As I have broken down Akron's 2009 opponents, I have kept an eye on your votes.
The conclusion is that Zips fans are optimistic -- very optimistic. With 1085 votes tallied, Akron fans concluded that their team will win 10 games, losing only at Penn State and Central Michigan.
My predictions give the Zips a 7-5 record.
Below, I posted comments from fans about each game. At the end, you can vote for what record you believe the Zips will achieve.
@ Penn State
My prediction: LOSS
vs. Morgan State
My prediction: WIN
A quarterback from Cuyahoga Heights committed to Akron yesterday, according to ScoutingOhio.com.
Zach D'Orazio also had an offer from Air Force. OhioVarsity.com ranks him as the No. 13 quarterback in Ohio. He scored 26 touchdowns as a junior.
D'Orazio's highlight video shows a quarterback who loves to run with the ball. The ease with which he outruns defenses makes it look like he's playing against jayvee teams. He has a good touch with the ball, but I didn't see many clips that showed off arm strength. In his defense, it appears like Cuyahoga Heights' offense rarely takes a deep strike.
D'Orazio also plays strong safety and punter in high school. He is the Zips' seventh commitment for the class of 2010.
GoZips.com featured a lengthy question-and-answer session with coach Caleb Porter.
It is an excellent look into how Porter runs the program, how he attracted the nation's No. 1 recruiting class and how Porter thinks the team will fare in 2009.
Blogger's note: I am going out-of-order by analyzing the Eastern Michigan game before the Bowling Green game. Why? My head is spinning from all of this political buzz.
If Akron is in the hunt for a MAC East title on Nov. 27, it will get a Thanksgiving gift with Eastern Michigan coming to town for the last regular season game of 2009.
2008 recap: Eastern Michigan went 3-9 last year, which was bad enough to get coach Jeff Genyk fired. The Eagles gave up 35.6 points per game, which was 109th in the nation. They gave up 196.3 rushing yards per game. In fact, Dennis Kennedy pranced for 277 yards last season (the Andy Hildreth game). On the positive side, EMU was the MAC's most efficient team in the redzone, scoring 39 touchdowns and eight field goals in 53 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Quarterback Andy Schmitt emerged as one of the MAC's best, throwing 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jacory Stone averaged the third-most receiving yards in the conference.
What they lost: Genyk is gone. So are the defensive leader, Daniel Holtzclaw, and the anchor of the offensive line, tackle T.J. Lang, both of whom were second-team all-MAC selections. Second-leading tackler Jacob Wyatt is another loss.
2009 outlook: The Eagles will rely on the Schmitt-to-Stone connection. There is no question this is one of the conference's best quarterback-receiver combinations. The top four rushers from 2008 also return, to take pressure off the passing game. The real problem is defense. Ron English is EMU's new coach. The former Louisville and Michigan defensive coordinator preaches grittiness. I don't doubt English can change the culture, but the results probably won't appear in 2009.
How the Eagles will test the Zips: This is the last game of the season. It's feasible that Akron's weak secondary has suffered an injury or two. If so, Schmitt will be able to pick apart the Zips defense, like he did last year. If Akron is out of contention, it will be interesting to see if J.D. Brookhart can still command his team's hardest effort, in spite of a possible lame-duck status.
How the Zips will test the Eagles. Eastern Michigan has one of the nation's worst defenses, and then it lost its best two defensive players. Akron will score by running, throwing or breathing harder than normal.
Way-too-early prediction: As long as the Zips defense makes a few stops, Akron will win the season finale at InfoCision Stadium. Eastern Michigan 24, Akron 34
The sports world went wild over LeBron James and Nike's confiscation of a video shot at Rhodes Arena in which King James gets his lettuce chopped by Jordan Crawford of Xavier.
I posted it below. You tell me: Worth the fuss?
The Zips will host Temple Nov. 13 -- a Friday night -- at InfoCision Stadium. It is a game that almost certainly will have MAC East ramifications.
2008 recap: Temple is a team that was much better than its 5-7 record. The Owls suffered close defeats to Connecticut, Buffalo, Western Michigan, Navy and Kent State. If everything went perfect, 5-7 could have been 10-2. Temple finished the season with a 27-6 victory over Akron. The Zips moved the ball well, but they struggled to score in part because of Chris Jacquemain's three interceptions. The game was tied with 10 minutes left; Temple blew the game open shortly after. ... The Owls were dead last in the MAC in yards of total offense. Their defensive stats weren't very good either. Quarterback Adam DiMichele was the real reason Temple was in most games. His throwing and running were invaluable to the team. Also, consider that it was 18 years since Temple last won five games.
What they lost: Temple didn't lose many players, but the ones who left made an impact. For example, DiMichele has graduated (can't we find a verb that means "has expended his eligibility" because I don't know if DiMichele has really finished his 128 -- or however many -- credit hours?). Center Alex Derenthal and receiver Bruce Francis were second- and third-team all-MAC selections, respectively. The Owls' biggest defensive loss is All-MAC tackle Terrence Knighton. Second-team kick returner Travis Shelton is another casualty.
2009 preview: Temple does return a lot of experience: "21 starters to 17 positions," as the media guide puts it. The primary question is, Who can replace DiMichele? Two candidates have some experience in filling in for their predecessor. Vaughn Charlton played some in 2007, completing 59 percent of his passes, and throwing three touchdowns and one interception. Chester Stewart, the other candidate, got the snaps last year when DiMichele was out. He completed 50 percent of his passes, with four touchdowns and seven interceptions. The winner will have a couple of experienced receivers to catch the ball. At running back, the depth chart lists Lamar McPherson as the starter, despite the Syracuse transfer only tallying one rushing attempt in 2008 -- and no, he was not injured. The back who took the most carries was then-freshman Kee-ayre Griffin, and he's now listed as the backup. ... Nose tackle Andre Neblett, a second-team all-MAC selection in 2008, is the defensive anchor. Temple's safeties are talented, too. Similar to J.D. Brookhart, coach Al Golden handles the Owls' special teams.
How the Owls will test the Zips: The Owls have pulled in terrific recruiting classes since joining the MAC. Every year, the team has improved. If the quarterback excels, this year is almost certainly to be the one where the team competes for its first divisional title. You can be sure the defense will be among the best. Plus, Golden is a Zip killer. He has beaten Akron the past two years.
How the Zips will test the Owls: Temple's running game was impotent last year. There is little reason to believe that will improve. The Zips' passing game will excel against almost every team on the schedule. Temple is no different. The Owls may be bringing back a load of letterwinners, but they lost their most talented players. Programs like Temple don't just "reload."
Way-too-early prediction: Akron consistently puts up points. Temple plays from behind all game. The Zips win a close one. Temple 26, Akron 31
Rivals.com provided a well-written feature about Zeke Marshall and his decision to attend Akron.
MAC coaches should pay attention to how Keith Dambrot pulled off the biggest coup in conference history.
Keith Dambrot's Zips will begin the defense of their MAC Championship Nov. 15 against Austin Peay.
The team released its non-conference schedule today, which includes a three-game tournament in Daytona Beach, Fla., and a road game against Texas A&M.
Not including the tournament and BracketBuster game, Akron will play only two non-conference road games. After the tournament, the team will play eight of 10 games at Rhodes Arena, concluding with a home matchup against Rhode Island.
It's a schedule with winnable BCS games and plenty of home matchups. It also complies with Dambrot's modus operandi: no "buy" games against a top-10 program. I give it a B+.
Eastman and Beaudine is the search firm, and Candace Campbell Jackson will head an 18-person committee to find Akron's next athletic director.
For its effort, the Texas-based search firm will receive 25 percent of the position's first-year salary. Notable members of the committee include track coach Dennis Mitchell, women's basketball player Kara Murphy, InfoCision's Gary Taylor, and current senior associate athletic director Mary Lu Gribschaw.
The goal is to have the new athletic director in place by Sept. 15.
People have clamored for a live kangaroo at Zips games. It probably won't happen, but how cool would it be to invite this aptly named dog to show up for a halftime show?
On Tuesday, I plan to write some about how 2011 recruiting is looking.
Nov. 7 is the game I circle on my schedule. It's a rivalry game with great atmosphere. Plus, you never have an idea of how it will transpire.
This year's matchup will carry additional significance because it will be the Flashes' first appearance at InfoCision Stadium.
2008 recap: After seven games, it appeared that coach Doug Martin would finally receive his pink slip. The Flashes had only one win -- over a Division I-AA team. Martin's team finished strong, winning three of its last five games, including a season-finale shocker over the eventual MAC Champion Buffalo Bulls. The team finished at 4-8. Thanks to the explosive backfield of Julian Edelman and Eugene Jarvis, Kent State led the MAC in rushing by a landslide. The kicking game was awful, and it directly led to Akron's 30-27 double-overtime victory at Dix Stadium. The defense was so-so, but free safety Brian Lainhart led the league with six interceptions.
What they lost: The departed Edelman was a fantastic player. He was a gutsy rusher who could move the ball down the field without much help. Kent also lost Edelman's top receiver, Shawn Bayes. Martin will miss linebacker Derek Burrell, who was second in the MAC in tackles.
2009 outlook: Two things are certain: Kent State has one of the conference's best running backs in Jarvis, who will play his final year for the Flashes. Second, the team has a very sturdy defensive line. Running a 4-3 scheme, KSU has three linemen on Phil Steele's All-MAC teams. Now we move to the uncertainty: Kent will conduct its first quarterback competition in three years. Giorgio Morgan and Anthony Magazu will compete for the job, but it probably will belong to the strong-armed Morgan. In the spring, the offensive line struggled to protect the quarterback. That could be another challenge. The Flashes also must solve their kicking problems. Marching Nate Reed out to the huddle simply didn't work in 2008. Junior Will Kandray will get a shot this year.
How the Flashes will test the Zips: Talk about a trap game! Knowing how Martin operates, he will (and should) get his players incredibly fired up to steer Akron's inaugural season into a ditch. The Flashes' defense will take advantage of any and every Akron mistake.
How the Zips will test the Flashes: Unless KSU's quarterback is very efficient and a few receivers emerge, the Flashes will be very one-dimensional. Akron's revamped defensive line will likely excel at stopping that dimension.The Flashes will be a good run-stopping team, but Akron's strength is passing. The teams' talent levels are similar, but Akron's strengths are matched against Kent's weaknesses.
Way-too-early prediction: The common sense answer is that Akron will pass effectively, and Kent State will struggle as Jarvis attempts to be a one-man show. This is a rivalry game, so I won't be surprised to see the Flashes win -- even if they enter InfoCision Stadium without a win. Regardless... Kent State 13, Akron 31
The Zips will conclude a three-game road trip against Northern Illinois on Halloween.
Akron lost its last trip to DeKalb, but there is no way Huskies have forgotten Luke Getsy's connection with Domenik Hixon that stole the MAC Championship from their claws in 2005.
2008 recap: Rarely does a team beat every team it's supposed to, yet not pull off a single upset. There were no surprises in NIU's season, as the Huskies beat up on the MAC doormats and went 0-3 against the MAC West powerhouses. The team relied upon its defense, which was the conference's best in terms of points allowed, yards allowed and passing yards allowed; it was second-best against the run. The unit was led by Larry English, a first-round NFL Draft pick whom Scout.com calls perhaps the best defensive end the MAC has ever seen. The Huskies would have finished with better than a 6-7 record but for the MAC's worst passing game. Freshman Chandler Harnish played quarterback, but he wound up being a better runner than passer. The season ended with a 17-10 loss in the Independence Bowl to Louisiana Tech.
What they lost: English is the glaring loss. NIU lost its top two receivers. Tight end Reed Cunningham is the top returning receiver with only 252 yards last season.
2009 outlook: It seems like the Huskies always have a defensive stud to take over for a departed one. Defensive end Brandon Bice played opposite of English last year and only logged one fewer sack. The linebackers in coach Jerry Kill's 4-3 scheme are also among the conference's best. NIU's top two tacklers are back, defensive backs Mike Sobol and David Bryant. With an unproven receiving corps and a quarterback who has not yet shown he can throw with accuracy, NIU's points will come mostly through the running game. Sophomore Me'co Brown ran well during the spring. If the defense can maintain its level of play in 2009, the offense is sure to catch up -- at least a little. The Huskies should win at least seven games and contend for the MAC West title.
How the Huskies will test the Zips: The Huskies have a strong home-field advantage. Stopping the running quarterback is like solving a Rubik's Cube on crack for J.D. Brookhart. NIU's defense is good enough to keep Akron's offense in check, running or passing.
How the Zips will test the Huskies: The Zips will come into this game with nothing to lose. It's a difficult game at a difficult venue. Akron can play loose with the knowledge that the MAC East title will still be in reach because the Zips play three of their last four at InfoCision Stadium. Plus, there's no way that NIU's defense will be as good as last year -- is there? Without a passing game, NIU does not take advantage of Akron's greatest weakness: the secondary.
Way-too-early prediction: Expect a low-scoring game. Akron's big linemen plug the holes to keep NIU's short, shifty running backs contained. NIU's backfield pressure and solid coverage prevent Akron's passing game from thriving. It comes down to field goals, and the accuracy of Huskies senior Mike Salerno pays off. Akron 13, Northern Illinois 16
I launched my campaign Web site today. Check it out, and look for me in the Stow Fourth of July Parade if you happen to be there.
Props to my art director, Kiel Fleming, for a phenomenal design on the Web site.
The 2009-10 schedule will feature road games against Texas A&M and N.C. State, the PD's Elton Alexander reports.
Zeke, Humpty and the McKnights also will tee off against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Niagara, North Carolina-Greensboro, St. Francis, Valparaiso, Austin Peay, Wyoming, Malone and Rhode Island.
The Zips will play N.C. State, Drake and Howard at a season-opening tournament in Florida. Sidney Lowe's Wolfpack is a young team with only two juniors and two seniors.
Below is the video of my tour of InfoCision Stadium.
Thanks to Dan Kadar for the filming and editing.
Click here to see my notes from the tour.
Senior associate AD Hunter Yurachek sent me an e-mail with that addressed his plan for marketing to students: