Indiana’s last non-conference game this year falls on September 23rd when the Akron Zips come to town. The Zips finished last year with a disappointing 2-10 record, but lost five one-score games last year and could be poised to turn those tight games into wins.
Even if they don’t come to town 100% better than they were last year, expect the Zips to be more competitive than the group who lost to Michigan State 52-0 in 2022.
Here’s what you need to know:
Names to Know
- HC Joe Moorhead
- QB DJ Irons
- RB Lorenzo Lingard Jr.
- WR Alex Adams
- WR Daniel George
- TE TJ Banks
- TE Tristan Brank
Joe Moorhead is in his second season as head coach at Akron, though it’s far from the most notable gig on his resume. Indiana fans may remember him as the offensive coordinator for Penn State from 2016-17, which led to him being named the top rising assistant nationwide by Sports Illustrated.
From there, Moorhead took over as head coach at Mississippi State, where he went 14-11 over two seasons. He went back to the coordinator role at Oregon before landing back in the head coaching ranks at Akron.
Moorhead is a guy with plenty of experience against power five teams and a record of successfully revitalizing offenses in the Big Ten. He’s seen a Tom Allen defense before and helped the Nittany Lions orchestrate a 24-point fourth quarter to beat the Hoosiers 45-31 in 2016.
He won’t have the same talent as he had at Penn State obviously, but he also isn’t entering this season with an empty cupboard on the offensive side of the ball. DJ Irons, the likely starter for Akron, passed for over 2600 yards in ten games last season before missing the last two games.
Irons will also have four of his top five targets returning this year in Adams, George, Banks, and Brank.
Both Adams and George averaged more than 10 yards per reception and combined for 11 touchdowns last season at the receiver position. Banks and Brank also put good numbers up at the tight end spot, combining for 37 receptions and a touchdown last year.
The biggest question for Akron will be at running back, which is where Lorenzo Lingard comes in. He hasn’t produced much in college yet, but was a four-star recruit out of high school and somebody the Zips are hoping can have a break out season with the change of scenery.
Akron, like Indiana, has struggled on the offensive line of late. Moorhead is obviously hoping for an improvement, but this could be a game when Indiana’s revamped defensive line could stand out.
If Indiana can’t pressure Irons, Akron’s pass-heavy offense will be a big test for an unproven Indiana secondary. The Zips lost their top receiver from last year, but bring back enough receiving talent and even a competent back up quarterback, which could make things interesting.
Overall, Indiana’s talent should still prevail here. If a MAC team coming off of a 2-10 season really challenges the Hoosiers, things will get really ugly the following week when Big Ten play begins.