Akron has won nine football games since the beginning of the 2018. The Zips are understandably sick of that pattern. The offense is ahead of the defense at this point, so high-scoring shootouts may be the key to dig out of the tough spot they've been in for years.
AKRON 2023 PREVIEW
THE CONF.: Mid-American Conference (MAC)
2022 RECORD: 2-10 (no postseason)
CONF. FINISH: Last in the MAC East
HEAD COACH: Joe Moorhead (2nd year, 2-10; 7th year overall, 54-35)
ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: Bubba Arslanian, Sr./LB (132 tackles); D.J. Irons, Sr./QB (2,609 yards passing, 10 TDs); Daniel George, Sr./WR (793 yards receiving); Ryan Johnson, Sr./DE (26 tackles, 3 TFLs); Alex Adams, Jr./WR (former top LSU recruit)
THE NEWCOMER: T.J. Banks, Sr./TE (26 career games at West Virginia)
Zips fans should be excited, honestly. With 15 starters returning, former freshman starters from 2021 who have played a bunch since, and key additions via the transfer portal, Akron should be better and won't be the MAC doormat team in 2023. When you go 2-10 like this program did last year, fans take it at face value and think it was a miserable failure, but the truth is that improvement isn't only measured just in the final record — there can be signs that something big is to come.
That may be the case this year. Joe Moorhead didn't become a big-time coordinator at Penn State and later an SEC head coach at Mississippi State because he sucks at coaching. This is his second year here, there are a lot of key contributors back, and this Akron program could potentially be a darkhorse candidate to surprise everyone. The Zips were within a touchdown of beating five opponents in the MAC last year.
THE KEY GAME AND WHY
This is a tie between a home game vs. Buffalo (Sept. 30) and a road game to Bowling Green (Oct. 21). Last year's losses to these two teams were by a total of four points, and these are two games that could show the MAC that the Zips are back in the ball game in the East Division. Don't be surprised if Akron wins these games, but even one win in these two weekends would be key.
THE TOUGHEST GAME AND WHY
Obviously the easy default here is the road "money" games at Michigan State and Tennessee early on, but the one that really counts is the Friday night home game against one of the MAC's frontrunners in Ohio U. (Nov. 24). Akron has lost seven of its past eight games against the Bobcats, but have played them close in many of those losses.
THE CHANCES OF MAKING CONF. TITLE GAME
Vegas won't be giving Akron much of a chance of making the MAC title game, as Ohio U. and Miami-Ohio will likely occupy those the top slots when it come to chances. But the Zips are heading in the right direction. The only question at this point is how quickly the Zips become competitive.
Last year it was two wins. There's no way Akron wins only two games this year. A season-opening road trip to Temple is a 50/50 type non-conference Group of Five game, while the FCS matchup with Morgan State is a guaranteed win. Road games against P5s Kentucky and Indiana are obviously likely losses, but league play will see a home win against Kent State, a winnable road game at the West Division's Central Michigan — and a win against the East's Bowling Green or Buffalo is possible, as previously stated. The ceiling seems to be about five wins, and the high/low is six wins (major overachieving) or four wins (still an improvement).
Want More Sports News?
Get the biggest and best sports news sent directly to your inbox.