Zip-Zap-Rap: Getting To Know Akron

Matt over at our MAC blog The Hustle Belt was kind enough to answer some questions about this Akron squad the Orange will be facing off against tomorrow.  Check out his answers and then get back to your #BeatAkron attack on Twitter.

The general consensus seems to be that Akron is going to be on the bottom of the MAC this season. Can you confirm?

Last place is really up for grabs. Akron, Miami, Eastern Michigan, Ball State. It's really anyone's race to the bottom. I predict Akron to finish 4-8, tied for last in the MAC East.

Rob Ianello...right guy for the job or in over his head?

Hey, he was the head coach at Notre Dame! Okay … it was an interim position until Brian Kelly was hired. But consider: the last Irish WR coach to take a job at a MAC school was Urban Meyer.

He's gonna have a tough go at it for the same reason Toledo, Bowling Green, Ohio, Miami, and Kent State struggle to stay on top: the geographical clusterfork. They're all fighting for in-state recruit leftovers that haven't chosen Ohio State or Cincinnati.

Akron features Mitch Browning and Derrick Jackson on their coaching staff, two guys who know Syracuse fairly well. How much of an impact does that play in the game?

Depends. Did Syracuse forget to remove Browning and Jackson from the e-mailing list where they share playbook secrets? If not ... I don't know if it'll be a huge factor, even through both of their first games will be against the very school that fired them. But it does speak to the larger truth about this game: this is probably bigger for Akron than it is for Syracuse. Wouldn't you say?

I think its actually a pretty important game for Syracuse.  For the first time in a few years the Orange are thinking about the possibility of a bowl.  Or at least a non-losing season.  They need to come out of the gate firing if they want to get the entire fanbase to buy in on those expectations.  A few years ago we had similar expectations and got killed in the opening game, which destroyed all the hope.  Plus, with a trip to Washington the following weekend, the Orange need this win in order to stay away from the dreaded 0-2 possibility.

Akron's new QB Patrick Nicely, what's his story and how well do you think he'll perform in the season opener?

Pat Nicely is the only quarterback whose name is also what a gentle policeman does during a routine traffic stop. In scouting reports that matter, he could be one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, although that isn't saying much this year. He inherited the job mid-2009 after Chris Jacquemain was mysteriously suspended and Matt Rodgers tore his ACL, so he became the de facto guy. As for the opener, everything I've read about UA's new offense lends me to think they'll try and spread the ball around, rather than trying to win on Nicely's arm.

Who's the one guy on offense and defense that Syracuse needs to be concerned with?

Keep an eye out on kick returner Jalil Carter, who's moving from safety to wide receiver for his senior year, basically because they just have no one else to catch the ball. He's probably not their best player on offense, but I could certainly see him making a big play or two. And beware middle linebacker Brian Wagner. So either pass the ball deep or run it to the outside. Can SU do either of these things well, or well enough?

Great question.  Our passing game is a complete question mark right now.  Ryan Nassib has a cannon for an arm but we're not 100% sure he knows what to do with it yet.  Plus, he doesn't have a true weapon like Mike Williams to work with.  The SU receiving core is mostly untested and features a lot of developing talent. 

Delone Carter is a north-south kind of runner but Antwon Bailey, who will see a lot of action, is more of a cutter.  So if Akron shuts down Delone up the gut, we can change it up with Antwon.  If the SU offense has a signature weapon, that's it.

So where does Akron's 42-28 win over Syracuse in 2008 rank in the last decade? Best program win? Top five? Or not that special because Syracuse wasn't all that good anyway?

Definitely their biggest nonconference win of all time. Their only other win over an AQ conference team that wasn't Big East-era Temple was at NC State in 2006. But their all-time most memorable win has to be the 2006 MAC Championship over Northern Illinois, which led to their only bowl game. However, for a team that's never won more than seven games in the FBS, any road win by two touchdowns is certainly going to be put front 'n center in their media guides. How embarrassing was it for you guys?

I did a list of the ten worst games from the 00's and that was No. 2.  Probably could have been No. 1 easily.  It was the lowest point in the worst coaching era in our school's history.  So, yeah...it was embarrassing.

What kind of crowd can we expect at InfoCision Stadium-Summa Field? And what kind of stadium experience can traveling SU fans expect?

I haven't been, but apparently I'm supposed to go. When you approach it, based on the pictures, you might say to yourself, "this doesn't look like a football stadium at all. This is actually the student union. Very funny guys, where's the stadium?" So don't say that.

But from what I've heard, it is quite brilliant from the inside. Quality enough to be a Big East stadium, even. For the MAC it's a huge deal, since it's only their third new football stadium since the Watergate scandal. Your experience as a visitor oughta be pleasant, provided (a) the Orange win like I think they will, and (b) you lay off the LeBron jokes.

Thanks Matt.  And keep an eye on The Hustle Belt for Akron updates.

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