Akron (1-2) at Tennessee (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 22, 7:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Neyland Stadium (102,455) -- Knoxville, Tennessee. Television: CSS. Home Record: Akron 1-1, Tennessee 1-1. Away Record: Akron 0-1, Tennessee 0-0. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, Tennessee 1-0. Conference Record: Akron 0-1, Tennessee 0-1. Series Record: Tennessee leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: After falling out of the Top-25 following their latest loss, the Tennessee Volunteers will try to get back on track on Saturday afternoon when they play host to the Akron Zips.
Akron opened its season with a blowout loss at home against UCF, 56-14, then followed that up a heartbreaking 41-38 defeat in overtime at FIU. The Zips managed to bounce back in a big way last week, making easy work of FCS program Morgan State, 66-6. The 66 points, as well as 753 yards of total offense, broke the school records set in a 2003 game against Howard (65 points and 692 yards). It was also the third-most yards in a game in Mid-American Conference history.
The Vols got out to a 2-0 start with a neutral-site win over NC State and a home victory against Georgia State, resulting in a No. 23 ranking going into last week's game, but in their SEC opener, they fell to rival Florida at home, 37-20.
These two teams have met only once before, with the Vols taking down the Zips 52-9 back in 1989. Tennessee is 4-0 all-time against current members of the MAC.
The most effort certainly helped, but Akron's offensive numbers through three games (496.3 ypg, 39.3 ppg) are still very impressive.
Of Dalton Williams' 1,004 yards this season, 446 of them came against Morgan State. Even without that monster effort, Williams has been very good in the early going, completing nearly 62 percent of his passes while tossing 10 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
Marquelo Suel has been the primary target for Williams so far with 20 catches, 260 yards, and three touchdowns. L.T. Smith, Keither Sconiers and Zach D'Orazio have all been useful in the receiving game as well, logging more than 100 yards each.
The Zips' rushing attack isn't where they want it to be, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry. Jawon Chisholm leads the team with 189 yards, but he has yet to find the end zone, something Conor Hundley (18 carries, 59 yards) has done twice.
A shut-down performance from Akron's defense against Morgan State was a good sign, highlighted by a Nick Rossi 29-yard fumble return for a touchdown, but the unit was torched in its first two games and still has a high scoring allowance (34.3).
Nine different Zips have double-digit tackles. J.D. Griggs is the team's most active lineman, racking up a team-high 3.5 sacks so far. Justin March has the club's lone interception.
Despite producing just 340 yards of offense in last week's loss to Florida, Tennessee has been very effective on that side of the ball through its first three games, averaging 474 yards per outing.
A big reason for the team's offensive success is due to the high level of play from quarterback Tyler Bray. He has completed 63.8 percent of his passes (67- of-105) for 900 yards and eight touchdowns. He wasn't at his best against Florida however, throwing his only two interceptions of the season.
With the dismissal of 2011 All-SEC receiver Da'Rick Rodgers prior to the start of the season, Justin Hunter has emerged as Bray's new favorite target, leading the team in receptions (22), yards (295) and touchdowns (three). Cordarrelle Patterson has also shown big-time playmaking ability with 17 catches, 239 yards and two touchdowns.
Rajiom Neal has been the primary running back for the Vols with more than three times as many carries as the next-highest rusher (58), gaining 205 yards and three scores on the ground.
The defense has been vulnerable to the big play in the early going, allowing a pair of 75-yard touchdowns to Florida. The unit's total yield (406.7 ypg) can be improved, although the 23.7 ppg allowed is still respectable.
The Vols have been effective in the turnover battle, coming up with six takeaways, including five interceptions. Brian Randolph leads the team with 22 tackles.
Getting in the win column against Morgan State was definitely a huge confidence boost for Akron, but it is hardly a barometer for success for the rest of the season. The Zips defense has shown that, against capable FBS offensive units, it can't do much to stop anyone. Although the Vols' loss to Florida was disappointing, it wasn't completely unexpected. Tennessee should have no problem returning to he win column in front of the home crowd.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Tennessee 51, Akron 17
09/19 10:40:54 ET