Akron (1-2) at Pittsburgh (3-1) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Heinz Field (65,050) — Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Akron 1-1, Pittsburgh 1-1. Away Record:
Akron 0-1, Pittsburgh 2-0. Neutral Record: Akron 0-0, Pittsburgh 0-0.
Conference Record: Akron 0-0, Pittsburgh 1-0. Series Record: Pittsburgh leads,

GAME NOTES: The Pittsburgh Panthers will attempt to rebound from their first
loss of the 2014 season Saturday as they play host to the Akron Zips in a non-
conference clash at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

After dominating the team’s first game of the season against FCS opponent
Howard, Akron has fallen twice in a row sandwiching an early-season open week.
The Zips were defeated by Penn State, 21-3, back on Sept. 6, and were handed a
loss this past Saturday by Conference USA squad Marshall, 48-17. The Mid-
American Conference Zips will battle Pittsburgh in the team’s final non-
conference game of the season.

Pittsburgh started the 2014 season strong, winning the first three contests,
including a big 30-20 victory over ACC rival Boston College in Week 2 on the
road. But the Panthers blew a lead last Saturday against Iowa at home, and
eventually fell to the Hawkeyes, 24-20.

The two non-conference programs have met twice on the field in their
histories, with Pittsburgh holding a 2-0 all-time series lead. The first
matchup between the Panthers and Zips was played back in 1900, and the most
recent meeting taking place in 1998.

In two FBS matchups this season, Akron has struggled to put much together
offensively, scoring just 20 points in the last two games. Against Marshall,
the Zips posted 343 total offensive yards, and could manage just 92 yards on
the ground. Quarterback Kyle Pohl struggled in the game, throwing for 151
yards with two interceptions before he was replaced by redshirt freshman Tommy
Woodson. In three games, Pohl has passed for 667 yards and four touchdowns,
while his two interceptions last Saturday were his first of the season.

The Akron running game was virtually non-existent against Marshall, but a
large part of that could be Akron’s willingness to abandon the run after
falling behind. Manny Morgan led the team with eight carries for 36 yards and
a touchdown last time out. In three contests, the Zips are averaging 91.3
rushing ypg and a dismal 3.6 ypc.

Zach D’Orazio has been consistent as a pass catching target. He hauled in five
receptions for 69 yards last Saturday, and has a team-best 14 catches for 167
yards, though he hasn’t recorded a touchdown. Through the air, Akron is
averaging 286.3 passing ypg.

Most teams won’t find much success stopping a strong Marshall offensive
attack, and the Zips were certainly one of those teams. The Thundering Herd
was able to rack up 526 yards of total offense in the win, thanks in large
part to 284 yards on the ground. Akron’s defense is allowing 179.3 rushing ypg
this season, and 23 ppg, which includes a Week 1 shutout. Jatavis Brown had a
bit of success against the Herd, registering eight tackles and a tackle for
loss with a forced fumble.

Brown leads the team through three games with 19 tackles, adding three for a
loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup. Devonte Morgan is second on the
squad with 17 stops, and Dylan Evans tops the Zips with two sacks. The Akron
defensive front seven will have its hands full Saturday trying to contain
Pittsburgh’s star rusher James Conner.

Speaking of Conner, the big 6-foot-2, 250-pound running back was on his game
once again last Saturday – at least for the first half. Conner finished the
game with 155 rushing yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. He now has 699
rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground in four weeks of action. As a
unit, the Panthers are rushing for an astounding 304.5 ypg.

The Panthers offense clearly revolves around Conner, and when he is shut down
(example: the second half against Iowa), the offense as a whole tends to
struggle. But quarterback Chad Voytik has been solid through four games,
throwing for 534 yards and five touchdowns with a 60.8 completion percentage.

Voytik’s main target is unquestionably Tyler Boyd. The sophomore wideout was
far and away better than everyone else last Saturday, hauling in 10 receptions
for 153 yards. On the season, he has four of the team’s five touchdown
connections through the air, and leads the team with 293 receiving yards on 21
receptions. The Zips will want to key on him in the passing game.

A quick scan of Pittsburgh’s box score from last weekend might be deceiving to
some, since the Panthers had the edge on Iowa in terms of first downs (24-17),
total offensive yards (435-311) and in time of possession (32:51-27:09). But
thanks to eight penalties and a late score, the Hawkeyes took the game.
Defensively, there wasn’t much more Pittsburgh could do in the loss.

Through four games this season, Pittsburgh is allowing opponents to score 17.2
ppg and claim just 236 offensive ypg, while the Panthers have forced six
interceptions and one fumble. Linebacker Anthony Gonzalez leads the team with
22 tackles, adding two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery to his
stat line. He and fellow stars Terrish Webb and Todd Thomas shouldn’t have
much trouble rebounding from the loss to Iowa against the Akron offense.

The Zips don’t generate enough points offensively to keep up with the
Panthers, and there’s almost no stopping Conner when the ball is in his hands.
The Hawkeyes were able to contain him in the second half, but they have
defensive personnel the Zips don’t, so watch out for another big week from the
Pittsburgh offense.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Pittsburgh 35, Akron 18