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October 5, 2007
Saturday evening Western Michigan welcomes the Akron Zips into Waldo stadium for the 15th meeting all time between the two schools. The Broncos and Zips find themselves in similar positions at 2 - 3 overall and 1 - 0 in their respective divisions.
Since this is not a divisional game, it will not not be used to determine divisional champions. It may become important if a tie breaker is needed in either division. Each team has 3 losses already, and have aspirations of winning their division and becoming bowl eligible. Neither team can afford more than 2 losses in the seven remaining games.
Building momentum for the remaining divisional games is also something the two programs would like to accomplish.
Western Michigan leads the all time series 11-3-0. The last Akron victory came in 1996 in Akron. Last year's battle was a low scoring, tough defensive battle in which the Broncos prevailed 17-0. Look for this year's affair to showcase a bit more scoring, although the defenses will play a big part of the outcome.
There are some similarities and differences between the two programs this season. Both have struggled against BCS competition, each dropping 3 games. Akron did raise some eyebrows with their 2nd week loss at Ohio State, where their defense gave the Buckeyes fits.
Because of the mistakes and penalties that plagued the Broncos in their lopsided defeats early this season, the statistics are skewed and may not tell a true story of where the performance level is at going into this game. The same may be said of the Zips, whose offense managed only 3 first downs and punted 14 times against the Buckeyes. Each team has a nationally ranked WR that can be a game changer. Each has a good secondary. Each team has good special teams return teams.
The matchup that may impact this game the most is between the strong Akron defense and the Broncos offense. While most consider WMU a passing team, the offense has begun to find its' rhythm and become far more balanced over the past two weeks, admittedly against weaker opposition than the Zips will present. The re-emergence of a strong running game will make defending the Broncos more difficult.
Akron runs a defensive scheme that until recently was rarely seen, a 3-3-5 stack. The challenge to attacking this scheme is that it allows the defense to come up with all kinds of different stunts that an offense doesn't normally see. Akron will blitz out of the stack, as well.
The Broncos will have to deal with this unusual look and adjust to how Akron is playing them. UConn tried running the ball last week early and found little success. They abandoned it and went to a short passing attack to move the ball. The UConn coach also said the purpose was to try and wear the Akron defense out running side to side and vertically. The Huskies came out in the second half and used their superior size to pound the Zips and gained 244 yards on the ground. The theory is that the short passing game loosened them up, making the running game easier. Expect to see the Broncos use a balanced mix of run and pass.
Akron will present a tough, scrappy, opportunistic defense much like WMU last season. They may bend but rarely break and you may dominate them statistically but the Zips have a knack for creating turnovers at opportune times and capitalizing on them.
Kent State outgained the Zips in total offense 375 to 245 and lost the battle to them due to turnovers and giving Akron a short field. The Zips forced and recovered three Ohio State fumbles. The Zips are 12 of 14 in the red zone (8 FG) this year.
Akron's offense has struggled this season, ranking last in the MAC in total offense and scoring only 9 TDs. Their big weapon is WR Jabari Arthur who ranks just behind Bronco Jamarko Simmons in the passing stats.
The Canadian born Arthur, a 6'4" 225 pound senior, is the featured receiver in their offense, and many consider him to be the biggest, strongest and most physical receiver in the league. To underscore his importance, he has caught 34 balls for 419 yards and 4 of Akrons 9 TDs. That is almost a third of Akron's total offense. Containing him will be a big job for the Broncos secondary.
Akron has been unsuccessful in consistently sustaining long drives. They are converting only 27 percent of 3rd downs. WMU's Jim Laney, the nation's 3rd ranked punter averages a full 10 yards more per punt than his counterpart.
If the Broncos don't give the Zips a short field, it is unlikely that the Zips will be able to score much, as the Akron running game is averaging only 99 yards per game. Dennis Kennedy, who rushed for nearly a thousand yards last season has not been effective thus far and the Zips are averaging 2.7 yards per carry.
Akron coach J.D. Brookhart also will use a no huddle offense at times in his spread offense, making adjustments difficult on the fly. The attack is pretty balanced between rushing and passing. Two quarterbacks have been used, and sometimes even rotated during the same game.
The lines for the Zips, when compared with the Broncos are younger and less experienced. Look for the size and strength of the Broncos offensive line to wear down their counterparts.
The Bronco offense will be able to move the ball, control the clock and wear down the Akron defense, much like UConn did to the Zips a week ago.
The difference in this game will be an improving and talented Bronco offense having too many weapons and talent for a game Akron defense. The Broncos defense will allow Akron to score but not enough to win this contest.
Kent State NEWS