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Pitt vs. Akron: Q&A with Hustle Belt

Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, Pitt will face the Akron Zips. To help us get ready, I had Brandon Hickey of SB Nation's MAC site, Hustle Belt, answer some questions. I fielded his questions for Pitt and you can see my answers here.

Akron has used two quarterbacks this year in a couple of games. Are both expected to get playing time on Saturday or is Kyle Pohl the guy?

I don't think that you will see two quarterbacks unless the game gets completely out of hand. Pohl is the guy that will play the most; I think the coaches threw backup Tommy Woodson out there because the game was out of hand and Pohl hadn't done anything to show that he would lead a comeback. He really hasn't had a great start to the season, but facing two of the top thirty defenses in the country (Penn State and Marshall) will do that to you.

Pohl is a bit of an enigma because he'll have his great games but more often they've been real stinkers. The 308-yard, four touchdown performance to open the season against Howard made Zips fans feel that Pohl maybe had turned the corner and was ready to be a top-flight QB in the MAC. Unfortunately in the last two games he is getting back to his old habits and making bad mistakes. For Akron to keep things close on Saturday Pohl will need to be on his A-game.

Since Penn State was the only Power 5 team that Akron has played so far, give us a little background on that game. Was it closer than the 21-3 score indicated? What did Akron do good/bad in that game?

While the game finished 21-3, I felt it was much closer than that. Akron had a legitimate shot to win the game had they not made two or three key mistakes that killed drives. The most telling stat of the game was that the Zips had the ball in Penn State territory five times and came away with just three points. Akron's defense really kept them in the game, forcing Christian Hackenburg to make some mistakes and limiting big plays.

Akron's offense just couldn't come through. A missed field goal, some key drops, and the inability to convert on third down (5-17) brought the Zips to their knees and wasted a wonderful defensive performance. The game was another sign that Akron may have turned the corner, at least until the beatdown that Marshall gave them a few days ago. Now, Zips fans don't know what to expect.

While the Zips' passing attack has been solid, they appear to not have much interest in running the ball, ranking near the bottom of the FBS, despite the running backs managing 3.8 yards per carry. Is that something you'd like to see the team do more of?

Senior running back Jawon Chisholm was one of the best players on the team last year and was expected to produce even more this year. That hasn't happened, as he has just fifty yards on sixteen attempts. Akron runs the ball just 35% of the time and their running backs have just five receptions on the year. I'm not really sure why they haven't been involved as much, especially with Chisholm and his backup Connor Hundley being solid backs.

It's definitely something that I wish they would do more of. I think that once the offensive line gets more time to gel they will be able to open more holes and create more opportunities to run the ball. For now though, teams expect Akron to pass 65-70% of the time and don't even focus on stopping the run. With Pitt struggling against the pass this season so far, I'd venture to say that Akron's game plan won't change with respect to running the ball. I could be wrong, but I would imagine they will be airing it out like they are used to.

After going 1-11 in his first season with Akron in 2012, Terry Bowden made great strides to get to five wins last year. What's the expected outcome for this season? Is Akron expected to win more games or are they still rebuilding quite a bit?

I said in my season preview that gaining bowl eligibility should be the goal for this season. Akron has the fourth-longest bowl drought in the nation, last making a bowl in 2005. The Zips were 6-42 over four seasons before last year's impressive 5-7 campaign. This program needs to take baby steps and should realize that a MAC Championship maybe isn't in the cards just yet.

The Zips are facing stiff competition in the non-conference schedule facing three teams that are locks for bowl games. But, the MAC East is wide open after preseason favorite Bowling Green lost their starting quarterback to a season ending injury. Finding five more wins on Akron's schedule is pretty easy and they should go to a bowl game this year. For this program to reach a bowl game after what it's been through the past few years, it'll feel like the Zips made the national championship game.

One player Pitt fans are interested in is true freshman quarterback, Chandler Kincade. Kincade was once an early Pitt commit before reopening his recruitment and eventually, going to Akron. Part of the reason for that is that the Panthers added some other quarterbacks since he committed. He's only a true freshman, but is there any buzz around him yet or any idea how he figures into their future plans?

I don't follow recruiting too much, but Kincade is one guy that the entire Akron program is excited about. Obviously the recruiting rankings speak for themselves and for a player to commit to Akron with offers from schools like Pitt and Rutgers it's huge. When he committed he made a big deal about wanting to be "the guy" wherever he went, and he'll certainly be able to be that next season when competing with Pohl for the starting job.

After graduating high school early and on a redshirt season this year, Kincade should have the offense down by next year. Hopefully he will push Pohl to be better and might even beat out Pohl as next year's starter. The only concern would be him not beating out Pohl next year and getting frustrated about not getting playing time. I would hope he would have the patience to stick it out and start at quarterback for three years after Pohl graduates. As long as he stays around he has the chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in program history. 

Give us your prediction for the game.

Last week's showing against Marshall was really concerning and Akron took a step back after gaining some momentum against Penn State. When a coaching staff has two weeks to prepare for a team, the final should not be a blowout no matter how much of a talent difference there is. The Zips have another tough test this week in a Pitt team that is probably better than Marshall is.

Akron is likely going to have a lot of trouble stopping James Conner. The Zips are giving up 180 yards per game on the ground so far this season and that's not a good sign when going up against one of the best running backs in the nation. I would think that Pitt will run the ball down Akron's throat to wear down the defense and keep the Zips offense off of the field. This game will likely go how last week did for Akron; going down early and trying to claw back into it. I'm going with a 35-14 final.

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