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Akron Zips vs. Buffalo Bulls Preview and Prediction

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The Akron Zips are one step closer to clinching bowl eligibility for a second straight season under Terry Bowden. The last time Akron had back-to-back bowl-eligible seasons was 2004 and '05, with the Zips only being invited to one bowl game. Akron has come rather far under Bowden, as the Zips are currently looking to lock down their best season since making the move up from I-AA (now known as FCS). It’s all within reach.

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On Thursday night, Akron will head to Buffalo to play a struggling Bulls program simply looking for its second win of the season. With Akron continuing to improve and grow and Buffalo floundering, it looks like we could have a mismatch in the MAC on Thursday night.

Akron at Buffalo

Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 27 at 7:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN3

Spread: Akron -17.0

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Three Things to Watch

1. Akron offense easily overlooked in the MAC
Given all the attention Western Michigan is receiving this season (deservingly so) and the belief that Toledo is the only viable threat to the Broncos in the MAC, it has become pretty easy to look right past what Akron is doing this season. The Zips have the third highest-scoring offense in the conference, behind only Western Michigan and Toledo, with an average of 37.3 points per game. And that average was dropped by a 41-0 shutout loss to Western Michigan a couple weeks ago (the Zips also only scored 10 points against Wisconsin earlier in the year). Akron should have no trouble scoring against Buffalo, with the Bulls yielding 33.4 points per game. Buffalo won’t be able to keep up either, averaging fewer than 15 points per contest, which is not only last in the MAC, but also last among all 128 FBS programs.

2. Akron’s Ulysees Gilbert III closing in on 100-tackle season
One of the bright stars on Akron’s defense has been its Gilbert, a sophomore linebacker. The Florida native was a three-star prospect out of high school and chose to come to Akron over offers from Cincinnati, UCF and South Florida. He has not only boosted the Zips’ reputation on the recruiting trail, but he has had a significant impact on the field too. He enters this week second in the MAC in total tackles with 94, including an even distribution of 48 solo stops and 46 assisted tackles. He is one of three players in the conference to average at least 11 tackles per game. Look for him all over the field against the Bulls.

3. Akron will break some big plays
The Zips should manage to break off some big gains when they have the ball. Akron ranks third in the MAC with 47 plays of at least 20 yards and second with 23 of at least 30 yards and 11 plays of 40 yards or more. Central Michigan is the only other team in the MAC that ranks in the top three for those distances.

Final Analysis

Akron may not be at the top level of the MAC this season, but the Zips are most certainly well ahead of Buffalo. Needing one more win to become bowl eligible, Akron will look to get off to a fast start with sophomore running back Van Edwards Jr. setting the tone after being named a MAC East Player of the Week last week. The biggest concern for Akron should be fatigue, as the Zips are playing their second game in five days and are going on the road to do so for the second straight game. Regardless, Akron should still have a favorable matchup against a Buffalo team with just one win this season.

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Prediction: Akron 44, Buffalo 20

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter@KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.

(Photos courtesy of www.gozips.com)