Start Time: Saturday, September, 23rd 6PM ET
Location: Veterans Memorial Stadium
Series: First ever meeting
Odds: Troy (-15.5) 55.5 total
Terry Bowden (yes, that Terry Bowden) is entering his sixth season at the MAC program and is currently sitting on a 25-39 record. The Zips have gone 5-7 in three of the past four seasons but the highlight of the Bowden era came in 2015 when the Zips reached the Idaho Potato Bowl where they knocked off Utah State. With Power Five transfers all over the roster, there is speed and talent on this MAC East team.
Akron’s only two losses in 2017 have occurred against Power Five programs. On offense, the Zips are led by senior quarterback Thomas Woodson who seems to have been here for a decade. Woodson is a four year starter and to start the season he has put up some very average numbers. Woodson has completed 62% of his passes but is only averaging 5.7 yards per attempt and has thrown three touchdowns with two interceptions. To make a run at bowl eligibility, Woodson must give the Akron offense some more punch.
At the skill positions, senior running back Warren Ball is a transfer from Ohio State and he currently leads the team in rushing with 213 yards on 44 attempts with three touchdowns. When Ball isn’t getting the rock, the rushing game takes a negative dip. On the outside, receivers Tra’Von Chapman, A.J. Coney, and Kwadarrius Smith get the lion’s share of the targets. Each has collected over 100 yards and will be a big part of the game plan on Saturday.
Former N.C. State head coach Chuck Amato has been the defensive coordinator each year of Bowden’s tenure and the Zips are currently giving up 6.4 yards per play. Both Penn State and Iowa State dropped over 40 points against Akron as the Zips are giving up over 300 passing yards and over 150 rushing yards. That’s not good.
Ulysses Gilbert III recorded 121 tackles in 2016 and was a first team All-MAC performer. The Florida native is off to another great start in 2017 as he is averaging nine tackles per game. He is by far the best player on this Akron defense and he should make plays all over the field on Saturday night.
On the defensive front, junior defensive end Jamal Davis II has been very active recording five tackles for loss and one sack. Davis has 14 tackles and he’s been the best defensive line perform to start the season.
Neal Brown’s program went on the road last week and beat a solid New Mexico State squad by a score of 27-24. It was a nice road win after this same team went west two weeks prior and played very poorly against Boise State. After the big victory, we should see a wild crowd at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
Brandon Silvers played his best game of the year last week as he completed 25 of 40 passes for 286 yards and threw his first touchdown of the year. After a slow start, it appears Silvers is beginning to establish a rhythm.
Speaking of slow starts, senior running back Jordan Chunn rushed for a season high 94 yards on 20 carries with one touchdown. The bruising tailback has increased his yards in each game and he could be due for a big performance on Saturday. The Trojans have some solid depth at running back as both Josh Anderson and Jamarius Henderson have played well off the bench.
Deondre Douglas got off to a slow start recording 60 receptions last season, but he had a breakout performance in the big game last week. Douglas had seven catches for 101 yards against NMSU. For the season, this Troy receiving group is very deep and there are five guys that could lead the team in receiving any given Saturday. Four players already have 11 receptions and this is such a balanced passing game.
The defense keeps playing some impressive football to this point in the season. Offenses are only averaging 4.6 yards per play against the Trojans. Opponents are only scoring 18.3 points per game and the pass defense is a big reason why as foes are averaging just over 200 yards per game.
Troy is still trying to figure out the pass rush as they’ve only produced seven sacks to start the season. However, the front is causing some havoc as the Trojans have posted 25 tackles for loss. Seven players have posted at least two stops behind the line of scrimmage and this has been an impressive group effort.
The kicking game has been somewhat of a concern this season as kicker Bratcher Underwood has only hit two of four field goals and has missed an extra point. It hasn’t costed the Trojans yet but it will be something to keep an eye on moving forward.
With non-conference play wrapping up, both teams will be looking to gain some momentum before they begin league play. It’s a match-up of two programs that are in different spots as Troy wants a conference title while Akron is just trying to make it to the postseason.
Troy will be looking to pick up a nice non-conference win after missing a chance for a big win over Boise State. Brandon Silvers and Jordan Chunn are both starting to pick up steam as they get ready for the Sun Belt grind. The defense continues to be rock solid and has played well in every game this season.
Akron has finished up their Power Five games for 2017 and they’ll look to be more competitive the rest of the way. The Zips are going to need better quarterback play from Thomas Woodson and the defense must start making strides.
When I compare these depth charts, it appears that Troy is better in just about every position. The Zips have not been very efficient on either side of the football and I think this one has a chance to get ugly. In front of a rowdy crowd, Troy plays it’s best offensive game of the season as they rout the Zips.
Prediction: Troy 37, Akron 13