Akron Zips vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Pick

Akron Zips (0-0) at No. 9 Penn State Nittany Lions (0-0)
Beaver Stadium Saturday, September, 5th 12:00PM Eastern

by Jay Horne of Predictem.com

Point Spread: Penn State -28
Over/under: 58.5

The Penn State Nittany Lions were a mere field goal away from having an undefeated season last year which would have locked them into a shot for a National Championship. However, the folks in Happy Valley still had a lot to cheer about as the Nittany Lions downed Ohio State and earned claims for a Big Ten Championship.

The Nittany Lions head into 2009 with high expectations due to the fact they will have some big time playmakers back in the saddle as they prepare to make another run at National Title contention. Penn State will host the Akron Zips in their first showing of the year this Saturday as huge 27 point favorites. The Zips finished a below average mark of 5-7 last season. Although, 4 of those losses were by less than 4 points, the Zips look for the ball to bounce their way in 2009.

The Nittany Lions have two players receiving moderate Heisman Trophy attention. QB Darryl Clark and RB Evan Royster are two of the most prominent figures in the Big Ten and they are sure to bring a lot of excitement to Happy Valley. Royster led the Penn State rushing game to 6.5 yards per carry racking up 1,200 plus yards on the season in 2008.

Expectations are very high for the star running back heading into the season. After all, strong rushing attacks are considered a norm for Big Ten offenses. However, the Nittany Lions established one of the best air assaults in the conference last year behind QB Darryl Clark. Clark threw for 2,592 yards and 19 scores on the season leading the Nittany Lions to the 11th best scoring offense in America at 38.9 points per game. Penn State will look for their dangerous offense to get off to a great start this Saturday.

Akron had all opportunities to capture a winning record last year, but things just didn’t work out. The Zips missed out on the bowl season for the 3rd straight year. However, Akron will return some key players to their offense this season that could get them back over the hump. QB Chris Jacquemain threw for 2,748 yards last year resulting in 20 touchdowns. Jacquemain will enter his senior year behind center for the Zips and get help from a group of talented receivers that will be back for 2009. Dashan Miller, Andre Jones, and Jeremy Bruce provide plenty of targets for the senior quarterback in the passing game. With the departure of running backs Dennis Kennedy and Andrew Johnson, expect the Zips to put a lot of focus through the air attack on offense..

The sportsbooks have opened the betting lines favoring the Nittany Lions by a whopping 27 points. Penn State who was among the highest scoring teams in the nation last year are also big favorites for the betting public against the spread.

The over/under total for the game is being held at 58.5 points.

The Zips will likely be able to hold their own ground on the offensive side of the ball this year. However, the defense could be quite the opposite. The Akron defense allowed over 30 points per game last season ranking near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference. The Zips defense will be the major concern this year considering they lost their biggest players from a unit that was struggled to begin with.

Normally, you don’t want to have any type of defensive issues when you are taking on a team like Penn State. Although, considering it is the first game of the season just maybe they can catch the Nittany Lions offense before they begin to click. (I doubt it though) One thing is for sure, the Zips defense will have to perform better this Saturday if they want to keep the game close. It could get ugly early.

The Nittany Lions defense was amongst the best in the country ranking 8th best in the land and also ranking atop the Big Ten.

Despite losing some big players, Penn State will likely remain just as strong on the defensive side of the ball as they are deep at all positions.

The neat thing for JoePa is tht the Nittany Lions defense should give them the ability to win games regardless of how the offense performs.

The defensive play along with the potential for a dynamic running game should make this a very powerful team. Using this combination, Penn State should have no problem controlling the clock in difficult games. However this Saturday they will simply be the better team on both sides of the ball and they should win easily, but due to it being early, we’ll say the offense does not explode until week 2.

Jay’s Pick – Look for PSU to dominate the whole game keeping Akron to 10 points or under. My play is the Under 58.5