On September 7th, 2014, Pennsylvania native James Franklin will run out of the gates and onto the field of Beaver Stadium for his first home game as head coach of the Nittany Lions. He'll do battle for the first time within the friendly confines against the Akron Zips, a team that is 0-4 all-time in Happy Valley. Akron is coached by a Bowden.... Not Bobby.... No, not Tommy.... Yeah, the other one.
Former Auburn coach Terry Bowden is in his third year at the helm of the Zips, compiling a 6-18 overall record thus far into his tenure. There has been marked improvement in his squad since taking over in 2012, though. During his first year, Akron won only one football game, but bounced back to 5-7 last year, narrowly losing to Michigan in Ann Arbor and winning their final three games and four of their last five. To go along with the momentum they hope to carry over from 2013, they return 15 starters, including their quarterback, their top two rushers and three of their four top wide receivers.
Plus, Beaver Stadium is not the mighty fortress that MAC teams cower in fear in front of anymore after Ohio's season-opening topple of Penn State two years ago.
Akron certainly has the momentum and the skill players to give Penn State a game at home in week two of the 2014 season. BUT, GUESS WHAT AKRON....
JUST LIKE UCF BEFORE YOU, YOU WILL NOT BEAT PENN STATE IN 2014.
While we've seen a fancier Penn State offense over the last two years and while we know that this is Linebacker U, there is still the utmost importance put on winning in the trenches. That just so happens to be the only place on either side of the Akron squad where graduation took a big bite out of the team.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Zips are looking to replace both their left and right tackles as well as their left guard with three two-star prospects that have seven career starts between them. According to SB Nation advanced stats guru Bill Connelly, the previous line that had time to work together ranked 114th in "Stuff Rate," the number of times that runners were stopped behind the line of scrimmage. Throw three new guys in there with only a game against Howard to congeal and become a unit? Sounds like a field day for Deion Barnes, Anthony Zettel and company.
Yes, looking at the opposite side of the ball, the Penn State offensive line is certainly facing its share of issues before heading into the 2014 season. However, the talent alone on the outside between Donovan Smith and Andrew Nelson and experience on the inside from Angelo Mangiro, a 2013 letterman, coupled with the proven success of new offensive line coach of Herb Hand should be more than enough to outclass an Akron defensive line looking to replace another three starters who accounted for 21 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks last season, even early on in the season.
If this game were taking place in mid-October with a Penn State offense that was still struggling to find its identity and come together as a unit and an Akron team that tends to play better as the season goes on, this may have been a more interesting game. But in week two...
I'm afraid I've got some bad news, Akron: Penn State wins this game going away, 35-14.
WHO ELSE IS PENN STATE BEATING IN 2014?