The Penn State Football team opens up its 2009 season on Saturday with a noon game against Akron. The game will be played at Beaver Stadium, the first of eight home games on the season for the Nittany Lions.
The game also signifies the start of one of the country's weakest non-conference schedule as Penn State will later host Temple, Syracuse, and Eastern Kentucky.
The Akron Zips, out of the Mid-American Conference, are coming off of a 5-7 season a year ago. After hovering around .500 for the entire season, the Zips lost their final two games and sealed their fate of missing a bowl game.
Penn State and Akron shared two opponents a year ago. The two teams both played at Syracuse, where they both scored blow-out victories. Akron defeated the Orange by a score of 42-28, while Penn State was even more impressive in attaining a 55-13 victory.
The other common opponent was Temple, where the outcomes differed. Penn State struggled against Temple for much of the game, but still was able to notch a 45-3 win. On the other hand, Akron lost to Temple by a score of 27-6.
On the season for 2008, Akron was outscored by their opponents by a total of 375 to 360. Conversely, Penn State outscored their opponents by a margin of 506 to 187.
The Zips also lost their most productive player from a year ago. Running back Dennis Kennedy ran for 1,363 yards last season, including 17 touchdowns and a 5.5 yard per carry average. However, Kennedy was a senior and thus will not be on the field this season against Penn State.
The rest of the offensive side of the ball for Akron will have a lot of experience.
Quarterback Chris Jacquemain is a senior this season and is coming off 2,748 yard passing season with 20 touchdowns. Jacquemain also completed 58 percent of his passes on the year.
Jacquemain will also have both of his top receiving targets returning from a year ago. Deryn Bowser and Andre Jones are both seniors this season. Bowser had 785 receiving yards and four touchdown catches last year while Jones had 678 yards receiving with seven touchdowns.
The Zips do not look to have a strong returning defense.
Akron's first, fourth, and fifth leading tackers from last season all will not be on the roster this year.
In addition, Akron was a very poor pass-rushing team a year ago. The Zips had only 11 sacks, whereas the Nittany Lions recorded 33.
The poor pass rush should help a very new PSU offensive line, and also give PSU quarterback Daryll Clark more time to spread the ball around to the many new receivers in the first game.
While the outcome of this game does not appear to be in very much doubt, Penn State fans still have a lot to forward to in this game. The team's performance in the first game sets the tone for the entire season, and the Lions can use this opportunity against a lesser opponent to integrate their new contributors into game situations.
I would not be surprised to see a slow start from the PSU offense, but in the end Akron will not be able to contain Clark and the running back due of Evan Royster and Stephfon Green. And the success of the running game will open up the passing game as well, allowing PSU to put up big offensive numbers in this game.
The Penn State defense is too strong and athletic for Akron to be able to do much against them. PSU will undoubtedly give up some yards and a few points, but there is no way they will let the Zips light up the scoreboard.