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An early look at Akron.

University of Akron
Location: Akron, Ohio
Founded: 1870
Enrollment: 25,000

Conference: Mid-American
Series: IU leads 1-0
JD Brookhart (6th year, 27-33)

IU and Minnesota are not the only midwestern schools that are upgrading their football facilities in 2009. The Akron Zips will move from the Rubber Bowl into InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field, a new on-campus stadium.

Akron moved to Division I-A in 1987 under the leadership of former Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust. Faust led Akron to only two winning seasons in eight I-A seasons, and his successor, Lee Owens, had three winning seasons in nine years. Brookhart came to Akron in 2004, and went 6-5 in his first season. In 2005, he led Akron to a 7-6 record and its first ever Division I-A bowl game. Since then, however, the Zips haven't had a winning season. The official media poll picked Akron to finish third in the MAC East.

IU and Akron have played once before, in 2007. IU won 41-24 in what I described as "the Kellen Lewis Show." Lewis ran for 199 yards and completed 19-24 passes. Lewis won't be there this year, of course, but Demetrius McCray played well, rushing for 60 yards on 13 carries. Greg Middleton had two sacks. Taking a look at the 2007 box score demonstrates just how experienced the IU defense is: in addition to Middleton, Austin Thomas, Will Patterson, Matt Mayberry, Tyler Replogle, Nick Polk, and Jammie Kirlew all registered tackles. It's now or never, guys.

But enough about IU. Akron, per this Vandelay Sports preview, returns its starting quarterback, Chris Jaquemain, who had respectable but not overwhelming numbers last year (57 percent, 20 TD, 14 INT). Jaquemain was 4-6 for 50 yards in the 2007 game against IU. The Zips will have to replace their starting running back but return four of their top five receivers, including Deryn Bowswer (785 yards, 4 TD) and Andre Jones (678 yards, 7 TD). The Zips defense returns five starters, but much like IU's defense, what is the experience worth?

Here's is the NCAA's summary page for the 2008 Zips. Akron won at Syracuse and lost by only two against Cincinnati. The Zips generally were above average offensively, but were uniformly bad on defense, ranking 90th or lower out of 119 I-A teams in every defensive category. The Zips averaged fewer than one sack per game and 5 tackles for loss per game.

In short, this looks like a game that IU should win. The Hoosiers will have a talent advantage, and the Akron defense looks ripe for the picking, while the Akron offense, while good, doesn't look as overwhelming as, for instance, the Ball State offense that picked IU apart last year. Still, it is a road game, and this will be the second game in Akron's new stadium, and the first trip by a Big Ten school to Akron. IU is 4-0 all-time in road games on MAC campuses, but after dropping home games to Ball State and Central Michigan last year, IU can take nothing for granted.