Tennessee vs. Akron
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Neyland Stadium (102,455) • Knoxville, Tenn.
Series Record: 1-0 in favor of Tennessee
Why Saturday is important
After what was nothing short of a huge letdown in a 37-20 loss to Florida last week, Tennessee (3-1) gets a chance to take the field again to fix some of its problems and take out some of its frustration on Akron. Saturday will be the calm before the real defining storm for coach Derek Dooley and the Vols. Tennessee, a 33-point favorite, should have no problem getting this win over the Zips (1-2). They then have trips to Georgia, Mississippi State and South Carolina, as well as a home game against Alabama coming up in the following five-week span. If there’s any player they want to test out, any formation they’re not sure about, or anything else that must be fixed, this is the week to get it done.
Three things to know about Akron
The Zips haven’t done much winning in recent years. They have lost their last 13 games against FBS competition, and 22 of their last 23 at that level. The program, which moved to FBS in 1987, made strides in the mid 2000s with winning seasons in 2003, 2004 and 2005, but it recently has fallen on harder times … There are some early signs of progress under new head coach Terry Bowden and his staff. Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel has undertaken a consulting role with the program as well. The Zips dominated Morgan State, an FCS program, 66-6 last week. They also had a competitive 41-38 loss at FIU in Week 2 … Akron will throw the ball, and throw it often. The Zips are ranked fifth nationally with 378 yards through the air per game, and they are second in the country in passing touchdowns with 13.
What you should know about Akron coach Terry Bowden
He’s back. After being best known for his time leading Auburn (1993-98), Bowden took an 11-year hiatus from coaching. During that period he spent time in television, radio and as a motivational speaker. He returned to coaching in 2009 as the head coach at Division II North Alabama. After two season there, he was brought on at Akron … He has a lot of wins in his career, 141 to be exact. He took over for an Auburn program facing NCAA sanctions in 1993 and led the Tigers to an 11-0 record, becoming the first coach to go undefeated in his debut season in the SEC. Though it was ineligible to play in the postseason that season, Bowden later led Auburn to appearances in the SEC Championship Game (1997), the Outback Bowl (1995), the Independence Bowl (1996) and the Peach Bowl (1997). He resigned in 1998 after a 1-5 start … He’s from quite the coaching family. Some consider the Bowdens the First Family of college football coaching. His dad, Bobby, holds the record for the most FBS win with 377 from his time as the head coach at West Virginia and Florida State. His brother, Tommy, was a head coach at Clemson. His other brother, Jeff, is currently his special teams’ coordinator at Akron.
Tennessee player to watch
Cornerback Marsalis Teague had a horrible performance against Florida last week. For that reason, it wasn’t too surprising when coach Derek Dooley announced on Thursday that sophomore Justin Coleman would be starting in his place on Saturday. Coleman started four games as a freshman in 2011 but was beaten out by Teague in the preseason for the second cornerback slot behind senior Prentiss Waggner. Coleman brings a little more speed to the position, but he struggled to defend the deep pass in 2011. He should get plenty of chances to defend the pass on Saturday with Akron in town.
Akron player to watch
Fifth-year senior quarterback Dalton Williams is in the top-20 of about every passing category imaginable in FBS. The transfer from Stephen F. Austin is fourth nationally in passing yards (1004) and tied for second in the country in touchdown passes with 10. He’s been battling a minor injury to his ribs, but he’s expected to play on Saturday. At 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds, Williams has the size and skills to make a few plays against this Tennessee defense. Count on him making at least a few NFL-caliber throws for decent gains on Saturday.
Random facts to impress your friends
Tennessee is 4-0 all-time against teams currently in the MAC. The Vols’ only other matchup with Akron was a 52-9 win over the Zips in 1989. … A Tennessee win would be the ninth consecutive non-conference win for the Vols, dating back to September of 2010. … While coaching Auburn, Terry Bowden faced Tennessee in the 1997 SEC championship game. The Vols, led by quarterback Peyton Manning, beat the Tigers 30-29. … UT Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is currently second in the SEC in all-purpose yards with 151.3 per game. ... What is a "Zip" exactly? It's short for Zippers, which were a $6 pair of rubber overshoes made by the BF Goodrich Company in 1925. The students had a contest that year to name the university's mascot, and that name won out over other entries such as the Tip Toppers, the Kangaroos, the Rubbernecks and the Hillbillies, according to Akron's official website.
Dooley on teams from mid-level conferences being competitive with or beating teams from the SEC:
"I think every year you have these games. I don't think this year is any exception. Bowling Green played Florida tough – there are good players everywhere."
The Vols will win if …
They keep their composure. Akron will score, perhaps multiple times. It wouldn’t be stunning to see the Vols go down at some point in the first half, but they are the far superior team physically, so they have to keep playing for four quarters and they’ll pull away.
The Vols will lose if …
They give up multiple big plays. Akron isn’t going to march down the field on the Vols, but if Tennessee misses tackles in the secondary, the Zips could move the ball in big chunks and put some points on the board. It’s hard to envision the Akron defense limiting the Tennessee offense, but a few turnovers could help them out in that regard.
Tennessee 49, Akron 14
Daniel Lewis covers Tennessee football for Nooga.com. Follow him on Twitter @Daniel_LewisCBS.