MAC East champs host winless Zips on Wednesday night
With Rice and New Mexico State picking up their first victories last Saturday, the Akron Zips are now the only winless FBS team remaining in the 2019 college football season. Akron, which fell to 0-10 overall and 0-6 in MAC play after a 42-14 home loss to Eastern Michigan last week, will get its penultimate chance to grab a win against Miami (Ohio) RedHawks on the road Wednesday.
Miami is coming off a high, as its 44-3 win over Bowling Green improved its record to 6-4 overall and 5-1 in conference play. Coupled with other results across the conference, the RedHawks secured the MAC East title at the same time they became bowl eligible.
Akron at Miami (Ohio)
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami -30.5
When Akron Has the Ball
The biggest issue Akron has faced this season is its inability to move the football. As a result, the Zips rank last among all 130 FBS programs in scoring offense (10.6 ppg), which is 3.9 points worse than No. 129 Northwestern. Akron also ranks last in the country in rushing offense (52.5 ypg) and last in the MAC in total offense (264.2) and yards per play (4.3) — No. 129 and No. 127, respectively, in the country.
Simply put, Akron's rushing offense has been abysmal. The Zips are dead last nationally in yards per carry (1.92) — 0.74 yards behind No. 129 Purdue — and rushing touchdowns (2). Brandon Lee leads the team with just 177 rushing yards.
Akron has had some success through the air and ranks sixth in the MAC in passing (211.7 ypg). However, the Zips have averaged just 6.1 yards per attempt, which ranks 11th in the league and 116th overall. Akron quarterbacks have completed 53.8 percent of their passes, which ranks 10th in the conference and No. 111 in the country.
Quarterback Kato Nelson is one of the most talented signal-callers in the MAC, but he has been hampered at times by injury and missed two games due to suspension. Nelson has a 56.0 percent completion rate for 1,618 yards and 10 touchdowns with six interceptions, and he has averaged 6.7 yards per pass attempt. The junior ranks second on the team with 121 rushing yards. Nate Stewart has been Nelson's favorite target this season and leads the team with 34 receptions, 463 receiving yards, and three touchdowns.
When Miami (Ohio) Has the Ball
True freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert won the starting nod coming out of fall camp and has started all 10 games for the RedHawks this season. Gabbert has completed just 53.7 percent of his passes, which ranks last among qualified MAC quarterback, but he has averaged 7.6 yards per attempt, which sits fifth in the conference. Gabbert ranks seventh in the league with 1,734 passing yards and has thrown for nine touchdowns to six interceptions.
Interestingly, seven Miami players have recorded 10 or more receptions this season, but Jack Sorenson leads the team with 19 catches, on which he has gained 216 yards and scored two touchdowns. Jalen Walker, who ranks second on the team with 16 catches and is tied with Sorenson and tight end Andrew Homer for the team lead with two scores, leads the squad with 348 receiving yards.
Freshman James Maye is close behind with 345 yards and one touchdown on 14 receptions, but because he missed two games earlier in the season, Mays leads the RedHawks with an average of 43.1 receiving yards per game. Dominique Robinson, who ranks third on the team with 296 receiving yards, has averaged an explosive 21.1 yards per catch, third on the team, and, like Walker (21.8) and Maye (24.6), ranks among the leaders in the MAC.
Running back Jaylon Bester missed three games earlier this season but has since emerged as Miami’s top ball-carrier. Bester leads the team with 346 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on 96 carries. Bester, who scored twice on just nine carries last week, has recorded at least one rushing touchdown in each of his last six games. He has also caught 10 passes for 53 yards. Tyre Shelton ranks second on the team with 387 rushing yards and has scored once on the ground.
Despite its struggles, Akron has some very talented and productive defenders, including linebacker John Lako and defensive back Alvin Davis Jr. Lako leads the team with 116 total tackles and 8.5 tackles for a loss, and Davis ranks third with 91 total stops and second with five TFL. However, the unit as a whole has combined for only six sacks, three interceptions, and five total takeaways all season. Those numbers rank No. 130, No. 126, and No. 127, respectively.
Miami has held opponents to 381.1 total yards per game and 5.2 yards per play, both of which rank second in the MAC. The RedHawks have 20.0 sacks as a unit, as well as 10 interceptions and 18 total takeaways. There's never a huge talent gap in the MAC, but given the performance gap between Akron and Miami this season, it's easy to understand why the RedHawks are heavy favorites.
Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 42, Akron 13