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Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Akron

After last week’s thrilling victory, the Nittany Lions will play in Beaver Stadium for the first time under James Franklin. Penn State will take on Akron, a team coming off a 41-0 win over Howard University, an FCS school. The Zips finished 5-7 in 2013, and as such, this week’s staff predictions follow a common theme: Penn State will #DominateTheZips.

Here’s what our writers have to say:

Ben Berkman (season record: 0-1):

Penn State 31, Akron 17

I don’t know much about Akron football, other than the fact that Penn State hasn’t lost to the Zips in four tries.

I also know that the Zips blanked Howard 41-0 last Saturday. Featuring a high-powered offense led by quarterback Kyle Pohl – who tossed three touchdowns passes in the first quarter – Akron will serve as a test for Penn State’s defense.

However, I don’t think that will be much of an issue. The Nittany Lions limited Central Florida to 246 total yards and only eleven first downs. Granted, the Knights elected to start an inept Pete DiNovo at quarterback for the first half before Justin Holman injected the offense with signs of life. Still, Jordan Lucas and company looked competent in the secondary while Anthony Zettel and the rest of the defensive line consistently limited UCF’s run attack and found the backfield with ease.

Offensively, I have no doubt quarterback Christian Hackenberg and the offense will be able to steadily find the end zone. Against a seasoned Central Florida defense, he threw for a program single-game record 454 yards and two touchdowns. The bigger question is the run game. After a week of adjustments, will the offensive line be able to provide sufficient protection to allow Belton to break free? The Nittany Lions won’t be able to win consistently in the Big Ten without at least a semi-reliable ground attack. Saturday against Akron, however, it shouldn’t make much of a difference.

Yuka Narisako (season record: 0-0):

Penn State 31, Akron 13

This will happen:

“WE ARE”
“PENN STATE”
“WE ARE”
“PENN STATE”
“THANK YOU”
“PENN STATE”

Noel Purcell (season record: 0-0):

Penn State 38, Akron 10

Okay, so I used to use Miami of Ohio a lot in “NCAA Football 2005.” Therefore, I know the Akron Zips like the back of my hand. By the time I had won my ninth straight National Title, the Zips had gotten on National TV for the first time.

Anyway, QB #16, erm, Kyle Pohl, had himself a game against Howard last week. Then again, I think I could at least put up 150 yards in the air against Howard (don’t knock the seven-yard out route.) Hackenberg is going to tear this defense apart, and this’ll be one of the few chances you’ll have to see our run game resemble what it was last year, as the line should have a far easier time opening up holes against a relatively weak Akron front seven (and by relatively weak, I mean they play in the MAC.) The defense will be tested for sure, but even with a thinned out linebacking corps and questions about the No. 2 cornerback, I don’t think the Zips will have the firepower to take advantage of Penn State’s weaknesses in those departments.

This game could be Lucas’ coming out party, as the pride of New Rochelle is underrated and has the ability to be one of the best corners in the B1G. Franklin will get to experience what a home football game is really like, as the student section alone could fill more than half of Vanderbilt Stadium. The energy he brings, and a clear talent difference, will be the two deciding factors. Hackenberg’s passing record could fall a week after it was created.

No matter what happens, the most important thing is that football is back at Beaver Stadium.

David Abruzzese (season record: 1-0):

Penn State 41, Akron 3

That’s not a typo. The Nittany Lion offense and Hackenberg are ready to explode, and it will come at the expense of the Akron defense. If you liked seeing DaeSean Hamilton catch the ball, then you’ll be happy on Saturday. Expect Jesse James and Kyle Carter to be in the mix a lot more this week, as I expect Hackenberg to launch the ball all over the field and get everyone involved. I don’t see James Franklin running the ball too much, but Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak should see more daylight as the surprisingly solid Nittany Lions’ offensive line will open up running lanes spanning from State College to Bellefonte. They should overpower the Zips’ defensive line, and it won’t be pretty (if you’re a Zips fan, that is.)

Defensively, it should be no contest. I put the 3 up there solely because there is bound to be one big run from the Zips, taking the team to the goal line. The Nittany Lions’ front seven will ensure that not another yard is gained, and Akron will be held to a field goal. The tenacity that we saw last week should roll right into this week. Expect Pohl to be hit early and often, and for the Nittany Lions to swarm anybody with an Akron uniform. What a better way to kick off a home opener!

Tim Gilbert (season record: 0-1):

Penn State 35, Akron 10

Don’t let its bad-but-not-terrible 5-7 record in 2013 mislead you — Akron was quite terrible at college football last year. USA Today ranked it No. 120 to start 2013, and it bumbled to a 2-7 record before winning its final three games against the mighty Kent State, UMass, and Toledo by a combined 12 points. Its season point differential was a cool -101. But Akron should take some strides this year after losing only five total starters in the offseason, which is probably why Vegas opened this as about a two-touchdown game. Still, I think it’s fair to say that Penn State showed the spread should have grown in the UCF game. The Lions will roll.

Mike Reisman (season record: 0-1):

Penn State 35, Akron 13

To start, they’re called the Zips, like Zippers but they couldn’t afford the extra 3 letters. And Akron reminds me of someone trying to spell Acorn and failing horribly.

But even worse than that is that Akron is a MAC team. For those who don’t know much about the MAC (Mid-American Conference), let me describe it to you this way: Temple, two years after joining, went 9-4. This was a team that hadn’t done better than 4-7 since 1990. It had three more four-loss seasons, then left the MAC. Since leaving, the Owls are 5-17.

The MAC sucks. Akron sucks. I swear this isn’t just me not prepared for a prediction against a horrible team. I just don’t think the should be a problem for Penn State.

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