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At First Glance: Pitt vs. Akron

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

After a rough Saturday, it's a little harder to get up for this weekend, right?

Akron comes into Heinz Field and, safe to say, we'd all be feeling a lot better if the Panthers were 4-0 instead of 3-1. The Iowa loss took a lot out of Pitt's sails and after holding a 10-point lead was a difficult thing to swallow. The good news? Pitt has a great chance to rebound in facing Akron this week.

Akron comes in at 1-2 overall with a dominant 41-0 win against Howard, and convincing losses to Penn State (21-3) and, last weekend, Marshall (48-17).

Akron isn't completely harmless, but it's a game Pitt should win. The biggest threat, however, comes against Pitt's greatest weakness. The Zips average nearly 300 yards passing per game, which is good for 34th in the country. Akron has virtually no running game to speak of, picking up fewer than 100 yards per contest, but the one thing they've had success with is throwing the ball. Based on Pitt's secondary play, which was bad on Saturday, you can expect a heavy dose of passing on Saturday.

The starter back there for Akron is Kyle Pohl, but backup Tommy Woodson has seen some work, too. Combined, they've got more than 850 passing yards, six touchdowns, and only two interceptions. That includes a passable effort by Pohl against Penn State, when he passed for 208 yards on the road (no touchdowns or interceptions).

It's a good thing that they've been able to pass a little because their running game has been non-existent. Pohl is actually the team's leading rusher and he only has 69 yards. The team has employed a bit of a running back-by-committee approach, so it makes sense that the individual numbers are down. But even the backs as a whole have been unimpressive with only 54 carries for 205 yards.

Defensively, Akron has been solid overall, but had plenty of lapses in allowing 48 points to Marshall in their last game. The 23 points per game they've allowed are right near the middle of the FBS. The Zips have brought a little pressure to opposing quarterbacks with six sacks, but considering that four came against FCS Howard, they don't have a great pass rush.

In addition, what could really give the Zips fits is running back James Conner. Akron's rush defense ranks near the bottom of the FBS (85th), as they give up about 180 yards per game. They obviously haven't seen anyone as good as Conner so you can expect another huge day out of him.

One thing you don't want to see is a slide where Pitt suffers a few losses in a row. While Pitt can't really afford to look past anyone, the good news is that the Panthers should break their short losing streak on Saturday.

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