Football: Bobcats Open MAC Play At Akron

The Ohio Bobcats fell in the final seconds to Minnesota in Minneapolis last Saturday, but they’re viewing this showdown with Akron as a fresh start. Ohio opens Mid-American Conference play on Saturday when it travels North to take on the Zips.

“It’s a fresh slate and that’s energizing for everybody,” Ohio head coach Frank Solich said. “You can’t look behind to see what you’ve done and you can’t look ahead to see how you’re going to do. You have to be ready to step on the football field and know what you have to get done at that moment.”

The Bobcats have won seven straight against the Zips, but that streak may come to an end if Ohio can’t contain a revitalized Akron offense.

Akron coach Tommy Bowden made the decision to switch quarterbacks mid game in Week 3 and his new starter, Tommy Woodson, is making Bowden look pretty good for it. Ohio is pretty familiar with Woodson. The sophomore got the start due to injury when these two met in a 23-20 ‘Cats win last season.

The Zips mustered just 10 points in their first two games before switching to Woodson. Since, they’ve put up just over 43 points per game. Some of the difference has to do with Akron’s opponents in those games, but Woodson’s mobility adds a different dimension to its offense.

“I think they’re doing a good job with Woodson and highlighting what he’s about,” Solich said. “He’s a pretty big guy, difficult guy to tackle.”

Ohio’s quarterback may not be as mobile as usual on Saturday. Derrius Vick is still recovering from a sprained ankle that he suffered in the loss to Minnesota. He’s been in and out of practice this week, but will start.

About the Opponent: Akron Zips (2-2, 0-0 MAC)

Still don't know how "Zips" translates to a kangaroo mascot, but you do you, Akron. (photo: kccollegegameday.com)

Still don’t know how “Zips” translates to a kangaroo mascot, but you do you, Akron. (photo: kccollegegameday.com)

Location: Akron, Ohio

Established: 1870

Colors: Blue and Gold

Mascot: Zippy the Kangaroo

Notable Alumni: Former NFL defensive lineman Jason Taylor, former Ohio State coach and current Youngstown State University president Jim Tressel, The Black Keys drummer Patrick

Carney

Players in the NFL: Chiefs linebacker Justin March

Previous Bobcat Game: 23-20 Bobcat win at Peden Stadium — October 5, 2013

Current Matchup: 2 p.m. Saturday — InfoCision Stadium

Bobcats to Watch

Offense: WR Sebastian Smith – The 6-foot-3 target has established himself as a force to reckoned with this season. Smith has caught a touchdown in the last three games. It seems that the junior wideout has created good rapport with Vick, and I don’t see any signs of that stopping against Akron’s secondary.

Defense: DL Kurt Laseak – There’s a chance that Ohio will be without Tarell Basham on Saturday, forcing Laseak and the rest of the defensive line to step up to defend the Akron rushing attack.

Zips to Watch

Offense: RB Conor Hundley – Hundley gets the majority of the carries in the Akron backfield, and he’s been making the most of it in recent weeks. In the past two games, the senior tailback has totaled 204 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Woodson’s rushing abilities have created more lanes for Hundley in the Zips’ read-option scheme.

Defense: LB Jatavis Brown – Brown is the biggest playmaker on the Zips’ defense. He’s second in the MAC in tackles for loss (6.5) and fourth in sacks (4.5). The Ohio offensive line has done a fine job to this point, but Brown is one of the most disruptive forces it’ll face.

Prediction

Bobcats 27, Zips 21  – On paper, Ohio is the better team, but Akron is a completely different team offensively with Woodson taking the snaps. The Zips’ strong ground game, paired with an Ohio defense that may be without Tarell Basham and Jovon Johnson will keep Akron close. However, the Green & White are only a few mistakes away from being 4-0. I think the ‘Cats maintain their good form and begin MAC play with a victory.

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