Akron (1-1) at (11) Michigan (2-0)
Saturday, September 14, 12:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 11th-ranked Michigan Wolverines take aim at their 17th straight victory in The Big House as they host the Akron Zips for a non- conference matchup.
The Zips are coming off a hard-fought, 35-33 victory over James Madison that improved their record to 1-1. Now in his second season as Akron's head coach, Terry Bowden has yet to defeat an FBS opponent with the program. Akron has finished just 1-11 in each of the past three seasons. This will be its second road game of the 2013 campaign. The Zips suffered a 38-7 setback at UCF in their season opener. They have not won back-to-back games since 2008.
The Wolverines are fresh off a 41-30 win over Notre Dame at Michigan Stadium in what was one of the marquee matchups of week two. The victory marked the 400th for the program at Michigan Stadium and the team's current 16-game win streak in The Big House is the longest active home winning streak among BCS conference teams. The Wolverines are 21-7 under coach Brady Hoke, who is 2-1 against Akron in his career.
This will be the first meeting in history between these schools. Hoke faced the Zips three times when he was the head coach of MAC rival Ball State. Bowden is 1-0 versus Michigan in his career thanks to Auburn's 34-13 win over the Wolverines in 1995.
Akron's first-year offensive coordinator A.J. Wilwee decided to employ a two- quarterback system for the team's bout with JMU. The gameplan worked well as Nick Hirschman and Kyle Pohl threw two touchdowns each to help Akron overcome an early 13-0 deficit. Pohl, who started under center, finished 14-of-22 for 143 yards with two touchdowns to one interception. Hirschman amassed 144 yards and three total touchdowns, while completing 6-of-10 pass attempts. Both passers should see action in Ann Arbor.
Akron's receiving corps is very deep as 11 different players have made multiple receptions already. The leader of the group is 5-foot-6, 138-pound freshman Fransohn Bickley, who has made six catches for 61 yards. Sophomore Zach D'Orazio has reeled in two of the team's five touchdown receptions while fellow sophomore Andrew Pratt's 118 yards on three catches makes him the team's most effective target.
Although the Zips frequently passed the ball, junior tailback Jawon Chisholm still came up 47 yards shy of the 1,000-yard mark in 2012. He showed solid improvement in terms of efficiency as his yards per carry average rose from 4.4 to 5.3. Chisholm was bottled up by UCF in the opener, but picked up 87 yards against the Dukes.
Akron's defensive coordinator Chuck Amato has not been able to turn his unit into one opposing offenses fear. The Zips allowed their FCS opponent to gain 498 yards of total offense and achieve 26 first downs in their last appearance. The Dukes were moving the ball with ease on their final drive, but ran out of time before they could take the lead one final time. Junior linebacker Johnny Robinson has registered 15 total stops, including one for loss through two games.
The Zips' defense will have their toughest assignment yet in Ann Arbor. Michigan junior quarterback Devin Gardner's dual-threat ability is going to make him extremely difficult to contain. Notre Dame had no answer for Gardner as he went 21-of-33 passing for 294 yards and four touchdowns. He also gained 82 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries to lead the team in rushing. Gardner has accounted for at least two touchdowns in seven consecutive games dating back to last season.
Jeremy Gallon was on the receiving end of three of Gardner's touchdown passes last week. Gallon finished the game with a career-high 184 yards and eight receptions, both of those totals were more than double that of any of his teammates. Tailback Fitzgerald Toussaint was the second on the team in receiving yards thanks to his one reception that went for 31 yards. Toussaint also rushed 22 times for 71 yards.
"We'd still like to run the ball better from the tailback position, I think that's always going to be a constant," said Hoke. "If we can control the line of scrimmage and do that, then make sure we're targeting the perimeter the right way."
Against the Fighting Irish's talented offensive unit, Michigan registered a pair of interceptions and made two stops on fourth down. The Wolverines allowed 410 yards of total offense to Notre Dame, but they were a lot less generous in their season opening win over Central Michigan, which they held to just 210 yards.
Raymon Taylor has registered a team-best 15 total tackles along with an interception through the first two games. Blake Countess has made a strong return from the knee injury that kept him out for the majority of the 2012 season. The redshirt sophomore made the first two interceptions of his career to go along with six tackles in the win over Notre Dame. Countess started the final six games of the 2011 season, including the Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.
"The main thing is that every week is important," said Michigan senior wideout Drew Dileo. "Last week the night game against Notre Dame was important and this week Akron at noon is important. Regardless of the team, the conference, or anything like that, this week it's Akron."
Bowden is making clear progress at Akron, but the Zips have a long way to go before they will be able to challenge a powerhouse like Michigan. Gardner should have no problem keeping his momentum going. The Wolverines' defense should be able to cause turnovers by pressuring Akron's inexperienced quarterbacks.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 56, Akron 10
09/11 10:32:54 ET