Match-Up – Akron (MAC) Vs. Utah State (Mountain West)

Spread – Utah State (-6.5)

Where – Albertsons Stadium (Boise, Idaho)

When – Tuesday, December 22nd, 3:30 PM

Where to Watch – ESPN

Akron Overview

Record – 7-5

It was an up and down season for the Akron Zips this season. After suffering a 41-3 loss to Baker Mayfield and the Sooners back in Week 1, it was fairly obvious that this team wasn’t competing for anything. Things continues to look down as they started the season 3-5. However, they finished the year on the four game winning streak, including some big wins over Buffalo (42-21) and Kent State (20-0). Despite giving up 41 and 59 to the likes of Oklahoma and Bowling Green (two of the top offenses in the nation), Akron still managed to have the 27th ranked scoring defense in the league, only allowing 21.5 PPG. They even managed to finish with the 3rd ranked rush defense in the nation.

Players to Watch

Jerome Lane (WR/LB) – The two way player ended up making an impact on both sides of the ball as the season went on. But what makes him special is his deep play ability on offense. He only has 35 receptions on the year, but he’s racked up 750 yards on those catches, which evens out to 21.4 YPC. If Thomas Woodson needs to make something happen quickly, he can look to Lane.

Jatavis Brown (LB) – This skilled linebacker has racked up 108 total tackles, 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss on the year so far, all of which lead the team. He’s also forced 3 fumbles and has 1 interception on the year, and he’s played in every game this year. He’s a durable, dependable, playmaking leader that has a lot to do with why this team is so good at stopping the run.

How Akron Can Win

Stop the run… It’s as simple as that. Force the Aggies to become a pass heavy team, which will likely make them uncomfortable, seeing as they rank 88th in passing yards per game. If the Zips can make Utah State become one dimensional, they can take advantage of it.

Utah State Overview

Record – 6-6

There was a lot of hype surrounding Chuckie Keeton and the Utah State Aggies this season, but that hype immediately died down. Keeton only threw 3 TDs in 174 attempts, and eventually fell down due to injury. There were some memorable moments in the middle of the season, including a 52-26 routing of the Boise State Broncos, as well as a tight loss to the eventual Mountain West champion Air Force. However, the team was never able to find it’s stride, and they head into this game losing 3 of their last 4.

Players to Watch

Devante Mays (RB) – The talented running back began getting more carries as the season went on, and he’s done a lot with them. He’s averaged 5.5 yards per carry, and he’s racked up 842 yards and 9 TDs along the way. Look for Utah State to try to pound the rock with him, although they’re against a tough run defense.

Jalen Davis (CB) – The Sophomore corner has been all over the ball throughout the season. He’s racked up 46 total tackles, 2 interceptions, 10 pass deflections, and 8 pass break ups. He also has 3 tackles for loss, 1 sack, and 1 QB hurry. The kid is all over the field, look for him to make an impact today.

How Utah State Can Win

Utah State can win this game by forcing turnovers. Their 12 fumble recoveries are tied for 3rd in the nation over the course of the season. Against a defense like Akron, any field position victory is a plus. Also, don’t abandon the run. Although Akron is 3rd in the nation in rushing yards per game, they still allow 4.1 YPC. Establish the run early, and take advantage of a team that doesn’t have a great offense. Gain a lead, and the Akron Zips, who are 96th in the nation in passing, will have trouble.

Final Score Prediction – Akron Defeats Utah State – 17-13

Brian Sullivan – @TheMadManSports

Image Credit – http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/nfl-draft-scout/25350619/meet-the-prospect-akron-linebacker-jatavis-brown

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