The University of Akron is in the process of compiling a scouting report on itself this week.
The Zips (1-5, 0-2) do not play Saturday, so coach Rob Ianello and his staff are dissecting the team’s strengths and weaknesses headed into the second half of the season, which begins Oct. 22 at home against Ohio.
“We will work on Akron this week and focus on getting Akron better, working on the things we need to improve on before we begin any preparation for our next opponent,” Ianello said Monday during the weekly Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference.
The Zips practiced Monday and Tuesday and will practice today. The players will lift weights Thursday and then be off Friday through Sunday. The coaches, though, will be busy.
“We will take a really close look at ourselves first, who we are on offense, defense and special teams,” Ianello said. “We will see what things we like, things we have to improve on, things we thought we were going to like, but need work on. Then we will look at Ohio U.”
The Zips are one of the rare NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams — and the only one in the Mid-American Conference — that has its bye week in the exact middle of the season.
It is a perfect time for injured players to recover or continue to recover. That is a benefit that is somewhat negated if the bye week comes too early or too late in the season.
“The bye comes at a good time for us. I like how it sits on our schedule. Six games, a clear open date, and six more,” Ianello said. “It gives us a chance to get some guys healthy and potentially get some guys back who have been out for a while.”
Sophomore quarterback Clayton Moore agreed that this is a perfect spot for the bye week, especially with the team struggling and six MAC games remaining.
“The only time it could hurt you would be if you were hot. It could slow your momentum down,” Moore said. “It will help because we have players who are dinged up. It will give us time to sit back, relax and create a new season in the second half.”
The bye does come at a point when the Zips have put three early lopsided losses behind them and have been much more competitive in the past three games.
After a victory over Virginia Military Institute (36-13) have come narrow losses to Eastern Michigan (31-23) and Florida International (27-17).
Against both EMU and FIU, the Zips faced narrow deficits at halftime, fell further behind in the third quarter, but rallied in the fourth quarter to have a chance to win. In both games, final drives reached deep into opposing territory but ended without any points.
“We grew up in a lot of areas Saturday,” said Ianello, referring to the loss to FIU. “That will help us a bunch as we get into six straight conference games.
“We learned about four-quarter games the last two weeks … the plays you have to make to win four-quarter games, which we have not done.”
Improvement for the Zips must come on both sides of the ball.
The offense has averaged 301 yards per game, which is 109th out of the 120 FBS teams. The average of 15.5 points per game ranks 114th.
On defense, the 393.3 yards allowed per game is ranked 74th and the 35.5 points allowed per game is 111th.
“There is so much we have to work on as a team, especially on the defensive side of the ball,” junior linebacker Brian Wagner said. “All we can do is go into the bye week, get everyone healthy and improve. We want to give the six teams on our schedule hell.”
Wagner is second in the nation in tackles with 13.5 per game. Junior linebacker Luke Kuechly of Boston College is first at 16.5. … The Zips’ pass defense has shown vast improvement this year compared to last year. In 2010, UA allowed 264.08 yards per game, to rank 113th nationally. In 2011, the Zips are allowing 187.17 yards per game, to rank 18th. ... Freshman tailback Jawon Chisholm did not start against FIU with a foot injury and was held to 43 yards rushing in 12 carries. That dropped him from 22nd nationally in rushing to 34th. … The entire coaching staff will attend high school games this week to continue the recruiting process of seniors.