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MAC Football: Akron Zips vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview

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The Akron Zips look to rebound after their third 5-7 season in the last four under head coach Terry Bowden. Midway through 2016, UA had a 4-3 record however they finished losing five of their final six including the last four and with all that, they still were one incomplete pass away from being in the MAC Championship Game.

UA opens the 2017 campaign with a daunting task as they head to Beaver Stadium in the middle of Pennsylvania to battle the defending B1G Champion Penn State Nittany Lions



Penn State are the defending Big Ten Conference champion as they won nine straight games (including a home win over number one Ohio State & Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game) only to lose to Southern California in the Rose Bowl on a field goal in the final seconds 52-49

The Lions are ranked sixth in both the AP and the Coaches pre-season polls

Head Coach James Franklin is beginning his third season at the helm of the Lions since coming from Vanderbilt. The native of the suburbs of Philadelphia has compiled a 25-15 record (49-30 overall)

Franklin is one of 12 head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision to lead his team to a bowl game in each of the last six seasons

PSU offensively averaged 37.7 points and 432.6 yards in 2016. They bring back two of the top weapons in all of college football in junior RB Saquon Barkley who ran for 1,496 yards and 18 touchdowns and senior QB Trace McSorley who completed 58 percent of his passes a season ago (224-of-387) for 3,614 yards with 29 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. In addition, McSorley rushed for seven scores

Defensively, PSU allowed 25.4 points and 367.9 yards per game a season ago. They will be led by senior S Marcus Allen who had 110 total tackles 57 solo) with three pass breakups and a forced fumble along with Senior Jason Cabinda who had 81 total stops (40 solo) and a sack in just nine games

Penn State has won 13 of its last 15 season openers and 14 of their last 15 at home

The Lions are 24-3 lifetime against Mid-American Conference opposition last losing to Ohio in 2012

PSU will face eight bowl teams on their schedule in 2017. After the opener with UA, they face Pittsburgh and Georgia State at home in non-conference play. Their B1G schedule opens at Iowa and will have Michigan & Michigan State at home while traveling to Ohio State

The game is the fifth lifetime meeting. All at Beaver Stadium, with the Lions winning the previous four including in 2014 21-3 (James Franklin’s first home game at PSU)

AKRON ZIPS (5-7, 6-2 MAC)

The Zips will be led by head coach Terry Bowden who beginning his sixth season at UA and has a 24-37 record (165-99-2 overall)

On offense, UA averaged 27.4 points and 387.4 yards per game last season and will be led by senior WR Thomas Woodson who completed 60.3 per cent of his passes (146-of-242) for 2,079 yards with 18 touchdowns and only six interceptions. As well as senior RB Warren Ball who came as a graduate player from Ohio State. He gained 192 in his first two games before breaking his leg in the second game at Wisconsin

The Zips defense allowed 33.6 points and 446 yards a season ago. The defensive 11 bring back the 2016 MAC Defensive Player of the Year in Ulysses Gilbert. The senior had 122 total tackles (65 solo) with four sacks, 11 tackles for losses, three pass breakups, and two forced fumbles

Since 1979, UA is 1-27 lifetime against nationally ranked teams (lone win coming over Marshall at the Rubber Bowl in 2002)

In their history, the Zips are 1-28 against the current teams of the Big Ten Conference (0-1 vs Illinois, 0-3 vs Indiana, 0-1 vs Iowa, 0-1 vs Michigan, 0-1 vs Maryland, 0-2 vs Michigan State, 0-1 vs Nebraska, 1-7 vs Ohio State, 0-5 vs Penn State, 0-2 vs Purdue, 0-1 vs Rutgers, 0-3 vs Wisconsin) the lone win was over the Buckeyes in 1900 when John W. Heisman was the head coach at Buchtel College

Along with Penn State, the Zips will face six other teams that played in bowl games in 2016

Zips were picked fourth in the pre-season MAC poll behind East favorite Ohio, and improving Miami & Bowling Green

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