UB’s final regular-season matchup against Akron features two programs trending in completely opposite directions.
UB didn’t play last week due to COVID issues within the Ohio football program, but the university made the AP Top 25 for the first time in program history.
Running back Jaret Patterson is dominating the MAC and breaking records left and right. After years of building a winner, head coach Lance Leipold and the Bulls are enjoying their time in the national spotlight.
Akron, on the other hand, hopes to be in UB’s place one day.
The Zips are a rebuilding program and have won just one game in the past two seasons. Encouragingly, that win came last week against Bowling Green. The Zips beat the Falcons 31-3, proving the program is making strides, even if they are small ones.
Running back Teon Dollard led the way for Akron last week, rushing for 185 yards and two touchdowns in the Zips’ dominant victory.
Akron finally got its long-awaited first win of the season against a struggling Bowling Green team, but the Zips now face a far superior opponent in UB.
The Bulls are one win away from an undefeated regular season and are coming in as huge 32.5-point favorites in this one. As the MAC East Champs look forward to Detroit, can this be a letdown spot for the Bulls?
Here’s what to expect from the Zips Saturday afternoon at UB Stadium:
Coach: Tom Arth, 50-37, second season at Akron
Simply put, the numbers weren’t pretty for Akron last season.
The Zips finished the 2019 campaign with an 0-12 record, losing games by an average of over 25 points.
Akron finished at the bottom of the conference in every offensive category imaginable. The Zips averaged just 10.5 points and 242 total yards per game.
The Zips gave up 36.3 points per game, which ranked second-worst in the MAC, but only allowed 413.9 yards per game, which ranked sixth-best.
Quarterback Kato Nelson took the majority of snaps under center last season, throwing
for 1,822 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Wide receiver Nate Stewart led Akron with 529 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
The Zips struggled through the air and were even worse on the ground as no running back rushed for more than 200 yards. Brandon Lee led the team with 179 rushing yards. Akron only scored two rushing touchdowns all season.
Akron was slightly better on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker John Lako led the Zips with 138 total tackles and defensive end Josh Ward led the team with 2.5 sacks. Defensive back Alvin Davis impressed and finished the season as a third-team All-MAC selection. All three players graduated after the 2019 season.
While the 2019 season was one of the worst in college football history, Akron hoped to rebuild and reload heading into 2020.
2020 has provided similar challenges for Akron, but the Zips have seen slight improvements from last season.
The Zips are averaging 19.3 points and 296.6 yards per game this season, both improvements from last year.
Redshirt freshman Zach Gibson is now running the show at quarterback for the Zips. He has struggled, throwing for 725 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions.
Nate Stewart and George Qualls Jr. lead the team with 12 catches each. Both receivers have a touchdown catch on the season. Michael Mathison leads the team with two touchdown receptions.
Akron has been able to move the ball much better this year because of junior running back Teon Dollard. Through four weeks, the junior has rushed for 641 yards and six touchdowns. Dollard is coming off a terrific performance against Bowling Green in which he rushed for 185 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, the Zips are giving up 38.4 points and 450.4 yards per game.
Junior linebacker Bubba Arslanian leads the defensive charge with 59 total tackles and three sacks. Sophomore cornerback A.J. Watts has the Zips’ only interception through four weeks.
Akron, known as one of the worst FBS teams, snapped a two-year losing streak against Bowling Green last Saturday. It may have seemed like a small achievement to some, but can be a step in the right direction for the struggling program.
The Bulls are the far superior team and should make quick work of Akron Saturday afternoon. With the MAC Championship just one week away, UB should get a quick lead and pull its starters as soon as possible. The Bulls should be more focused on leaving the game healthy than securing the win.
UB shouldn’t have a problem with Akron and should finish the regular season undefeated. The MAC East Champs might already be game-planning for the MAC Championship.
Anthony DeCicco is the senior sports editor for The Spectrum. In his free time, he can be found playing video games, watching ‘90s Knicks games and arguing with people on NBA Twitter at 3 a.m.