Bobcats.  But it doesn't stop there.

Buffalo wasn't kind to the Zips in that they ended two seasons in sending out both leading WR Deryn Bowser out with a broken leg, but also starting LB Aaron Williams out with a broken arm.  Geez, Bulls.  Any way you look at it, this chain of events is going to kill whatever offensive production this team may have had.

Akron Offense

The Zips problems on offense start and end with the offensive line.  It hasn't performed up to snuff this year and has hurt he production of everybody else on that side of the ball.  As a result, they rank towards the bottom of all D-I schools in every major category:

Category National
Rank
Rushing Offense 104
Passing Offense 103
Total Offense 117
Scoring Offense 108

The Zips are also 100th in the nation in sacks allowed.

True Freshman Patrick Nicely has some talent at the QB position, but they just took his redshirt off and he is very raw.  And who exactly is he going to throw to without Bowser as the main threat in the passing game.  Look for the 6'1" JR Jeremy LaFrance to be the main target as he's had a lot of catches for mediocre yardage throughout the season.

As for the running game, it's really a crapshoot where nobody stands out if they even try to run on Saturday.

Akron Defense

Considering how bad Akron's offense is, their defense has been staying in there all season.  Kind of like NIU's defense in 2007, these guys play their heart out every game but they can't do anything about how poor they are offensively.

In terms of total defense, they're actually 5th in the MAC and 55th in the nation.  Their rushing & passing efficiency D both rank in the 80's, which isn't so hot.  Teams have a preference in running against them as their pass defense only gives up around 180 ypg.  They just can't seem to get the quarterback though, ranking 117th in the nation in sacks.

Their redzone defense is ranked 34th, which seems to keep them in games.

Akron Special Teams

Dashan Miller is a threat on kickoff returns as evidenced by his return against Syracuse.  Other than that, there's not too much to write home about other than their kickoff coverage ranks 26th in the nation.

Akron's Rush D in 2009

The Zips are giving up a very pedestrian 170 ypg, which is 8th in the MAC.  In MAC play, opponents haven't had to really do much offensively because Akron routinely turns the ball over, usually by interception.

Nicely threw 2 INTs against Buffalo plus somebody fumbled and in return the Bulls only had to rush for 107 and throw for 205 to win the game.  The Bulls QB Zach Maynard ran for 36 yds.

In the Ohio game, the Zips fumbled 3x and Rodgers threw 2 INTs before he was carted off of the field.  Game, set, match.

CMU is a good comparison.  Turnover margin was equal, but Dan LeFevour ran for 140 yds and 2 TDs as the Chippewas out-rushed the Zips 326 to 69 yds.  Flat out brutal.  He also passed for an average 197 but scored 4 TDs!


NIU's Rush O in 2009

Everybody knows that we're going to rush the ball over and over and over again, but our coaches don't care.  They're going to keep doing it up the middle, off tackle, per the QB, whatever.  Let's take a look at the average ypc for each game this season:

  • Wisconsin - 2.9
  • WIU - 6.0
  • Purdue - 4.9
  • Idaho - 4.3
  • WMU - 5.1
  • Toledo - 4.4
  • Miami - 5.2

The hot back is Chad Spann, because he does things a normal human being can't do, such as fly in to the endzone like superman against WMU or have two punishing TDs against Miami OH.  If we see more carries for Me'co Brown than for Spann this upcoming game, I'm going to be immensely disappointed.  Brown had a terrible performance against the Redhawks last week both rushing the ball and in pass blocking.

DeMarcus Grady will also be a huge threat considering how much Akron's D gives up rushing yds to quarterbacks.

Intangibles

  • The weather.  It could be a brutal, brutal day in Dekalb on Saturday with terrible winds.  This goes to our strong point: Running the Football.  Akron will be completely screwed in this situation because all they know right now is to pass the ball, kinda.
  • Pass defense.  We've got a few guys hurting in that department and some young guys will have to step up.  Expect to see a sort of the same gameplan that we took to Oxford where we storm the QB.

Your Turn

What are you looking for when the Zips come to town on Saturday? What's your over/under on how many yards the Huskies will get on the ground?  Are you nervous about this game at all?  Let's hear it in the comments.